Bills implementing reforms proposed to Venice Commission presented in Parliament

Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis presented 10 bills during Wednesday’s parliamentary session as the government seeks to implement the reforms it had proposed to the Venice Commission in short order.

Each bill was approved in its first reading without a vote.

Three of the bills would amend the Constitution of Malta, with one introducing the requirement of a two-thirds vote in Parliament to elect the President. The other constitutional amendments also change the method of appointment for members of the judiciary to remove the government’s intervention – a number of politically-linked appointees had caused controversy in recent years – as well as the method through which members of the judiciary may be removed from office.

The other seven bills amend various other laws, with one amending the procedure in which appointments to the Permanent Commission Against Corruption are made. Another provides for judicial review of decisions taken by the Attorney General – including a decision not to prosecute.

Two bills seek to strengthen the Office of the Ombudsman and the National Audit Office, while the other three concern appointments made by the government. One concerns the appointment of the principal permanent secretary and other permanent secretaries, another relates to the appointment of persons of trust, and the last one reforms the procedure for the making of various other appointments.

In a statement, the Justice Ministry said that Zammit Lewis would be triggering the process for the first four bills to be ebated in Parliament as soon as possible. This, it said, formed part of a structured dialogue with the Venice Commission, giving way to further discussions to strengthen Malta’s democratic structures and institutions.

“This thorough and comprehensive process clearly proves that that the Robert Abela Administration is well prepared to develop, define and implement such key reforms, which were finalised and brought to the House of Representatives within only five months,” Zammit Lewis was quoted as saying.

The Venice Commission – a Council of Europe body whose official name is the European Commission for Democracy through Law – had welcomed the proposed reforms, but nevertheless deemed the proposed checks and balances to be inadequate.