In its reaction to BirdLife Malta’s press conference and to last Sunday’s revelations in the media about the Attorney General’s (AG) diverging views on the finch trapping case which is today being heard at the European Court of Justice, the Government yesterday described what was revealed as “pure speculation”.
Apart from this, the Government categorically rejected the claim that it ignored the legal advice by the AG who is supposed to be leading the defense on behalf of the Maltese Government in this legal case, but instead is not in agreement with the position adopted by the Government. The Government’s press release even goes further to allege that this is a last-ditch attempt by BirdLife Malta at influencing the proceedings of the European Court of Justice.
But the reaction published yesterday by Parliamentary Secretary Roderick Galdes was immediately rejected by the new facts published in another story in today’s issue of MaltaToday. The newspaper published details which confirm that the AG’s office had warned the Government that should it plough ahead with the application of the trapping derogation, it would be doing so contrary to its express and consistent legal advice. MaltaToday quotes email correspondence between a senior lawyer at the Attorney General’s office and the head of the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) Sergei Golovkin about this issue.
In a nutshell, the Attorney General:
- did not agree with the Maltese Government’s arguments and clearly warned him that the case could not be won
- warned the Government that its legal arguments to justify the application of a derogation were “inherently very weak”
- warned that Malta stood no chance of successfully defending its case in court and should not apply the derogation
- stated that the derogation ran counter to the very spirit and purpose of the Birds’ Directive
- warned the Government that should it decide to press ahead with applying the derogation – as it in fact did – it would be doing so against its express and consistent legal advice
- made it clear to the Government that no amount of rhetoric or play of words would win the case for Malta
In today’s new story, MaltaToday continues to reveal important details which go to show the diverging views between the Government and the AG on the defense of the finch trapping derogation. Amongst these, when warned by the AG that the derogation goes against the very spirit and purpose of the EU Birds Directive and that Malta’s legal arguments were inherently very weak, Sergei Golovkin retaliates with the accusation that such a position by the AG at that point in time was unconstructive. Golovkin added that it was no longer a situation of opting to apply the derogation, but a situation of implementation of government decision and its defense in the face of potential legal challenge.
To this, in a strongly worded reply, the AG retorted that all legal avenues were explored and reminded that his office has unparalleled legal expertise in the field. He added that if Golovkin still harboured any such doubts or considered that his office’s intention was purely to be “unconstructive” in any way, then that was a very serious accusation which ought to be taken up at a far higher level.
In view of all these revelations, when reading yesterday’s reaction by the Government in response to these facts and to BirdLife Malta’s press conference, it can be concluded that either the Hon. Parliamentary Secretary Roderick Galdes does not know about these facts because he was kept unaware and so was given bad advice as to how he should reply, or he knew all along about the AG’s warnings but for some reason chose to blatantly hide the truth.
Furthermore, contrary to the Hon. Galdes’s comments on One TV yesterday in which he implied that it was the Maltese Government who took the case to the European Court of Justice to explain its position since the European Commission is contesting the trapping derogation, this is far from the truth since it was the Commission who in September 2015 referred Malta to the European Court for its decision to allow finch trapping (read here: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-5658_en.htm).
In this interview, the Hon. Galdes also stated that today’s hearing which was requested by the Maltese Government is a ‘viva voce’ one. This is nothing new as this is another word for ‘audience’ such as those regularly held at the European Court of Justice. Such audiences are normally granted if a request from either part involved in a court case is considered as justified, or if the court thinks that more information is needed.