Malta’s deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech told EU ambassadors on Wednesday (9 November) that the Union is being put to the test, and a new impetus is needed to avoid further setbacks.
During a briefing on Malta’s upcoming presidency of the Council of the European Union held with EU Ambassadors, Grech underlined that it is high time to address concretely the complexity of the European Union and the uncertainties, fears and inequalities felt by European citizens.
Malta will assume the rotating presidency of the EU in January for six months. During the first half of 2017, the UK is expected to invoke Article 50 and Dutch and French are voting for new administrations.
The victory of Donald Trump in the United States is feared to embolden anti-European populists in northern Europe and anti-liberal far-left movements in southern Europe.
European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans said recently that European project could fail.
In the last seven years, the EU has suffered from its most challenging blows ever since the founding countries came together for the first time sixty years ago.
“Our presidency will try to provide hope so that the trust in the EU institutions is restored. But we need to find a balance. There is no one fit-for-all solution,” he said in a speech in Parliament last week.
The UK will invoke Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union in the middle of the Maltese Presidency, he explained, and this will be a greater challenge.
Grech reiterated that immigration, security and the internal market will be on top of the priority list during Malta’s Presidency.
Social inclusion and neighbourhood policy will also feature high to tackle the social and political malaise spreading across Europe.
In a recent interview, Timmermans said Europe’s social contract is broken. Social mobility is a thing of the past and we have let our young citizens down, he warned, and called for urgent action be taken to save the European Union.
The economic crisis, Brexit, migration, security and terrorism have ‘traumatised’ the European project, the Maltese pointed out.
The small Mediterranean country knows that to ensure the effective continuation of the European project and overcome the obvious setback of Brexit, it should concentrate on the fundamental needs of European citizens.
The problems facing the European Union should not hinder us from continuing and building on the European agenda, but they should provide us with an impetus to build a stronger, more competitive and social Europe, said Grech.
Parliamentary Secretary for the EU Presidency 2017 and EU Funds Ian Borg said that Malta gained credibility when it communicated openly and honestly about Europe’s shortcomings, while also finding tangible ways of showing the positive effect different decisions can make in peoples’ lives.
In fact, the intention is to make communications an important platform of the Maltese presidency strategy, Borg said.
Borg made reference to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the signing of the Treaty of Rome in March next year. This is an opportunity to celebrate the past as well as chart together our European future.
La Valletta has embedded European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s slogan when he took office, saying it was the ‘Commission of the last change’.
Malta intends indeed to work relentlessly on those agendas and dossiers that bring the member states closer together and the Union closer to its citizens.