Malta on Sunday (1 January) became the smallest country ever to take on the presidency of the Council of the EU.
— Ian Borg (@followianborg) December 31, 2016
Valletta assumes the rotating presidency of the EU for six months. During the first half of 2017, the EU will have to deal with the Dutch and the French 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.
Malta’s priorities have already been clearly laid out: migration, security, single market, social inclusion, neighbourhood policy and maritime affairs.
But the presidency will also have Brexit to contend with, facing the possibility of the formal process being triggered in the next six months.
Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has said the country is “geared to handle” the start of negotiations, and the government will look to play “an honest broker role” between the UK and the EU.
The country’s parliamentary secretary for the EU presidency Ian Borg said in December that the EU needs to be flexible to cater for the disparate needs of member states and restore belief in the European project.
“It is about time to address the notion that one size and model fits all shapes,” Borg said, speaking at an event in Brussels where he presented the priorities for the upcoming presidency.