Malta, which will take over the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU on 1 January 2017, has unveiled its logo and priorities, its overarching objective being to restore trust in the Union.
The tiny island nation of 445,000 inhabitants is assuming its first EU presidency since it joined the Union in 2004. It is part of a “trio” of presidencies with incumbent president Slovakia and the one which will take over for the second half of 2017 – Estonia.
Hinting at a European Union with a variable geometry, Malta’s parliamentary secretary for the EU presidency, Ian Borg, said the EU had to be flexible to cater for the disparate needs of member states and restore belief in the European project.
Malta’s Deputy Prime Minister, Louis Grech, said he believes that Malta’s presidency will start the process of restoring trust in the EU, and that it should serve as a starting point for the European project to be sustained in a viable way.
The six priorities of the Maltese presidency have been outlined in the following big areas: Migration, the Single Market, security, social inclusion, Europe’s neighbourhood, as well as on maritime issues. [Read more]
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.
The six priorities are intended to guide Europe in the current unstable background, Grech said. The priorities were reported to have been discussed last week when the Maltese cabinet attended meetings in Brussels with the presidents of the three European Institutions.
Grech further explained that, faced with the issue of migration, Malta needs to enhance and simplify the Common European Asylum System in a way which will lead to a fair distribution of the load between the member states.
In regards to the single market and the single digital market, Malta will strengthen the services market by addressing the issue of unjustified geoblocking and by removing roaming charges in Europe, a measure which should bring about a real change in peoples’ lives.
Regarding security, Grech expressed the view that significant progress must be registered in order to improve how the Union’s external borders are managed, including the establishment of a European system for the registration of third-country nationals.
With regard to social inclusion, Grech said that the EU should ensure that women throughout Europe have full access to the labour market, that the issue of gender-based violence is better addressed and that gender balance is improved in the assignment of certain job titles.
Malta’s deputy premier stated that in light of the growing instability beyond Europe’s borders, the Maltese Presidency will focus on spreading democracy and security in the ‘Eastern and Southern Neighbourhoods’, with a particular attention to stabilising and unifying Libya.
In the maritime sector, Grech held the view that we need to promote the better governance of our oceans, in particular, that of the Southern Mediterranean basin.
The Parliamentary Secretary for the Presidency 2017 and EU funds, Dr. Ian Borg, explained that the selection procedure of the logo that will be representing Malta. He said that from a total of 29 drawings, the concept of Alexia Muscat, showing the Maltese Cross, was chosen.
“The emblem represents our nation and recalls the courage, loyalty and perseverance of our people”, Borg explained.
Grech was clear in his statement that Malta will keep up its work, even during the Brexit negotiation which in his words might result in great challenges and complexities in the agenda of the Maltese Presidency.
On Brexit, Maltese officials have sent a message to London, saying the four freedoms could not be disengaged from each other.
The new egg-shaped building of the EU Council will open its doors first during Malta’s presidency.