Malta has become the smallest state in the EU with the greatest responsibility for the upcoming six months as today the country assumes the Presidency of the European Council.

Braving heavy winds and cold temperatures, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission together with the 27 European Commissioners were welcomed at Malta International Airport late yesterday to officially initiate Malta’s leadership at the helm of the Presidency. The wind accompanying yesterday’s event aptly symbolizes the changes that Malta led by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat will be pushing on its agenda during these six months, a period that will surely be challenging necessitating radical actions.

The day’s activities commenced with a meeting between the College of the Commissioners of the European Union and the Maltese Ministers’ Cabinet whilst Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission encountered the highest authorities in Malta holding discussions with the President, Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Anglu Farrugia.

“I urge you to make the European Union a place where the dignity, the peace, and the wellbeing of all are effectively and truly central”. This was the message which President of Malta Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca relayed to the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker. President Coleiro Preca shared her vision of the need for a more united Europe, stating that for meaningful unity to be achieved and nurtured “we need a stronger European Union”.

Reiterating what she had stated during the visit of the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz last December, the President of Malta said that we need a European Union which is socially conscious, strongly democratic, embedded in solidarity, and which prioritises the wellbeing of every member of our diverse communities and societies.

At a time when different interpretations of the European project and its future are being proposed, with voices calling for walls to be built, for borders to be reinforced and for divisions to be reasserted, President Coleiro Preca appealed and said that “we cannot be silent or complicit when so much is at stake”, whilst adding that “we must remind one another of the important gains we have made”. Such gains have been made, the President of Malta said, in terms of the bridges which have been built “to unite us”; the friendships which have been made “across our borders; and our solidarity, which we have nurtured in the service of peace”.

The President of Malta reminded the members of the College of Commissioners that it is their responsibility “to ensure that such collaborations continue, while also ensuring that the social values of Europe are reflected in the social and cultural lives of our communities and nations”; she also said that they must revitalise the European Project by ensuring that the institutions are connected to the aspirations of the European peoples, whilst adding that Europe’s institutions must reflect the principles of social inclusion.

“We must work together to make our European family of nations a better place, where dialogue replaces division; where friendship triumphs over suspicion; where peace speaks more strongly than hostility”, President Coleiro Preca said.

The President of Malta urged the College of Commissioners to make the EU a place where solidarity is the defining characteristic of our European identity, “and an inheritance of lasting benefit for both present and future generations”.

In his address, Jean-Claude Juncker stressed the role of Malta in the central Mediterranean region as a key factor to strengthen relations with countries in North Africa. He referred to the challenge countries like Malta are facing because of migration, like Italy and Greece, and stressed these European states cannot be left on their own dealing with such a huge problem.

Later, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat welcomed the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker at Auberge de Castille. Both President Juncker and Prime Minister Muscat expressed their positivity for the next six months of Malta’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that throughout their work, Malta and the European Union must remain close to the people of Europe and their families. He said that despite the challenges and other potentially unknown challenges, he remains optimistic of the effects of the Maltese presidency in the next six months, as the Maltese Presidency and the European Commission have very similar ideas.

President Juncker agreed that more work needs to be done on the priorities put forward by our country or this presidency, including immigration.


Photo credit: Department of Information Malta

Source: medNews