Malta, the European Union and the Mediterranean provided the key elements of the main performance that dominated the opening of the Maltese Presidency of the European Council that took place on Wednesday at the Mediterranean Conference Centre in the capital city of Valletta. The historic ancient site dates back to the 16th century when it was built by the Sovereign Order of the Hospitaller Knights of St. John to serve as a hospital that was regarded as the best hospital in Europe up to the 18th century.

Bahr the ancient Arabic word for sea and which recalls the Maltese word bahar also meaning sea is the name given to the 40 minute performance that saluted the thousands of immigrants who lost their lives in the Mediterranean Sea during their desperate crossing hoping for a better life on the first European shores. The show sent a clear message and a declaration of the main priority of the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the upcoming six months, predominantly the crisis and challenges of immigration.

For Khoo, a world-renowned international artist from Malaysia was the artistic director of the performance. For him migration has always been a topic of research in his studies even though he claimed that through Bahr he sought to discover other layers and meaning underlying the movement of migrants from one country to another. In a local Maltese newspaper he said “as an immigrant myself, migration has always been a topic of interest, but this time I was forced to dig deeper and uncover different layers: it’s where I encountered the message of hope, that determines each migrant’s journey – he added – hope places a huge responsibility on all of us-whether governments or individuals-to determine whether the story has a happy or tragic ending”.

Presented in three parts Bahr displayed a walk through the different stages underlying the phases of entry, encounters and hope whilst at the same time exposing the sense of helplessness, loss of identity and eventual displacement and relocation.

The theme was echoed in all the speeches addressed by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Jean Claude Junker, President of the European Commission and Donald Tusk, President of the Council of Ministers of the European Union.

This was the clear message sent by the Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat who at the end of the official ceremony congratulated the symphony orchestra and the synchronized dancing troupe and stated that it is his wish to see that their presentation gives a clear signal to all of Europe to stand united provided a sense of harmony to its populations notwithstanding the challenges and current ordeals that first need to be confronted.

Within the context of the chosen theme for the Maltese Presidency “REUNION” the Prime Minister of Malta claimed that in the coming months the European Union has to toil harder to seek minor solutions for major problems. “These are necessary actions that need to be effected and continued over the years if we want to ensure that that the people are convinced that their politicians understand their needs”.

The Prime Minister remarked that Malta is still in its adolescent phase within the European Union. “60 years ago, when the European Union was formed Malta was not even an independent country during this time. The ideal beliefs and ideologies are indeed magnificent and superb, but one cannot survive on ideology alone”.

Within this framework of finding small solutions to complex problems, the Prime Minister insisted that this is the main challenge presenting itself to the Maltese Presidency and the European Institutions. “Today’s work needs to be carried on by future generations. It is necessary that everyone understand the current realities. Whilst the common man in the street is affected by the lack of employment opportunities, the increased cost of living standards, the influx of foreigners, he observes politicians are advocating and debating the European economy, politics and directives. This leads him to view politicians as detached and lacking in the understanding of problems accompanying their citizens”.

The Maltese Prime Minster claimed that is his wish to see that the European Union takes the necessary actions following the six months of the Presidency and commits itself to continue with the work in the future.

Jean Claude Junker, President of the European Commission linked the service that was provided by the Sacra Infermeria, the venue of the inauguration ceremony hundreds of years ago with the service that Malta has always provided over the years contributing to the history of the European continent. He stated that unquestionably Malta is prepared to run the Presidency of the European Union Council and sent his best wishes in Maltese language and encouraged unity amongst the European people.

The President of the Council of Ministers, Donald Tusk exclaimed that it is a privilege that the Maltese Presidency coincides with a period in history of serious challenges such as immigration. Whilst referring to Malta as a “symbolic anchor” he stated that the opening ceremony is an example of how Malta is still hosting guests thousands of years later. At this point he quoted an excerpt from the bible referring to the shipwreck of St. Paul from the Gospel of St. Luke where the apostle said “and later we learned that the island was called Malta. And the people who lived there showed us great kindness, and they made a fire and called us all to warm ourselves”.

Donald Tusk also mentioned Brexit and stated that it is an advantage that the Maltese understand the British people as this would facilitate negotiations with the United Kingdom when exiting the European block.


Source: medNews


The official opening of the Maltese Presidency will take place at the Mediterranean Conference Centre during which Jean-Claude Juncker, Joseph Muscat and the President of the Council Donald Task will deliver speeches followed by a themed dance focusing on the tragedy of the problem of migration. 

As a matter of fact the theme of migration will be the centre of all the priority themes on the Maltese agenda as the government has declared that it will be working on a holistic approach involving all countries. Furthermore Malta aspires towards an improved and simplified European System for asylum seekers and an enhanced relocation programme in the European countries.

Another priority will focus on the European Union common market which will see Malta driving forces to develop a common digital market. The government will also be pushing to reach a final decision regarding the removal of roaming tariffs in the European Union countries and to strengthen consumer rights when purchasing over the internet.

Apart from this the government’s political programme includes an internal market for energy. Moreover a revision of the current efficiency package will be implemented in order for residential buildings to decrease energy consumption and to improve energy efficiency in the industrial sector.

In the light of the recent Berlin terror attacks, the subject of security will additionally form part of the priorities as citizens across Europe feel threatened and frightened and demand to be adequately protected against this uprising menace that has hit a number of countries in the past few years.

Other priorities comprise of social inclusion, the need for the European institutions to be closer to its citizens thus ensuring its relevance, the neighbouring policy focusing on the Mediterranean region and maritime affairs.

Since this is the first time that Malta has been entrusted with the Presidency from the time when it joined the EU in 2004, the country is in an advantageous position to influence the current agenda during the various ministerial meetings of the European block taking place during these six months.

Facing a major difficulty is indeed the timing of the Maltese Presidency as it coincides with the commencement of the procedures of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union following the Brexit referendum result.

Other challenges are the Euro common currency, the surge in populism against the political establishment in a number of European countries. Both the Netherlands and France will be holding their respective elections during the first part of 2017 with the right for the electorate to choose its new administration. With the recent win for Donald Trump as President of the United States, there exists an underlying trepidation across European countries that the populist ideology might be growing.


Photo credit: Department of Information Malta

Source: medNews


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


On the occasion of a bilateral meeting between the Minister for Home Affairs and National Security of Malta, Carmelo Abela, and the newly appointed Italian Minister of Home Affairs, Marco Minniti, priorities on the agenda were the migration crisis and the strengthening of EU internal security. The meeting was held 4 January 2017 in Valletta, and for Minister Abela this was his first bilateral meeting since Malta assumed the Presidency of the EU Council, last 1 January.

After giving a brief overview of the p priorities of the Maltese Presidency to Minister Minniti, Minister Abela stated that, in his capacity as Chairman of the Council’s meetings that gather Home Affairs Ministers, he is aware that the future of the Union will depend on the decisions that member states will take on this topic, to face migration. On his side, Minister Minniti underlined the excellent cooperation between the two countries, which share a common position on several issues. Therefore, Italy considers the Maltese Presidency as highly important for what concerns the sectors of migration and security.

The two ministers agreed on the importance to take important decisions on migrations in Europe in the coming six months. They also noted that Malta, for many years to come, will be the last Mediterranean country to hold the Presidency of the EU. Furthermore, being a border country, Malta is directly hit by migration and by the challenges posed by this phenomenon. Therefore, it is in the perfect condition to understand how big the effort made by Italy is, and how the matter is of paramount importance for Europe.

In recent years, the routes of migration changed and this led to a situation in which the migration issue had to be dealt with by countries that, up to that moment, had never been directly touched by it. “Today, migration does not concern only some Mediterranean countries. It has become a concern for the whole Europe, and all countries have to cooperate to try to find a common solution” the Ministers said.

Minister Abela underlined that Malta will work so that, within the Union, member states will remain committed to the relocation of migrants and to an effective solidarity. At the same time, relations with countries of origin must be reinforced in order to ensure the repatriation of the asylum seekers whose request has been not accepted. In addition, these countries should be helped to increase investments in their own territory so that less people will feel the need of undertake such a dangerous trip towards Europe.

Ministers Abela and Minniti expressed their optimism on the fact that Italy and Malta will commit themselves to further cooperate on such crucial issues.


Source: medNews


Amongst the many colours that have come to symbolise the brand of the 2017 Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the word ‘reunion’ proudly adorns the official cultural programme and culture website for the 2017 Maltese EU Presidency. In a present reality where political unrest looms over the continent and the rest of the world, the spirit of reunion taken up by this cultural programme is a much needed breath of fresh air. Culture is a single thread in different hues; uniting people from all walks of life, across nations, genders, age groups and class, in one melting pot of diversity and togetherness. Beauty, symbolised in art and artistic expression, draws out human sensitivity, tearing down walls and breaking barriers, reminding us that in our unique individuality, we are still not so very different from each other. The citizen is right at the centre of the 2017 Maltese EU Presidency, and this is reflected in the multidisciplinary nature of its varied cultural programme, with over 90 different events set to take place across the Maltese Islands, in the central hub of Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg, and across the globe. 

The Official Opening Ceremony of the 2017 Maltese EU Presidency is scheduled for the 11th January and will take place at the Mediterranean Conference Centre. ‘BAHR’, a newly commissioned work for the Presidency, explores migration in all its forms, and its dialogue with movement, encounters, challenges and possibilities. 

It is about the very human experience at the core of this issue, which is so close to the heart of the 2017 Maltese EU Presidency. ‘BAHR’ will be performed by the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Mro. Brian Schembri, who will accompany national dance ensemble ZfinMalta in Mavin Khoo’s interpretation of Albert Garzia’s original music score composed for the occasion. The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, under Mro. Brian Schembri’s direction, will also be accompanying world-renowned Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja, in the concert set to herald in the 2017 Maltese EU Presidency on 16th January at the BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels. The concert will feature classical masterpieces written by great composers, including three Maltese greats, Charles Camilleri, Carlo Diacono and Joseph Vella.  

The cultural programme will then take flight, with events coming from several different disciplines populating each of the six months from January to June 2017. Visual arts, performing arts, design, architecture, literature, film and cultural heritage are among the different disciplines which make up this colourful cultural programme, which will feature both well-established and up-and-coming artists, both local and international. 

In the spirit of REUNION, the 2017 Maltese EU Presidency cultural programme encourages the participation of citizens, with several projects depending directly on the citizen’s involvement. Among these are the Presents of the Future project, which encourages people from all walks of life to participate in workshops where they can discuss and share their own personal takes on possible future realities for Malta, Europe and the EU, and the Citizen Journalist project, where participants get the chance to live and work in Brussels for a period of time. 

Beehive is another interesting participatory experience which will provide a platform on which European citizens can upload content – both raw and edited – in one shared creative space. Apart from featuring the citizen as well as the artist in a variety of spaces, the 2017 Maltese EU Presidency cultural programme also features the Maltese Islands and different aspects which make up their geographical, historical, anthropological and social realities. Among the most interesting events centred on the Maltese Islands, is the three-month exhibition ‘Malta – Land of Sea’, curated by Sandro Debono at the BOZAR Centre for Fine arts. The exhibition seeks to disrupt and reinterpret our linear view of chronology, creating a dialogue between artefacts, spaces and visitors, and expressing the way in which our history and our interaction with so many different conquerors have shaped our culture and our present reality. 

The 2017 Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union has collaborated closely with the Presidency Cultural Programme Working Group led by Arts Council Malta in collaboration with Heritage Malta and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Valletta 2018 Foundation is also partnering in the events presented in Malta. The artistic director of the Cultural Programme is Mr. Airan Berg. The full cultural programme can be found on the official culture website for the 2017 Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union: 


Source: medNews


Malta is set to take over the Presidency of the European Council in January for the first time since joining the EU in 2004. Parliament’s Conference of Presidents, which is composed of Parliament President Martin Schulz and the political group leaders, visited the island on Thursday 8 December to find out how the country was preparing for it. 

Led by Schulz, the group leaders started their day by visiting Maltese President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, who singled out poverty and unemployment as the key challenges facing the EU.

The delegation then had a meeting with Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech. In the press conference afterwards Muscat said: “We are here to act as honest brokers both in Council and with the other institutions. Europe must stand up to be counted, not by stamping its feet, but by standing by its principles.”

Schulz said he was impressed with how Malta was preparing for the presidency. “The expectations are high, but so was the satisfaction of the group leaders on what they heard from you. Small countries can take on the challenge with strong commitment. My experience is that smaller countries are always successful”.

The delegation also visited the Maltese parliament where they met the members.


Source: medNews


The Board of Directors of the Civitan International ( appointed Professor Gaetano Armao as Secretary General for Malta.

Armao, who was already honorary member of the Civitan International in our country, contributed to the development of this organization in southern Europe and now he will take care of building the Maltese District.

Civitan International, based in Birmingham, Alabama, is an international organization of civil society clubs founded in 1917. The organization aspires to “build good citizens”, providing a volunteering organization based on clubs that satisfy individual and collective needs, with particular attention to assistance for people with “development disabilities”.

4 USA Presidents, among which Roosevelt and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, were members of the Civitan International, as well as many important characters of the USA history, such as Thomas Edison and Cornelius Vanderbilt.

Gaetano Armao, born in Palermo in 1962, is a lawyer, Professor at the University of Palermo, Researcher at the London School of Economics and at the Harward Law School (Boston). He held several posts in the government of the Sicilian region, among which Assessor for culture and economy, showing great commitment in the defense of autonomies and in the friendship activities between Sicily and the Anglo-Saxon world, with emphasis on the relations between Malta and the USA.


Source: medNews


From 19 November to 9 December 2016 the Malta International Organ Fesival was held in Malta. It is a Maltese festival during which international musicians perform great music composed or adapted for the king of instrument: the organ. There were 3 concerts with Italy as main character, thanks to the collaboration of the Italian Institute of Culture of Valletta. Italy was also given the closing of the festival, with the concert held in the Anglican pro-cathedral of St. Paul in Valletta.

During the concert of the Valletta Chamber Orchestra, directed by Elena Sartori, music by Bach, Albinoni, Handel and Corelli were played. Two more Italian concerts were held before the closing concert: Saturday 26 November, at the Balzan Annunciation Church, the musician Marco d’Avola played the organ with soprano Silvia Di Falco and baritone Joseph Lia in the “Ave Maria” concert, with plays of Gounod, Schubert, D’Avola, Mascagni, Verdi, Mozart. Friday 2 December, then, the composer Diego Cannizzaro played with the organ works of Bach, Rinck, Mendelssohn, Bossi e Yon at the church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Balluta. Great participation in terms of public, who appreciated the performance of the musicians.


Source: medNews


The Israeli Minister of national infrastructure, energy and water resources, Yuval Steinitz, met yesterday in Jerusalem the Greek Minister of Economy, Development and Tourism Giorgos Stathakis and the Cypriot Minister of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Georgios Lakkotrypis, in order to promote a closer cooperation with Europe in the Energy sector and to meet, as soon as possible, the European Commissioner for Energy and Climate Action, Miguel Arais Canete. The news is released by the economic newspaper Globes.

Objective of the meeting was the decision to promote the construction of a pipeline to link Israel to Cyprus and Greece, and then to Italy and Bulgaria (the EU has already prepared a feasibility study on this project) in order to export natural gas and make Europe less dependent from Russia, from an energy point of view.

The costs are estimated to be around USD 5.7 billion and the price should be USD 7-9 per BTU in order for the project to be economically advantageous. Sources in the energy sector affirm, however, that the real cost of the project will be over USD 2 billion more than estimated and that a USD 7-9 price would not be economically acceptable on a market in which Russia sells 175 billion cubic metres of gas (accounting for 43% of the total gas consumed in Europe) for a price of USD 4.40 per BTU.

The same day, the European Commissioner for Energy said that the 124 agreements currently in place for gas supplies will be united in a single instrument, again with the objective of reducing the dependency of Europe towards Russia.

The pipeline can become a more profitable business in the case new deposits will be found, while Minister Steinitz underlined the political and strategic aspect for the balance between countries in the region.


Source: medNews


At the end of the 2-day meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs, in Brussels, the Head of Slovenian Diplomacy Karl Erjavec declared the need for more funds to be allocated for security in the future. This applies also to Slovenia, whose funds for security will have to increase. Erjavec mentioned the risk of another migratory flow on the Balkan route and the risk of terrorism. On the occasion, a meeting of the Ministers of the countries that will establish a battalion in Latvia, to be led by Canada, to consolidate the position of the Alliance in Eastern Europe, was held. It is foreseen that Spanish, Italian, Polish, Albanian and Slovenian soldiers will be part of it, together with Latvians and Canadians.


Source: medNews

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