Book launch: ‘Malta’s Presidency: A study in a Small State’

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said today that while the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU had six main thematic priorities, our approach was to put the citizen at the heart of our work.

Dr Muscat was speaking this morning during the launch of a book titled ‘Malta’s Presidency: A study in a Small State – Presidency of the Council of the EU’ at the European Commission Representation office in Valletta. The book was launched by the Institute for European Studies – University of Malta and the Europe Direct Information Centre – EDIC – University of Malta). The book was edited by Prof. Roderick Pace, Dr Mark Harwood and Dr Stefano Moncada. The book is the first of an annual series of publications focusing on Malta and the EU.

Prime Minister Muscat spoke of the fact that Malta had made an unprecedented move when it appointed a junior minister to oversee the preparations in the run-up to the Maltese Presidency much before the six-month Maltese Presidency term kicked off.

Dr Muscat said: “We dealt with citizens’ demands and while it is not possible to create a 100% safe environment, today the EU has a more robust framework to deal with threats, thanks also to the strengthening of information exchange networks.”

One of the more difficult tasks, he said, was the triggering of Article 50 during the Maltese Presidency.

“The departure of a Member State is unprecedented and it was during our Presidency that we had to set up, albeit with a heavy heart,  the different council working streams and launch the work of the Council to deal with this new task; there were no rules of procedure or precedents that could guide these decisions.  The agreement with all 27 Member States on board has proved to be very effective in terms of decisions taken as well as EU unity – at a time when it was very much needed.”

Dr Muscat also pointed out that next year the EU will lose one of its Member States and some 65 million people. Calibrating the right balance between what still needs to be done to ensure we are future proof – in terms of what we need to continue to protect our citizens and businesses – and responding to some of the concerns of those citizens that feel that some aspects of integration are simply too intrusive and would like to “take back control” will be our biggest challenge. Achieving this delicate balance may not be possible, at least in the short term, without a Europe of different speeds”.

He also referred to the European elections and that our citizens will have the opportunity to express their own views on what they think the future of Europe should look like.

“It is important that we listen,” Dr Muscat said.

A panel discussion followed comprising of MEUSAC Head Dr Vanni Xuereb, Dr Stefano Moncada, and JEF Malta President Ms Nicola Mangion. The discussion was moderated by Mr Neil Portelli, Director at MEUSAC.

Dr Xuereb said that while it’s good that the EU has brought about peace and security, the EU needed to continue to be successful, despite the fact that it’s no easy task to communicate the EU to the people as it is complex and at times used by certain national governments and who had a tendency to blame the EU when things go wrong and take credit when things go well.

He also spoke positively of the Trio presidency which, rather than just being a six-month programme, it would form part of an over-arching programme of activities for a period of 18 months.

Other issues and points raised during the panel discussion included the achievements of the Maltese Presidency such as roaming charges and cross-border portability of online content and the fact that Member States holding the presidency had to play the part of an honest broker.

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