Malta has been at the helm of the presidency of the Council of the EU precisely for a month. We have been listening a lot about how important and privileged we should all feel now that it is Malta’s turn to hold this position. However, it is interesting to see what it exactly means to hold the presidency of the Council of the EU.  What happens during the period and why does such an event come with all the fanfare typical of  large-scale celebrations?

By Now it’s a Casual Exercise

Malta, EU Presidency, 2017, Valletta

Every 6 months, an EU Member state holds the Presidency in order to discuss which promises are to take place between major EU institutions, namely the Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament, and the individual member states. Each and every member presiding over the Council must draw the agenda of the Council, chair all meetings, and have its ministers preside over several meetings. The Prime Minister of that member state would also become the President of the EU, meaning that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is currently the President of the Council.

Malta is not Alone

Malta not alone, EU presidency, Valletta

Although all eyes are on Malta, our island is currently working closely with the two countries that presided over the Council in 2016; the Netherlands and Slovakia. This practice is part of the Presidency Trios concept, meaning that each Presidency works with the two member states that preceded it. This helps in ensuring the continuation of a common agenda and the realisation of long-term goals projected over an 18-month period by the three countries involved.

What are Malta’s Top Priorities?

Given that Malta is the smallest EU member state, and an island very close to the immigration crisis, it’s only natural that during this six-month course it ensures that the issue of migration occupies the top of the political agenda. This is to be done mainly by promoting sustainable investment in Africa, in order to tackle the root causes of migration, and by encouraging a fairer distribution of the migration load among the EU states. In fact, a musical and dance collaboration between the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) and ŻfinMalta, with an original music score by Albert Garzia, brought to the stage an original work of art during the opening ceremony. Entitled BAHR, this commissioned work was all about the sense of loss, identity and regeneration bound to the human aspect of migration, displacement and relocation.

Why You Should Care

people of Malta, EU Presidency, Malta, Valletta

It is no surprise that such a thing might not to concern you, but hang in there.  Malta’s Presidency of the EU shall be working towards:

  1. Putting to an end roaming charges throughout Europe once and for all, so that you do not get charged extra for keeping in touch with others just because you’re out of your country;
  2. Allowing EU consumers to keep on enjoying their subscription to audio, visual, online content even when visiting another member state, so that you do not lose on what you are already paying for in your home country;
  3. Providing free Wi-Fi in every public town/ village in the EU, principally by acknowledging that access to the web is a fundamental necessity for all;
  4. Improving gender balance and equality on company executive boards, so that women get to fill the posts they truly deserve.

Who’s involved?

Grand Master's Palace, Valletta, Eu Presidency, Malta

It is very likely that somebody close to you is currently working for Malta’s Presidency of the Council. Since this is a long-term event that requires huge logistical efforts, hundreds of Maltese are located in the Grand Master’s Palace, Valletta and Brussels, coordinating the various aspects of the project, ranging from event/ meeting  coordination, documentation, reporting and communication.  Some of our most luxurious hotels are welcoming national and international dignitaries coming together to discuss and deliberate.

What you’ve Probably Missed

Photo by MaltaToday

The logo, with its straight lines, colourful shadings and prominent pointed edges, has been designed by none other than a 25-year-old, recently graduated Mcast student; Alexia Muscat. The design made it to the top from among 28 other design submissions, and although its source of inspiration is clear, it’s a fresh take on the eight-pointed cross. Promotional material distributed to all delegates attending the meetings held in Malta, Gozo, Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg consists of 40,000 designer ties and scarves by none other than the renowned Charles and Ron. Members of the Presidency staff have also managed to lay their hands on the perk.

© 2017 – VIDA Magazine – Clifford Jo Zahra