The Republic of Malta will be honored over the next six months by chairing the Presidency of the EU Council.
The presidency of the Council rotates among the EU member states every 6 months. During this 6-month period, the presidency chairs meetings at every level in the Council, helping to ensure the continuity of the EU’s work in the Council. Member states holding the presidency work together closely in groups of three, called ‘trios’. Its six-month program, from January to June 2017, will indeed end the current trio presidency preceded by Netherlands and Slovakia. The trio sets long-term goals and prepares a common agenda determining the topics and major issues that will be addressed by the Council over an 18 month period. On the basis of this programme, each of the three countries prepares its own more detailed six-month programme.
The Presidency chairs meetings at every level in the Council, driving forward the Council’s work on EU legislation and fostering the cooperation among Member States, thus, ensuring the continuity of the EU agenda and achievement of common goals. Malta has its own priorities and agenda, both within the Trio programme. The Trio Presidency was guided by the five following ones priorities on its strategic agenda adopted by the European Council in June 2014: a Union of jobs, growth and competitiveness, a Union that empowers and protects all its citizens, towards an Energy Union with a forward-looking climate policy, an Union of freedom, security and justice, an Union as a strong global actor. Malta is at the heart of the Mediterranean sea, being of course confrontated with the migration issues. And the Valletta action plan that was agreed during the last Valletta’s Summit on Migration, Malta will be thus endeavouring to monitor its implementation through a Senior Officials’ Meeting which will be held in Malta in February to take stock of the state of play, and map the way forward on internal security and combat terrorism.
But the various meetings will be held in Malta, Brussels and to Luxemburg more focussing and emphasising on Justice and Culture sectors. The Minister of Malta responsible for Justice, Culture and Local Government, the Honorable Owen Bonnici explained that its Ministry will be responsible for twelve conferences and meetings during the Presidency, 19 working parties and 19 dossiers. And explained that the priority of this Ministry is to register progress on the respective legislative pending files and work hard on the new legislative files put on the table. But the recent events from the United Kingdom will also have surely a role to play. Minister Bonnici told that EU should create a plan for a post-Brexit EU and the process, which has already started during the current Slovak Presidency in Bratislava about a new idea for Europe, should continue in Malta.
The cultural program which will be held in Malta and abroad during this Presidency of the Council has been entrusted to “Arts Council Malta”, to elaborate the cultural programming and to showcase the rich cultural heritage of the Maltese islands. With collections of contemporary dance, music, visual arts and performance all created in Malta. Quoting the Parliamentary Secretary for the EU Presidency 2017, Dr Ian Borg: ” I have no doubt that the Presidency will offer a good platform to further strengthen Malta’s cultural foundations. The Presidency is a canvas on which artists can paint a picture of Malta in Europe”. The Malta Showcase is organised by Arts Council Malta in collaboration with the Valletta 2018 Foundation, Fondazzjoni Kreattività and the Parliamentary Secretariat for the EU Presidency 2017 and EU Funds.
Ultimately, the main objective of the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU will be to bring the EU closer to its citizens.