Reflections on the Maltese EU Presidency
The Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union takes place in very challenging times for the Union. Unfolding events could possibly change the Presidency’s planned tempo and dynamics.
EU leaders meeting in Bratislava on 16 September 2016 agreed to reconvene in Malta in the beginning of this year and to use the March 2017 celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties, when the Heads of Government meet again in Rome, to set out orientations for the EU’s common future. Malta should take the opportunity to give a strong impetus to revitalise faith in the European Project.
The Catholic Church and European Christian Churches (CEC) urge the EU to return to the values of the EU founding fathers by solving common problems together building on their shared history, and to consider the European project as more than just a common market.
The single market is essential for economic growth. However, social inclusion should remain central to economic growth.
Many children in Europe live in poverty and young people are affected by high unemployment rates. There are also issues with long-term unemployment and workers who suffer deprivation from in-work poverty and precarious working conditions. The EU needs to act quickly to rescue the poor and the weak.
All efforts should include family-friendly measures. The family is the heart of the “culture of life”.
Energy security and climate change are closely related issues and concern the rights of present and future generations. Meeting the objectives of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change provides a strong opportunity for integrating security of energy supply and accessibility, and sustainability.
The Maltese Presidency needs to urge all EU Member States to maintain the course towards achieving the post-2020 national climate action plans (INDCs) and to keep up the momentum of COP 21 and COP 22. The EU needs to maintain global leadership on climate change.
Malta should also consider promoting the proposal put forward by the European Group of Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE) to the European Commission for setting up within its institutions an ‘ombudsperson’ structure to protect the interests of future generations.
The proposed reforms to the European Union’s Common Asylum System fall short of ensuring a fair, transparent and efficient asylum system based on high protection standards. Burden-sharing, or “responsibility sharing”, and reform to the Dublin Regulation are the two most important issues which have divided the EU and which exert most pressure on the Maltese presidency.
The Church in Malta hopes that the Maltese EU Presidency will continue to consolidate and implement the values of human dignity, democracy, human rights, justice, solidarity and the rule of law, cherished by the founding fathers of the European Union, in the areas of the six priorities adopted for its Presidency: migration, security, the single market, social inclusion, neighbourhood policy and the maritime sector.
+ Charles J. Scicluna
Archbishop of Malta