Most of our articles have to do with things to do and see in Malta. In other words, what and where the hotspots and must-visits are.
This article is a bit different; a little bit more on the informative side of things. You might have heard that Malta is currently undertaking the presidency role of the Council of the EU. That might sound pretty fancy (even if you don’t know the implications of that are), but we’re here to explain why exactly this is a big deal for Malta, and why you automatically get bragging rights for being in Malta during this exciting time, whether you’re a citizen or visitor!
You might have also heard that in 2018, Valletta will be the Cultural Capital for Europe. Because this coincides so closely with Malta’s Presidency of the Council of the EU, many people are lumping them together. Before we get further into this article, we just want to stress that they’re actually two separate things, although the pairing of the two together has certainly led to an abundance of new cultural opportunities in Malta (but that’s an article for the future!).
The idea that the presidency of the EU Council should be divided amongst the different member states is relatively a rather new idea in terms of legislation. In fact, it only dates back to the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. The thought-process behind this practise is that every country that handles the presidency role can offer something new to the working dynamic and scope of the EU, while further providing stability to the democratic and balanced principles upheld by the institution.
What you might not know about this arrangement is that Malta is not technically handling the role in isolation. Rather, what is implemented is a Trio Presidency dynamic is which three different member states of the EU liaise together over an 18th month period. The current Trio Presidency is made up of Malta, The Netherlands, and Slovakia.
What changes is that with every 6-month period there is a shift of the dominant presiding country, and from the 1st of January till the 30th of June 2017 the spotlight is on Malta. The chosen site to run the presidency from is the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a design that dates as far back as 1571. It has a rich political history even prior to its 2017 role. First used as the official residence of the Knights of St. John, and later the house of the British Governor, the Palace eventually became Malta’s first house of Representatives after the island achieved independence.
This is all well and good, but what does this mean for Malta and the EU, exactly? Here is a list of things you can expect for Malta during the first half of 2017:
A Unique Theme
For its Presidency, Malta has selected the theme of rEUnion. More than a clever pun, rEUnion represents the importance of European connectivity, and further challenging the limits of what a European citizen is defined by. As the Presidency has stated itself, rEUnion is not simply about legislation, but is rather much more challenging European ideologies and lifestyles. In other words, the Presidency doesn’t claim to be able to achieve the whole of this scope in just 6 months – but it certainly aims to get the vehicle rolling.
A Set of Unique Goals
A theme like rEUnion of course comes with a very particular set of challenges. One of these challenges concerns a very pressing European issue, namely migration. The Malta Presidency seeks to sow the seeds to create a more holistic approach to migration, with aims such as strengthening the quality of the Common European Asylum System and improved load-sharing.
This issue of migration will be tackled in addition to other important ones, such as European security and further economic development such as through the positive exploitation of the Single Market.
New Cultural Opportunities
The Malta Presidency of the Council of the EU is not about Malta, of course – it’s about the benefit of the EU. However, for anyone who may happen to be in Malta during this period, there is quite a lot to look forward to in terms of cultural events. One which we’re particularly excited about is Ode to Joy: A Citizen Orchestra.
Taking place on the 14th of May at the Royal Theatre Square, the orchestra is a collaboration between conductor Tim Steiner, Ricardo Baptista, and everybody who wants to take part. The Citizen Orchestra is exactly that – an orchestra that every Maltese citizen, musically trained or not, can take part in. It’s a way of offering a new, dynamic take on music, and is looking to be a rousing show for spectators as well as a unique opportunity for citizens.