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Frank Psaila

The Presidency has come to an end, but it isn’t yet over

Apart from being an opportunity to showcase our work ethic and determination, the Presidency has also been a good opportunity to showcase our culture and what our country has to offer

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Frank Psaila
16 August 2017, 8:13am
The challenge now is for Malta to ensure that it does not fall into the trap of complacency following the hype that came along with the hosting of the EU Presidency
The challenge now is for Malta to ensure that it does not fall into the trap of complacency following the hype that came along with the hosting of the EU Presidency
Malta’s association with the EU has been an eventful one and following our membership in 2004 as well as our accession to the Schengen Area and the Euro Zone four years later, our six-month Presidency of the Council of the EU must surely rank among one of the highlights. 

Work and effort have undoubtedly gone into the preparations for the six-month activity, and it is pleasing to see that the Presidency did manage to close some important dossiers, such as roaming. It failed on some others, like the migration dossiers, but as explained rather well by MP David Stellini, in his parliamentary speech, the set goal to close migration dossiers was overly ambitious and no one really expected the Maltese Presidency to make headway on this front. 

So all in all this Presidency can be considered as an encouraging testimonial to the Maltese worker who has once again been able to punch above his weight, despite our small administration. It’s a pity that the Presidency happened in the shadows of the Panama Papers scandal which rocked the Maltese political scene and the Prime Minister’s decision to call a snap election to suit his party’s needs. 

Apart from being an opportunity to showcase our work ethic and determination, the Presidency has also been a good opportunity to showcase our culture and what our country has to offer both in terms of being an attractive business proposition as well as a tourist destination. 

The challenge now is for Malta to ensure that it does not fall into the trap of complacency following the hype that came along with the hosting of the EU Presidency. Although our role within the Council will, from now on, cease to be the glamorous one of presiding over Council meetings, there still is an awful lot of work that needs to be done that is just as important. We must keep in mind that the EU will continue to legislate on bread and butter issues on a daily basis and therefore it is imperative that our administration does not let its eye off the ball. If it does so, it will be a huge disservice to our citizens and businesses who have been the greatest benefactors of EU membership so far.

It is important that all the Maltese administration that is tasked with EU-related duties, ranging from our officers based in Brussels at the Permanent Representation to those serving at the various ministries and agencies in Malta, is able to shift its mindset back to that of an active Member State that will fight tooth and nail to ensure that its interests are safeguarded within the various fora where EU negotiations are held. It would be a huge mistake to consider the six-month Presidency of the Council of the EU as an end in itself and not as part of our development as an EU Member State and to continue building from the experience gained over the past months.

To give an example, in the immediate future, Brexit negotiations will surely be high on the EU’s agenda, and within this context, we must keep in mind that Malta has been listed as one of the countries most vulnerable to the ramifications of a United Kingdom outside the EU. It is therefore important that we get it right. Similarly, there are countless other files within the different areas that fall within the EU’s competence that may have a particular impact on our country if not handled well. 

Therefore, now that the Presidency is over and our country reverts back to its more familiar role around the EU’s negotiating table, we should continue to assiduously defend Malta’s interests while helping to shape the EU’s future direction on the basis of our national experiences and those of our EU partners.

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Frank Psaila, a lawyer by profession, anchors Iswed fuq l-Abjad on Net TV. He was formerly...