European Commission chief hails Malta 'well-prepared' for EU presidency stint in 2017

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is convinced that the Maltese presidency of the European Council, starting in two months, will be a success

Jean-Claude Juncker has said that he is convinced that the Maltese presidency will be a success
Jean-Claude Juncker has said that he is convinced that the Maltese presidency will be a success

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker was full of praise for Malta during a press conference held with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in Brussels this afternoon as the island prepares for the six-month stint leading the presidency of the European Council.

According to Juncker, Malta was prepared in the best way possible to take over the presidency: “Malta is a serious country and down to earth; a small country but with great ambitions."

The Prime Minister is currently in Brussels with his Cabinet of ministers.

The Commission president said that he was convinced that Malta’s presidency would be a successful six months because Malta would not be putting domestic concerns at the top of its agenda. He said that he did not hope for results but expected them.

The pair discussed a number of issues that the presidency will be facing, from migration to defence and external policy to youth unemployment.

Muscat said his government did not have any delusions of grandeur with respect to the presidency, and would be focusing on getting things done and making sure that Europe progresses on the issues that matter.

“The next six months will not only be about Brexit and migration. There is a lot of other work that needs to be done to improve the livelihood of our people. We need to make what we say more understandable to people wherever they are from Vilnius to Valletta,” said Muscat.

He said that if there is one lesson to be drawn from current global trends it is that a lot of energy must be put into listening to people and acting on their concerns.

“We are natural bridge builders, and we want to try and work out compromises that will allow us to move forward in the future,” said Muscat.

This was echoed by Junker who, when asked about the impact a small country like Malta can hope to make, said that small countries have ‘specific expertise’ in building bridges. Coming from a small, ambitious country himself, Juncker said that small countries do not push their domestic concerns to the top of the agenda and are able to listen to others.

Turning to migration, Juncker said that Malta has a good experience with the issue and for a very long time was on the front lines without receiving much help.

“On migration, I feel Maltese,” said Juncker.

He said that he hoped Europe would show more solidarity in tackling migration issues. Muscat said that despite bearing the brunt for more than a decade, Malta has subscribed to the burden sharing initiative. He said that once the Slovak presidency is over, Malta will take stock of the situation and will build on that which has already been achieved.  

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