EU citizens gathered just outside of Valletta last night for a town hall debate ahead of today's challenging Malta Summit to build up a bottom-up movement in response to Europe’s pressing challenges. Together with elected politicians from all levels of government, the debate included Markku Markkula, President of the European Committee of the Regions, Parliamentary Secretary Ian Borg, representing the Maltese Presidency, Joseph Cordina, Head of the Maltese Delegation in the European Committee of the Regions, as well as Marthese Portelli, Member of the Maltese National Parliament and Sarah Agius, Mayor of Zebbug (Malta).
“The weakening confidence in the European Union is clearly evident “, said Markku Markkula. “ That is why restoring faith must start from each and every one of us. Europe is not an abstract concept or a complex bureaucratic structure. It is a union of humans and territories, committed to living and prospering in peace. We are all Europe and we must be proud of our European Union citizenship, which enriches our national, local and regional identities .“
Ian Borg said: “ Noting Maltese citizens' high levels of support for the European Union, politicians must be approachable and better communicate what the EU is doing for people's everyday lives. We must also remember our history and reiterate why it was originally conceived and what has been achieved so far. To be united means not only showing pride, but also acknowledging the faults and commit to fixing them. It must be a time to clearly stand together and say that the EU is there first and foremost to serve its citizens .”
Joseph Cordina said: “ We want that the European Union’s leaders to proactively listen to the concerns and wishes of citizens. Elected governments at all levels must work side-by-side to address their expectations and ensure that the EU responds effectively. Listening, though, is not sufficient: We need to propose innovative solutions, which correspond to the reality on the ground, in every village, city or region ”.
During the Maltese town hall debate, participants asked a range of questions with local and regional dimensions, including migration, youth unemployment, the circular economy, the environment and EU funds. The EU's wifi for all, support for SMEs and young entrepreneurs were all cited as measures that affect people personally and which could turn the tide on perceptions.
Markku Markkula concluded: “ As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Maastricht Treaty and we approach the 60th Celebration of the Treaty of Rome, our message to the Heads of State and Governments in Malta is simple: if the EU is to overcome challenges that threaten current and future generations, it must stand up for its values and step-up its response to the frustration felt by many citizens. This is why as elected politicians we need to find answers to the issues that matter most to our citizens. We must rebuild a public space to bridge the gap between Brussels and its citizens. This means being visionary but also pragmatic and bold in our actions. ”
Note to editors
The European Committee of the Regions is launching open debates in towns, cities and regions. Citizens’ views will be formally fed back in a report to be submitted to the European Council's President. The Committee is also encouraging regional and local councils to hold their own debates, including in their own institutional bodies, on the future of Europe to ensure that citizens' are heard during this time of reflection.
Letter of the President of the European Council to the president of the European Committee of the Regions.