European elections Malta information campaign launched
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“We will be providing a platform for all Maltese citizens and candidates to discuss the Europe that counts to them – Peter Agius, head of the European Parliament Information Office in Malta. The only way to legitimise and influence EU decision-making is through the European Parliament, and the Maltese will have the opportunity to make Malta’s voice heard, said Peter Agius, head of the European Parliament Information Office in Malta.
Dr Agius was addressing the media during the launch of the information campaign towards the European elections of 24 May next year.
Dr Agius asserted that, “Through the MEPs, Maltese citizens can change the future of Europe, from the issues that affect their immediate aspirations like employment opportunities or business rules to more wide-ranging issues like the environment and irregular immigration.”
“Since our accession in 2004 we have seen this on several occasions. Maltese MEPs have played a critical role in our journey in Europe so far. In most instances, changing things in Europe involves cooperation beyond party and institutional lines, and the European Parliament provides the ideal setting, given that no party and no member state may push forward an agenda without a wide-ranging support from the 750-strong Chamber of MEPs.”
The European Parliament Information Office in Malta is now launching an information campaign aimed at highlighting the workings of the European Parliament and its wide-ranging influence in the daily lives of European citizens.
“The campaign will be politically neutral, but not apolitical,” said Dr Agius. The European Parliament is, after all, taking decisions which affect the economy, affect jobs and employment opportunities, as well as the business climate, the environment and public funding.
“On all these issues the Maltese people will have a part of their lifestyle at stake. “We may either disregard our future or make sure we make our voice heard and influence the laws that will affect us through our MEPs”.
“Most Maltese laws now originate at EU level, where the European Parliament is in charge of amending and approving proposals put forward by the European Commission. 90% of the Commission proposals are amended by the MEPs, and these changes are nothing but a reflection of the needs of the electorate of these MEPs.
“Our MEPs hence need a strong mandate from their electorate on the issues that affect them. This campaign will aim to provide just that – it will serve as a platform for the Maltese citizens and candidates to discuss the Europe that counts to them,” Dr Agius said.
“Considering the impact on their daily lives, Maltese voters need to be better informed about the decisions taken in “Brussels” (or Strasbourg) and how they can influence those decisions. The 2014 elections are different from the European elections in 2004 and 2009.”
Dr Agius said that there is more at stake now, and the European Parliament is more powerful than it ever was in the last 30 years. With the Lisbon Treaty the European Parliament gained full powers with the European governments in the Council on areas such as asylum and migration, the approval of international treaties like ACTA and the approval of the EU budget, for which Malta was allocated €1.128 billion.
“Moreover, with the upcoming elections the Maltese voters, together with the rest of the EU citizens, will have a direct say on the election of the President of the European Commission.”
Dr Agius pointed out that “the results of the European elections will now have direct consequences on the leadership of the future executive power of the European Union. Incoming MEPs will elect the new President of the Commission. It is not only politically very important, it is also very important for the citizens because it means your vote counts; not only for the composition of the parliament but also for the composition and for the direction of the executive.”
This change in the EU Treaty is meant to address the shortcomings of democratic legitimacy faced by the European Commission and is also expected to further seal the relationship of accountability between the Commission and the other institutions towards the European Parliament.
Dr Agius said, “The Maltese people have the possibility to make their voice heard in the European Parliament, which will set the course for forging legislation, challenging bad policies and leading the debate in the five years following the elections.
“With the Lisbon Treaty entering into force, the European Parliament now has more power in shaping Europe than ever before, from a legislative and budgetary point of view; and in determining the direction of the executive mandate. Strengthened by its new powers, the Parliament can have more impact and make itself more evident to citizens in their daily lives.”
How does the European Parliament Information Office in Malta intend to share all this with the public? “We’ll do this through a strong presence on the ground and through an effort to be innovative in our communication. Our challenge is to go beyond ‘the converted’. We need to reach out to the ‘I don’t care’ generation as well as to those who are just too busy to follow what’s going on.”
The EP office plans to hold activities that group sectorial interest around a number of specific themes that have a direct impact on the sector concerned. “We plan, for instance, to group workers and their representatives around the developments on the posting of workers, maternity leave and the working-time directives and discuss with them and the candidates their positions and their demands from Europe.
“The same thing needs to be done with businesses, with whom we need to address the reduction of business burdens and developments with public procurement legislation. The information campaign is meant to highlight the impact of Europe on the chosen themes by taking a look at developments in the past legislature while giving a taste of challenges ahead for the new European Parliament after 24 May 2014,” Dr Agius said.
Dr Agius stressed that the themes of the campaign will be the very same themes that every Maltese held dear to their hearts. “Our only reason to exist in Valletta is to apply the discussion in Europe to the local discussion on the streets, at the workplace, in our homes and on Facebook.”
Apart for activities on the ground, the campaign will also bank on a number of innovative initiatives meant to engage the majority of citizens who would never really consider attending any events organised by the office. “We need to provide a diversity of platforms, especially online, for all Maltese citizens to be able to interact with the campaign and with the candidates”. The office plans to launch a series of such initiatives with the media in December.
The information campaign will lead up to the European elections of May 2014, but also beyond, until Parliament elects the President of the European Commission and approves the new Commission’s political agenda.
The campaign has the baseline ‘SAQSI, IPPARTECIPA, AGHZEL.’ (Act. React. Impact), which is intended to highlight the inclusive effort of the campaign, as well as the opportunity for voters to determine the future of Europe through the ballot box. After the elections, the final phase will focus on the newly-elected European Parliament, its election of the next European Commission President and the inauguration of the new Commission.