Failure of opportunity or a problem of mentality? – Gozo discussion
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Failure of opportunity or a problem of mentality? This was the main issue that emerged from a public discussion held on Saturday in Gozo, attended by young people, students and Gozitan and Maltese workers.
Creating your own Europe in Gozo – was organised by the European Parliament Office in Malta and Kunsill Nazzjonali taz-Zghazagh (KNZ).
Panel members were EU Parliamentarians Roberta Metsola and Alfred Sant, as well as Dr William Vella KNZ Gozo Liaison Officer, and Gozo Business Chamber President Joe Grech. Mr Eman Borg moderated the debate.
While many voices complained of the lack of opportunity in Gozo for education and training which, they said, is leading leading to a brain drain. Emphasis was also made on the need for a change of the widespread mentality in Gozo due to the lack of consensus on solutions with decisions taken
William Vella explained that ” there is need for a collective and strong voice among Gozitans to this lack of agreement, so that there will no longer be unresolved solutions to the current realities.”
Mention was also made during the discussion that for this purpose much emphasis has been made on the necessity of a Regional Committee for Gozo.
MEP Alfred Sant said that “the need for a Regional Council for Gozo should be taken seriously, and more care and attention given to the regional structures of Gozo, making them more responsive to the needs of Gozitan citizens.”
The participants also raised the proposal of Gozo being recognised as a region in the Maltese constitution, which found the full support of MEP Roberta Metsola.
Dr Sant referred to the example of independent Malta to explain how regionality is a question of governance with more direct control, which leads to further progress.
During the discussion there was agreement on the need for a holistic vision for Gozo to ensure a range of solutions such as opportunities for students, for facilitating investment and creating a greater variety of job opportunities.
It was seen as the solution to issues raised, such as lower wages in Gozo than in Malta, a shortage in some sectors other than tourism – which is seasonal, as well as being conducive to the island of Gozo having innovative sectors such as financial services and blockchain.
MEP Sant explained hat the European Union is carrying out a research project at the MEPs request, exploring renewable energy leading to self-sufficiency in energy and a clean environment in the islands, which he said, could also benefit Gozo.
Other issues raised were the difficulties faced by Gozitan students, such as high rentals, public transport, and the failure of accessibility to Malta. Participants also encouraged MEPs to put public pressure on the Government to build residences for Gozitan students in Malta.
The Gozitan youths present asked the MEPs how to maintain contact with them and how they respond to the people. They said that MEPs are aware of the importance of continued dialogue and direct involvement in Gozitan civil society groups.
“The Maltese EU Parliamentarians are obliged to visit the thirteenth election” district,” said MEP Roberta Metsola.
Joe Grech stressed the importance that young people participate in the European Elections 2019 in order to ensure their future in Gozo as part of Europe.
At the opening of the discussion, the Acting Head of the European Parliament Office in Malta Anna Zammit Vella, said that 40% of Maltese and Gozitan youths aged between 18 and 24 did not vote in the European Elections.
Photograph: European Parliament Office in Malta