"Europe is under severe strain due to the influx of people fleeing repression and wars, apart from the fact that terrorists are attacking our way of life". Secretary General in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, Renée Jones-Bos, stated this while addressing a public dialogue on the programme and priorities of the Trio Presidency of the Council of the European Union. She was speaking in the context of a Trio Presidency that comes at a time when Europe is under a lot of pressure.
The event, themed Taking Forward the Strategic Agenda, was organised by the Malta-EU Steering and Action Committee (MEUSAC) and the Parliamentary Secretariat for the EU Presidency 2017 and EU Funds.
Introducing the event, Dr Vanni Xuereb, Head of MEUSAC, spoke of the importance of connecting the EU with society in order to restore confidence in the European project.
In her opening speech, the Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties, Helena Dalli spoke about the role of MEUSAC in the Presidency as the entity entrusted by Government tasked with engaging civil society and citizens in the EU processes. This includes the steering of a consultation process of EU policies and laws, the dissemination of EU related information and assistance to civil society organisations and local councils in tapping EU funding opportunities.
Ms Jones Bos remarked how The Netherlands, Slovakia and Malta managed to create a concise but structured Trio programme seeking to provide a framework for the next 18 months. "Gender equality and the environment are some of the issues the three of us have worked on together already", she added. She also highlighted the need to strengthen the Economic and Monetary Union and make it more robust while also continuing to address the issue of migration.
The State Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic and Government Plenipotentiary for the Slovak Presidency of the EU Council, Ivan Korčok, stressed how public dialogue is extremely important to involve citizens in the preparations for the Presidency.
He explained how the Trio decided to place the Strategic Agenda, agreed to by the European Council in 2014, at the core of the Trio programme. "We will build on the Dutch presidency and the Trio programme will serve as a basis for our priorities," added Mr Korčok.
When responding to some of the issues raised by members of the public, Mr Korčok referred to the situation of the United Kingdom, saying that the issues raised by the UK will be solved diplomatically.
The Parliamentary Secretary for the EU Presidency 2017 and EU Funds, Ian Borg, said that, "Malta will be realistic but targeted in its approach; with a Presidency programme that focuses on delivering results in targeted areas. The key priorities for Malta's Presidency will, among other issues, touch upon the Mediterranean, Migration and Maritime affairs. We expect migration and asylum issues to remain key priorities during Malta's Presidency."
"We are conscious of the challenges which we face. But we are committed, through our presidencies, to make a meaningful and successful contribution to furthering the progress of this European Union which, over the last sixty years, has contributed immensely to the process of peace, prosperity and justice in our continent," concluded Dr Borg.