The Malta Independent 28 January 2023, Saturday
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Property rights versus social security

Alfred Sant MEP Thursday, 1 December 2022, 08:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

Human rights, including the right to own property are recognized as a fundamental basis on which modern democratic society is built. However the same rights also have, and should have, a social dimension. All individuals live as citizens in a social polity, and this brings with it the need for personal rights to respect reasonable social obligations.

I’ve been told about claims – which I think are justified – regarding how in recent times the interpretation of human rights is being totally skewed to cover just property rights, without any consideration given to what the concurrent social obligations should be. This has happened mostly for cases covering the renting of houses and farmland, but not only. Maltese and European courts have been following this approach.

And as in most such cases, financial remedies are being sought and granted (paid for by the government) a legal “industry” has developed to promote the opening of action in court to ask for such a remedy. This apart from the problem of tenants being left with their backs to the wall.

Clearly a better balance should be maintained between human rights and social obligations for if not, human rights would end up as a tool by which to keep in place existing social and financial power elites.

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WHAT IS CIVIL SOCIETY?

It has become current usage to refer to “civil society” and the importance of its activities. To be sure, it is important for citizens to be able to gather in groups/societies, call them as you like, by which to promote the aims and principles about which they agree.

Still the question arises: should all these societies be given the same attention and regard? If a group consists at most of three, say five, individuals who commmunicate with each other by electronic means, should what they declare be given the same weight as that of some other group which has been operating for years?

Or should we judge activists of civil society by their skill in organizing street demonstrations that attract crowds?

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HUNTING AND TRAPPING

The hunting and trapping lobby remains politically influential though less than it was some years ago. Unfortunately, from a political perspective, it gets mostly seen in terms of the vote held by a signficant stratum of the population.

By contrast it is in the interest of all citizens including hunters and trappers themselves, that their “hobby” is considered in terms of the role it should have in our society. Hunters and trappers should have the right to practise freely their line of activity. This freedom though must remain within the framework of a clear set of rules that respect environmental norms. Many of the latter have become obligations that Malta accepted when joining the EU.

Such an approach requires an ongoing educational campaign to inform all those involved about what is allowed, as well as how and why the norms set out are being observed, both where they give the go ahead to the hunting and trapping activity and where they seek to curtail it.

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