October 17, 2017

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A Review of the Maltese EU Presidency

At the end of June the first ever Maltese Presidency of the EU came to a conclusion. To mark this occasion an EU Presidency Handover ceremony was held on the 28 June at the Embassy in The Hague with the presence of the Heads of Mission of EU Member States, candidate countries, international organizations, officials from the EEAS, European Commission representation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

The ceremony was held for the first time in The Hague and a commemorative plaque was prepared by Embassy for the occasion which features the flags of the EU and the Netherlands. The plaque was presented to the Estonian Ambassador as a symbol of the EU Presidency that will be handed over to successive rotating Presidencies, with the hope that this tradition will continue in the coming years.

The Maltese Presidency was characterized by an intensified debate relating to the future of Europe. This was partly in response to the developments regarding Brexit, the rise of populism and partly in connection with the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Rome Treaties on 25th March. During the ceremony the Ambassador of the Republic of Malta, Mr Joseph Cole highlighted the main achievements of the Maltese Presidency.

On Migration, the Maltese Presidency worked on the external dimension and its special focus on migratory flows in the central Mediterranean. An implementation plan to reinforce regional cooperation with Libya in particular, was put in place, while action continued on the Partnership Framework agreed at the 2015 Valletta Summit on Migration. As the Presidency unfolded, progress was made on dossiers in relation to the Union’s comprehensive approach to migration, including the reform of the Common European Asylum System and effective management of external borders. There is now a common understanding that the revised EU asylum system needs to strike the right balance between responsibility and solidarity and that it needs to ensure resilience to future crises.

Several regulations, directives and decisions were agreed which enhance the scope and function of the single market and have a direct positive impact on the lives of EU citizens. These covered the areas of the digital economy, energy and climate change, consumer protection, capital markets and financial services among others.

On the Digital Single Market, the Maltese Presidency made overall progress and reached important milestones on a number of Proposals, including the portability of online content, wholesale roaming charges, as well as the Wifi4EU initiative allowing for wifi connectivity for citizens and visitors in public spaces.

A notable achievement was that in trade policy, where the Council adopted a unanimous position on the new anti-dumping methodology in record time. In the context of trade, the MT Presidency also reached an agreement on granting Autonomous Trade Measures to Ukraine.

Neighbourhood Policy was one of the areas of special priority for the Maltese Presidency. Malta is particularly gratified at the successful launching of the Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean, known as PRIMA, which is aimed to develop innovative solutions for sustainable water provision and management and food production in the Mediterranean region. On the Eastern front, Regulation on visa liberalisation for neighbouring Ukrainian citizens was adopted. Notable accomplishments were also made in the field of the EU’s Enlargement policy, with the Maltese Presidency taking forward accession negotiations with Serbia and Montenegro.

Maritime policy was another area of special priority for the Maltese Presidency. Agreement was reached on a number of dossiers relating to port services, passenger ship safety rules and standards. Success was also achieved on a number of fisheries dossiers including the signing of the Malta MedFish4ever Declaration. This international declaration, agreed to by both EU and non-EU Mediterranean Ministers, establishes a 10-year plan intended to bring Mediterranean fish stocks to sustainability levels. The Council adopted Conclusions on International Ocean Governance, and on the priorities for the EU’s maritime transport policy until 2020.

Following the UK’s notification of its intention to withdraw from the EU on 29 March 2017 and the subsequent adoption of Guidelines by the European Council, the Presidency worked towards the adoption of the negotiating directives and authorised the opening of negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.

The Presidency Handover ceremony was also an occasion for the Ambassador of Estonia, Mr Peep Jahilo to provide a preview of the priorities that the Estonian Presidency will pursue in the coming 6 months. Estonia will now have the daunting task to lead the EU Council at such an unpredictable and challenging time with solutions required for Migration, Brexit and the Future of Europe.

The main goal of the Maltese Presidency was to bring the EU closer to its citizens and to bring tangible improvements to their quality of life. Malta believes this should be the goal of successive EU Presidencies to ensure a bright future for the EU.

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