Fabian Demicoli

Citizens’ Dialogue with Commissioner Tonio Borg


The citizens dialogue was organized this week by the European
Commission Representation Office in Malta and it was nice to see such an active
participation from the citizens that were present.

The topics touched upon were
numerous, including healthcare when travelling abroad, roaming charges, the
tobacco saga, residence scheme, the sale of Maltese citizenship, immigration,
animal rights, voting for blind people, GMOs, etc…

The Commissioner explained that it is important to
distinguish between what is of Europe and what is of the Member State.
Sometimes we blame the EU for things that are of the competence of the
Governments. Do we want more Europe or less Europe? People's perception changes
according to the circumstance. When everything is going well we feel we do not
need Europe and want to be left on our own and do not feel the need to help our
fellow member states that are going through difficult times. On the other hand
when crises hits or when a particular problem arises we critises the EU for not
doing enough and not having more powers in certain areas.

We sometimes forget why the EU exists and we become
skeptical if we need it. We forget what there was before the European structure
was set up. The EU does not only helps us to cooperate towards greater good and
prosperity instead of fighting each other. Other than the practical benefits
that come with joining the EU there is great added value such as security and
solidarity. Due to the fact that people forget why we need Europe they do not
see the need for solidarity and this is an effort everyone has to make to help
citizens understand that solidarity is in everyone's best interest as we are
one Europe.

Do citizens feel their voice is being heard? Malta
always scores above the EU average for questions like this. Since Lisbon the
European Citizens have gained a new voice through the European Citizens'
Initiative. Through this initiative citizens can put items of common concern on
the EU agenda.

When asked how they see the EU in the next 10 years,
the panel of speakers – European Commissioner Tonio Borg, Head of the
Commission Representation in Malta Martin Bugelli and Head of the EP
Representation in Malta Peter Agius – all were very positive. All see the EU
doing well, even better than today, they see a larger Europe and an inclusive
one where citizens are at its heart. Commissioner Borg stated that Malta will
continue advancing in the EU and continue increasing its influence, further
overcoming our smallness.

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