‘Europe that I would like to live in’ Citizen’s dialogue in Gozo
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Gozitans had the opportunity on Friday to take part in a ‘citizens’ dialogue,’ which took place in Marsalforn, with the theme – ‘L-Ewropa li rrid nghix fiha’ (Europe that I would like to live in).
This was the second of five of the dialogues planned, organised by the Malta-EU Steering and Action Committee (MEUSAC) and it attracted a large crowd for the lively debate.
It gave those present a chance to voice their concerns and discuss their views on their rights as EU citizens, as well as on the Europe they would like to live in, with Maria Attard – Director of Dar Guzeppa Debono, who explained how this Foundation had responded to social needs for the past 28 years.
She went on to say how the EU funds helped improve the service over the years, as well as assisted withe the Lwien Project, which is part-financed by the European Social Fund (ESF) and offers young adolescent girls who have emotionally challenging behaviour and/or are single mothers between the ages of 14 and 18 year the opportunity of participating in accredited courses aimed at helping them adapt to new life-styles and better employment opportunities.
Also present for the event were Samuel Azzopardi – Victoria Mayor and President of the Gozo Region and Joe Cordina – Xaghra Mayor and Head of the Maltese Delegation to the Committee of the Regions, talked about how their representation in areas such as connectivity between the different regions, local governance, environment, education and culture, social welfare and the economy and small businesses, among others.
The speakers agreed that the best way to tackle social problems is to create more jobs and attract more investment, as this would ensure that less people end up searching for work away from Gozo. They also emphasised the importance of accessibility and argued that investment in Gozo should not be an extension to that in Malta, but distinct and specific in nature.
Participants raised a number of issues: the importance of raising awareness of the citizens on EU related matters; more opportunities for citizens to participate effectively in the EU decision making; clearer policies on Gozo by both political parties; the need for a greater effort to ensure that Gozo benefits more from the EU; more EU funds specifically aimed at NGOs; and the importance of a Gozo-specific agenda.
The panel members reacted to these interventions and expressed their views about the kind of Europe they want to live in: a Europe in which citizens are more engaged in the democratic participation at all levels of governance; a Europe wherein the most important element is not EU funds but the principles upon which the EU is built – solidarity, regional governance and subsidiarity; a Europe with a bottom-up approach to governance at all levels – EU, national, regional and local; a Europe with strong leaders who strive to strengthen the EU’s values.
The next citizens nebate will be held on Friday, 13 September, at Bugibba and will have the theme, ‘Europe without frontiers.’
These activities and others which will take place over the coming months are funded by the EU through the Management Partnership between MEUSAC and the European Commission.