Lenise Agius, 19, will be representing Malta and the EU as an ambassador at the Conference on the Future of Europe in the European Parliament over the coming months.
Citizens are in the spotlight at the conference, as 200 citizens from all over the EU gathered in Strasbourg last weekend to discuss European values and rights, democracy, rule of law, and security.
The attending citizens were randomly selected from all EU countries, and it was ensured they were representative of Europe in age, gender, and educational background to reflect the EU’s demographic and social diversity.
Their ideas and recommendations on the future direction they want for Europe will be taken into account by the European Parliament as well as the other EU institutions and advisory bodies in future decision-making.
Lovin Malta made its way to Strasbourg to cover the event, and spoke to one of the two Maltese citizens representing Malta at the European Citizens’ Panels: Lenise from Vittoriosa.
The European Parliament sent an email to her boyfriend, asking whether he wanted to participate in the conference. He knew Lenise would be very interested, having studied European Studies before, so he referred her. “And now I’m here,” she said, smiling.
Getting to Strasbourg was slightly stressful, as it was her first time going abroad alone and she was afraid to travel by herself. “I was panicky at the beginning, but everyone was helpful.”
It only took her a day to make friends from different countries, discussing interesting topics with them. “It’s impossible to remain alone, everyone speaks English.”
She learnt, for instance, that the education system is very different in Malta. “In Malta, high school lasts from age 10 to 16. In the Netherlands, however, it’s from 12 to 18. There are quite some differences between the EU countries in that sense.”
From Thursday to Sunday, Lenise attended discussion workshops and informative plenary sessions with experts, all related to the future of Europe. In her workshops, there were 10 citizens from different nationalities, including Swedish, French, Romanian and German.
“The plenary sessions are very informative, and we take that information to continue discussing them together in the workshops.”
After the first day, the thing she enjoyed the most is the public speaking – but not because she likes it. “I’m afraid of speaking in public, so this was a very great opportunity. I gained a lot of confidence already!”
Lenise’s most important concerns were a greener environment and equality. “Equality irrespective of social class, regarding gender, nationality, and values. We need to be more united.”
When discussing how to improve democracy, she said it is important to involve citizens in decision-making. Not as a one-off like this event, but continuously.
Having been elected as the ambassador for her work group, she will now get to travel up to Strasbourg five times in the upcoming months.
And while she’s not too excited for the travelling, as it takes about seven hours to get to Strasbourg, she has already proven that she is more than capable of representing Malta, making her voice heard and discussing the future of Europe.
This article forms part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. These articles reflect only the authors’ views. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information these articles contain.
All the best to Lenise!