How would you feel about a single European system that would see identical university courses offered in each country, allowing students to follow a degree in multiple universities across the continent?
Or how about the idea of European citizenship that you get to keep even if your country decides to leave the union?
These were just some of the ideas floated about during Friday’s special episode of Xarabank on Lovin Malta, which discussed the Conference on the Future of Europe, and what it is that Maltese people would like to see the EU pursue.
Last week Malta celebrated 17 years of EU membership and while many today agree that joining the bloc was a positive step for the country, there are still those who feel that the EU is a distant entity with little impact on their lives, or worse still, who feel let down or betrayed by it.
The EU’s Conference on the Future of Europe is hoping to change just that. By consulting with European citizens, the EU hopes to find solutions to its most pressing issues.
Because it isn’t always easy to pass suggestions on to an institution tasked with coordinating the lives of 500 million people spread across 27 countries, each having its own tradition, culture and language, the EU has set up an empowering platform to help it listen to the millions of citizens around Europe.
And the latest Xarabank episode on Lovin Malta was dedicated to exploring this platform and discussing some of the suggestions that have already been submitted.
The programme featured video messages sent in by citizens who shared their thoughts on what they’d like to see the EU tackle.
Joining presenter Peppi Azzopardi to discuss those ideas, were European Parliament Vice President Robert Metsola, MEP Alfred Sant, and MEP Guy Verhofstadt who is co-President of the CFOE’s Executive Board, the President of Malta George Vella and Foreign and European Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo, the Vice-President of the European Commission and also co-President of the CFOE’s Executive Board Dubravka Šuica, European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli, and the head of the European Commission Representation in Malta Elena Grech.
Viewers expressed a range of ideas, from immediate-term solutions to pressing problems, to more hypothetical and ambitious ideas, each having its origin in one person or the other’s life experience.
One woman suggested European assistance for couples looking to adopt children from third world countries, while some suggested an increased emphasis on the importance of physical activity for school children.
Local farmer Cane Vella suggested EU-wide legislation that would ensure that the next generation of farmers has land to work, while Maria Desira, a television producer, suggested targeting the EU’s efforts at making it easier for third parties to report suspected cases of domestic violence.
As expected, there were also one or two points raised about migration and the need for the EU to take decisive action in this regard. The panelists said they understood the frustration with the lack of progress on the issue, but they pointed out that the issue was more complex and required buy-in on the part of all member states.
Sant emphasised the need for a coherent immigration policy on the part of the EU, given that it was clear that the union needed inward immigration, especially in certain sectors of the economy.
“We need to have a policy on legal migration so that we can send EU officials to these countries, with a clear idea of the continent’s needs,” he said, adding that unfortunately this was not yet possible.
Then there were the more ambitious ideas, like having a common syllabus for university degrees that would allow students to read for the same degree in multiple universities in different countries.
Another suggestion was that of introducing a requirement for an official identity document to be required for European citizens to be allowed to set up a social media account, in a bid to clamp down on online hate speech.
Others though, weren’t as optimistic, with one viewer voicing her doubts about whether anyone would ever read any of these suggestions, prompting Grech to point out that this was not the case, as a team of people would be reading through all the recommendations and distilling them into concrete proposals.
Metsola said that concerns about the EU’s bureaucracy were understandable, but she pointed out that the Conference on the Future of Europe seeked to address just that.
“It will seek to give replies to these frustrations and questions, and we have an obligation to respond to them. I will be a part of a group of representatives from the European Parliament and I will be responsible for answering these questions, even those that are out of the box,” Metsola said.
Luckily, the Future of Europe Platform – www.futureu.europa.eu – is built in a way to ensure the message comes across. Suggestions from all across Europe can be viewed and are instantly translated into each country’s native language.
The platform also allows citizens to interact with each other and discuss suggestions, having all text translated into each language to facilitate communication.
The ideas shared on the platform will be monitored by the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Council. The best ideas will make it to a plan of action being finalised by the three institutions by Spring 2022.
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