Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Independent: UHM launches project to enhance debate prior to MEP elections

27.1.9; by Annaliza Borg

Union Haddiema Maghqudin yesterday launched ‘090509’, a project to enhance debate on the European Union prior to elections for Maltese representatives in the European Parliament which will be held in June.

The project seeks to encourage members of civil society to put forward their ideas and proposals for discussion. These proposals should subsequently be picked up by elected Maltese MEPs. It is being carried out on the fifth anniversary of Malta’s accession in the EU and its title signifies the date for Europe day. It also falls on the 30th anniversary since the European Parliament was elected by people for the first time.

A number of personalities from different sectors of society have been selected as opinion leaders. These include Gabriella Calleja from the Gay Rights Movement, actress Clare Agius Ordway, and Gejtu Vella as a trade unionist, among others. A number of organisations representing young people, the elderly, persons with disability and others are supporting the initiative.

Five-minute voice clips of the selected opinion leaders will be online at www.090509.org and members of the public will be able to interact and participate in the discussion through online blogs.

The aim of the project is to include as much diversity as possible and be a reflection of the Maltese people’s beliefs, views and concerns by raising issues of general social interest, said John Mallia, the projects coordinator on logistics and media relations. The discussion will lead to a compilation of proposals as an agenda for Maltese representatives at the European Parliament, he added.

“The European Union is made up of people and is not a forum for political parties,” said Joanna Drake, Head of the European Commission Representation in Malta. Dr Drake also argued that cyberspace should be used much more as a means of connecting with people as the EU wants to be closer to society.

Mr Vella said that such an initiative was a means of moving closer to having a broad based Europe rather than top down institutions. He said that people should be dominating the scene and not political parties.

e50,000 of the project’s cost is being co-funded by the EU. The total cost of the project is estimated at e65,000.

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