Europe 'listens' in consultation exercise

Europe 'listens' in consultation exercise

A consultation week will be held by the European Commission Representation Office between April 3 and 8 in line with the Commission's Plan-D, which calls for debate, dialogue and democracy.

The activity, L-Ewropa Taghti Widen (Europe listens) is a broad consultation exercise with NGOs, constituted bodies and civil society.

The objectives of Plan-D, which was announced by EU Commissioner Margot WallstrÖm last October, are for Europe to get closer to the public to better understand their needs, explained the head of the European Commission Representation in Malta, Joanna Drake.

The office would be exploiting the fact that, due to its small size, everyone can be reached, she said.

In line with the objectives of Plan-D, Malta has taken the initiative to organise a week-long series of meetings. The items on the agenda include a look at the two years since Malta joined the EU - "both the good and the bad, and the success stories that were a result of membership"; and a look ahead to see what kind of Europe the citizens wanted for Malta and how it could help more effectively and offer more opportunities.

Around 331 associations and groups, ranging from the agriculture and fisheries sectors to professions, the environment, and culture and the arts among others, have been invited to attend the meetings, which have been divided into 14 sections.

The meetings will be held at the Radisson SAS Golden Sands Resort and Spa, Ghajn Tuffieha and will each last 90 minutes.

The associations and constituted bodies have been asked to submit their thoughts in writing by March 28 to be sure that they are brought up during the meetings and to assist in the drafting of a report on the needs, perceptions and expectations of society in a post-membership scenario.

After the meetings, a synthesis of the thoughts, ideas and suggestions that emerge will be compiled into a report to be presented before summer to Ms WallstrÖm as the Malta office's contribution to Plan-D and to the future of Europe.

The report will also be presented to the government, which was, after all, "responsible to listen to Malta and keep a finger on the pulse of its needs," Dr Drake said.

Speaking about the annual budget, Ms Drake said the projects that were feasible in the short- to medium-term would be taken on board and funds requested for them.

The EU Commission yesterday issued a call for proposals, which is accessible on the Europa web site.

The eligible proposals could benefit from funding of €2 million, the minimum grant amounting to €250,000 for a five-partner organisation and the larger amounting to €600,000 for eight partners.

Applications for these Pan-European projects have to be submitted by April 18.

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