Pretty much in the same vein that the widow in the 1999 James Dalessandro book, “Citizen Jane” sought to find the truth about her aunt’s gruesome murder, so are the citizens  of Europe doing in their current search for a reality check on what once was their European dream. With blinkers off, European politicians now publicly admit that for far too long those same citizens have been swept aside to suit economic and ideological conveniences, resulting in the credibility mess engulfing the European Union today.

However, this is no time for neither the doubters nor the apologists. At a time when the very future of the Union is at stake, only the citizens of Europe can save themselves from the oblivion and pre-WWII conditions that an end to unity and vision could bring about. It is why it is good to, finally, watch the EU, as one whole entity, rising to meet this major challenge, called Brexit, and no less gratifying to see it being triggered during a first for us Maltese – the EU presidency.

Subject to what the Parliament in Westminster will decide after the ruling of the Supreme Court, the UK will start divorce proceedings from the EU, in the same month in which the EU will celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome – which “determined to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe”.

It’s irony at its finest!

The citizens of Europe have to play a direct part in the strengthening process of EU rejuvenation. Rather than being left to swing straight into the arms of the populist forces of political division, they are to be enticed and convinced into being the first to ask the questions and to come up with ideas on how best to see the European Project re-injected, rationally and accurately, into their lives, their homes, their families, and address their hopes and ambitions. We have to stop blaming the EU every time it rains or shines! And shrugging away EU matters because Brussels is so far away, and those bureaucrats are so deaf, will only stagnate the project further.

President Juncker himself has taken the initiative by regularly calling for members “to be politically active in dialogues with citizens, by presenting and communicating the common agenda, listening to ideas and engaging with stakeholders.” The obvious trend now is for inviting questions that deserve answers like: what Europe do we want and how do we get there? Do you want to have your say about what is happening in the European Union, how it is tackling key challenges and how you benefit?

While town-hall-debate style of Citizens’ Dialogues are taking place across the EU, the whole Union is gradually going full throttle in its collective effort to meet the threat from divisory developments, such as Brexit and its possible domino effect. However, it all boils down to the citizens’ role in what has to be a major spring-cleaning. European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans was reiterating this the other day, when he addressed the current Presidency’s first meeting of  Parliamentary Committee chairpersons on European Union Affairs.

Addressing citizens’ needs and realities has rightly become standard fare on the part the EU’s higher echelons. Vice President Timmermans rightly referred to the major issues of security in the light of repeated internal and external threats to EU citizens, migration, the elimination of dangerous fossil fuels in energy generation (a challenge successfully being undertaken by the Maltese Labour government despite Opposition objections from people who had inexplicably preferred to retain our dependency on heavy fuel oil) and, inevitably, Brexit.

The Maltese Presidency is entrusted with elaborating and implementing this new approach towards Europe’s disgruntled citizens. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has been clear from day one on the job and what it entails, insisting it will not be focused on seeking grandiose acquisitions, but on progress over issues that are sowing malice and which Europe has hitherto failed to address. No beating about the bush, there.

With its six major priorities chosen by Malta for the Presidency – immigration, security, the single market, social inclusion, policies with neighbouring countries, and the maritime sector – no doubt can remain as regards the commitment to continue consolidating and implementing the values of human dignity, democracy, human rights, justice, solidarity and the observance of laws which were so cherished by the EU founders.

Europe’s Citizen Jane needs to be helped in achieving what she has embarked upon – an endeavour to get to the truth despite all the odds. In  times where it is becoming increasingly difficult for Member States to find convergence on so many issues, my hopes are , that after the Presidency,  if reading from the same page  is unachievable,they will at least read the same book.

In the meantime Citizen Jane is not only hoping that they read; she hopes that they will also listen.

The Malta Independent 27.01.17

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