PRESS RELEASE ISSUED BY THE MINISTRY FOR EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT AND THE MINISTRY FOR JUSTICE, CULTURE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT: Minister Bartolo and Minister Bonnici present Culture and Education priorities before the European Parliament

During a Session with the Committee on Culture and Education, Minister for Education and Employment Evarist Bartolo and Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government Owen Bonnici presented the Maltese Presidency’s priorities in the area of culture and education before the European Parliament.

During this Session, the Ministers replied to several questions which were asked by the Parliament on issues relating to the work of the EU in the field of culture and education.

Minister for Education and Employment, Evarist Bartolo, started off by appreciating the good work performed by the Parliament in the area of education. The Minister held that the Maltese Presidency will focus on the relevance of achieving a High Quality Education for All through ‘Inclusion in Diversity’ with a view to draw up Council conclusions related to this theme. The quality and relevance of education should be linked to the requirements of the labour market and directed towards the provision of relevant skills, aptitudes and life-long values required to for EU citizens to become active citizens. In this context, education systems should be more inclusive and capable of moving away from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to one that is just, flexible, diversified and comprehensive. The Minister stated that focus will be placed on inclusiveness as a primary element for effective education mechanisms to ensure long-term effectiveness and quality retention, whilst concurrently taking into account the relevance, function and incorporation of digital skills. The Maltese Presidency will also strive to make progress on the New Skills Agenda for Europe, the Proposal for a Council Recommendation on the European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning, and the Proposal for a Decision on Europass.

Minister Bartolo also stated that the Maltese Presidency will focus on the role of youth work in supporting young people’s development of essential life skills, facilitating their successful transition to adulthood, citizenship and working life, including those youngsters at risk of marginalisation, in order to draw up Council conclusions on this basis. In addition to this, the Maltese Presidency intends to finalise the Fifth Cycle of the Trio Structured Dialogue on enabling young people to engage in a diverse, connected and inclusive Europe, and to work towards setting the priorities for the incoming Trio Cycle. The Maltese Presidency also welcomes the Commission’s mid-term review of the EU Youth Strategy and aims to respond to it by means of Council conclusions. It also welcomes the Commission’s first phase of the new Youth Initiative and intends adopting Council conclusions on this initiative.

Minister Bartolo concluded by highlighting the priorities concerning sport. In line with the objectives set out in the EU 2020 Strategy, the Maltese Presidency intends to focus on sport as a platform for social inclusion through volunteering by means of Council conclusions, targeting in particular the most vulnerable. The Maltese Presidency is also tasked with preparing and developing an EU Sport Work Plan for the next period which will take into consideration the Commission’s evaluation report of the current Sport Work Plan (2014- 2017). A Resolution finalising this process is to be adopted during the Ministerial Council.

Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government Owen Bonnici started off by appreciating the good work performed by the Parliament in this area. This was the third Session during the Maltese Presidency by Minister Bonnici, after his appearance before the European Parliament last week in two other sessions before the LIBE and the JURI committees respectively.

The Minister held that the Presidency will give priority to the Proposal for a revision of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive. The Minister remarked that the Council has been working hard to examine the complex text and to understand in detail its implication for the European audiovisual market. Minister Bonnici highlighted that the aim is to achieve progress in order to create a level playing field for all audiovisual media services to ensure fair competition. This also aims at cultural diversity and media pluralism whilst keeping in mind the importance of protecting minors and people against hate speech. The Minister held that Malta will continue this work throughout its Presidency with the view of reaching an agreement within the Council. Minister Bonnici held that if the Council and the Parliament work in a close and constructive manner, we will be able to progress sufficiently on this Proposal.

Moreover, the Maltese Presidency will also focus on the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018. Minister Bonnici continued that the Maltese Presidency should embrace this opportunity to take this Proposal forward and continue on the work of the Slovak Presidency. The Minister of Culture also made reference to last year’s Commission Proposal to extend the action for participation in European Year of Cultural to EFTA/EEA countries and recognised these countires as long-term partners in cultural cooperation. Minister Bonnici hoped that the European Year of Cultural Heritage will bring people together. He encouraged society to appreciate cultural heritage and create a public space to debate about the opportunities and challenges for cultural heritage in Europe. The Minister held that since Valletta will be holding the title in 2018 we will do our best to carry out this flagship EU initiative in the area of culture. In the light of this proposal, the Minister remarked that Malta’s geographical position, language, culture and patrimonial heritage being very close to the Maghreb countries, makes it ideal for Malta to act as a bridge between these countries and the Member States.

Minister Bonnici continued that the Maltese Presidency will also continue working on Council Conclusions on a Strategic Approach to International Culture Relations encouraging joint communication moving ‘Towards an EU Strategy for International Cultural Relations’ which outlines the importance of involving society and cultural professionals as well as the need to cooperate with international organisations such as UNESCO.

The Minsiter concluded that cultural exchanges also present economic benefits which are very important for the local economy and employment whilst contributing to the strengthening cultural diversity and empowerment of women. The Minister also expressed his disappointment for the attacks on cultural heritage which took place in various countries such as Iraq and Syria. Finally, he opined that if we do not act against this heritage destruction, citizens will lose their identity and values. Therefore, Malta will be responding to this destruction by following a framework which focuses on socio-economic and intercultural dialogues.

Source: Government of Malta