Malta aims to have three priority areas placed at the top of the Human Rights agenda during the Maltese Presidency
Malta is seeking to focus on topics that are inextricable to the human rights of migrants, believing that these are extremely pertinent to the discussion Europe is having on these issues
This morning Minister for Foreign Affairs George W. Vella delivered a speech at the opening of the seminar ‘The Role of Civil Society in Democracies in Transition’, held at the Auditorium of the Valletta Campus of the University of Malta. The opening of the seminar was also addressed by the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Stavros Lambrinidis.
The seminar was attended by civil society representatives and human rights defenders, some of whom came to participate in the seminar from Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt.
In his opening address, Minister Vella said that civil society organisations can play a key role in the process of transition, and face challenges in playing this role. Minister Vella continued that the scope for civil society organisations to deal with human rights issues is clear: these organisations can help foster reconciliation both within and between societies, and also play a valuable role within a system of checks and balances. Dr Vella said that the participation of civil society organisations is widely recognised as being a crucially important element in a stable democracy.
Minister for Foreign Affairs also delved into how Malta is seeing human rights during the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Minister Vella said that Malta aims to have three priority areas placed at the top of the human rights agenda during the Maltese Presidency; (a) Human Rights of migrants (in particular rights of migrant children); (b) Civil Society Space/Human Rights Defenders, and (c) Freedom of religion or belief (FoRB).
Minister Vella said that Malta is seeking to focus on topics that are inextricable to the human rights of migrants, believing that these are extremely pertinent to the discussion Europe is having on these issues; not simply the work being undertaken externally: Racism, xenophobia and discrimination. It has become amply clear that the EU’s record on these issue areas is increasingly undermining the credibility of its human rights pursuits in third countries. Dr Vella said that the narrative needs to change – and it is up to the EU to successfully challenge it.
The Foreign Affairs Minister continued that while the EU does not acknowledge the granting of enhanced privileges, the fact that migrants are inherently more vulnerable cannot be neglected. This needs to be taken into account when the EU seeks to ward against discrimination, racism and xenophobia; seeking to protect those most vulnerable. Human rights are migrant rights too. The situation is especially difficult for migrant children coming from war-torn countries such as Syria, where the situation continues to worsen. Children are among the most vulnerable, experiencing bombing, facing starvation, and dying from preventable diseases.