Club of Venice
DEPARTMENT OF INFORMATION, MALTA
PRESS RELEASE – 03.06.2010
Speech by the Hon.
Parliamentary Secretary for Consumers, Fair Competition, Local Councils and Public Dialogue,
during the 50th plenary meeting of the Club of Venice:
‘Public Diplomacy’ - Marsalforn, Gozo – 3rd June 2010
Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished guests.
It is my great pleasure to welcome the members of the Club of Venice for this 50th plenary meeting to be held here on the island of Gozo.
The role of an organisation such as yours can never be overstated. We have here, in this room, once again, the coming together of the persons responsible for communication in all the member states, working in close cooperation with the European Institutions in a brain storming approach to communications in the European context.
Such regular interaction makes for a wealth of experience and ideas that can only serve to enrich the process by which the principles and practices of the European Union are brought home to citizens in the most lucid and effective means possible.
Allow me to take up some of your time to share some of my thoughts, and our experience on some related matters. Communication is given a great deal of importance in the Government I form part of. We firmly believe that true democracy cannot function at its optimum unless citizens benefit from a strong and effective communication process, which ensures that they have constant access to all relevant information.
Information is not, however, a one way process. It is important to send out messages that are clear and are received well and understood clearly. But it is just as important to listen and to understand what our citizens are thinking and proposing. Open systems of dialogue are important since the process of communication is a conversation between the various components of our societies. It is not a simple monologue with no room for feedback.
My portfolio as Parliamentary Secretary within the Office of the Prime Minister includes Information and Public Dialogue. I am responsible for a number of institutions that have specific roles in both the ‘talking’ and the ‘listening’ modes.
One of these is the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD), where the social partners meet regularly and provide valuable input and feedback to government in the drafting of its policies. In a parallel exercise, every year, government also holds a consultation exercise in connection with the drafting of the annual budget. By such pro-active measures we are implementing a two-way communication process thereby keeping our citizens involved in the decision-making process, and hence owning, at least part of the process themselves.
I have also noted that one of the items that features regularly on your agenda is Communicating Europe. Very often we find that European Citizens consider themselves to be far removed from what they perceive to be a centralised bureaucratic institution somewhere in Brussels. Such a misconception cannot be allowed to flourish.
Malta and Gozo, being peripheral islands, are very much exposed to the risk of succumbing to this misperception. In this context we are constantly increasing our efforts to ensure that Europe becomes a reality with which people can relate on a daily basis. To that effect we have another organisation, the representatives of which are also present for this meeting here today. We call this organisation MEUSAC – the Malta EU Steering and Action Committee.
This organisation had already functioned effectively in the information and consultation process leading up to membership of the European Union, but its role has now changed. Besides its crucial work in the dissemination of information, for which we have also signed a management partnership with the European Commission, MEUSAC is also actively engaged with our 68 local councils and countless NGO’s by helping them in their approach to the tapping of European resources.
Through this we find that our local councils and NGO’s are being assisted with the navigation through the sometimes over-bureaucratic and convoluted maze of EU funding. What better way of communicating Europe to our citizens than by them experiencing and enjoying first hand the concrete results of the solidarity that epitomises the core of European ideals.
Actions speak louder than words, but words, when complemented with visible and tangible results, increase their effectiveness exponentially, and the job of the communicator becomes less difficult.
I cannot over-state the reality that communication is no longer a one-way thing between the institutions and our citizens. With modern means of communication, we also find that the linear model of communication is fast transforming itself into a more horizontal inter-phase of planes of communication that know no boundary – be it geographical or social. It is for this reason that I have to highlight a particular initiative that has caught my eye as being worthy of note, namely the Living Europe project.
Through this project press reports from the member states of the European Union, are regularly uploaded on to one web-site, thus giving citizens the opportunity to know what issues are making the news. It also gives national perspectives on European issues and a representative cross section of the diversity that is at the heart of European Unity, even as mediated by the press all over the Union.
I do not intend to take up more of your time, time which I’m sure you shall be utilising in a constructive and fruitful debate following the interesting agenda you have prepared.
I thank you heartily for accepting our invitation to hold this meeting here on my home island of Gozo, and sincerely hope that we shall be successful in providing the right environment for your work, and also to have the occasion to sample some of what we have to offer, also as a holiday destination.
I wish you success in your conference, and look forward to even more successful cooperation and collaboration in the future.
DOI – 03.06.2010