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Date 26.09.2013

The Hon. Marlene Farrugia, MP and the Hon. Claudette Buttigieg, MP have attended the Interparliamentary Committee Meeting on EU Human Rights Policy organised jointly by the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament on 25 September 2013 in Brussels.

The meeting which brought together a number of Members of national parliaments of EU member states and Members of the European Parliament, focused on two main areas: the Implementation of the EU Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy and Internal and External Coherence with a focus on the external dimension in the area of Freedom, Security and Justice. Representatives from civil society also took part in the discussions.

During the course of the debate, both Members of Parliament intervened. Hon. Marlene Farrugia emphasised the importance of including the issue of human rights in the educational curriculum so that children, as from a very young age, imbibe the key principles of human rights together with the responsibilities that every human being has. Instead of only pursuing traditional means to tackle these problems, one may also consider moving away from the macro level to the micro level and focus on children by outreach programmes which reach them from their earliest school days.

Hon. Marlene Farrugia also referred to the problems that our country is facing in relation to the large influx of illegal immigrants that arrive at Maltese shores. While acknowledging that other EU member states are facing similar problems, she said that Malta has its own specificities in view of its size and population density. She commented on the limited extent of solidarity that other EU member states have extended to Malta citing the statistic that the number of refugees that has been taken from Malta by the United States of America exceed the number that has been taken by all the EU member states put together. Such overt lack of solidarity by EU countries to other countries in the same bloc, portrays the EU as a fragmented body and does not bode well for its credibility as a solid economic and political union.

Also on the issue of immigration, Hon. Claudette Buttigieg said the problem of immigration does not belong to one particular country, but belongs to Europe as a whole and has therefore to be dealt with collectively. Hon. Buttigieg said that it is necessary to involve civil society and NGOs who work directly with these people, immigrants who leave their country risking their lives as they seek a better future elsewhere. These people could provide the solution to the problems that their country of origin is facing.

Hon. Claudette Buttigieg mentioned the draft bill that she has presented to the Parliament of Malta to amend the Constitution of Malta. The bill aims to provide for the protection from discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation and to provide redress to victims of discrimination in other areas which do not at present include an obligation of equality on the ground of sexual orientation.

The Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy with an Action Plan for putting it into practice, was adopted by the Foreign Affairs Council in June 202. This is the first time that the EU has had a unified Strategic Framework for this vital policy area with such a wide-ranging plan of action for its implementation. The Framework sets out principles, objectives and priorities, all designed to improve the effectiveness and consistency of EU policy as a whole in the next ten years. It provides an agreed basis for a truly collective effort, involving EU member states as well as the EU Institutions. The Strategic Framework also has a partnership with civil society and is designed to be as readable as possible so as to be accessible to all citizens.

The action plan is a concrete list of actions that have to be taken in regard to human rights and the promotion of democracy by all EU institutions, prepared on the basis of consultations by the European External Action Service, involving the European Commission and EU member states, which are jointly responsible for its implementation.

The meeting was also addressed by the EU Special Representative on Human Rights Mr Stavros Lambrinidis whose task is coordinate the work on the implementation of the action plan and to give visibility and more effectiveness to the EU Human Rights Policy. Representatives from civil society also participated at this meeting.