PR171475 - Speaker Anġlu Farrugia addresses the opening of the 33rd ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly
Her Excellency the President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca,
Honourable Co-Presidents of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly
Honourable Members of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to welcome you all to our Mediterranean island, Malta. It is indeed an honour for me to deliver one of the opening addresses to such an august congregation.
Distinguished guests, the legislature which has come to an end was a rather demanding one for my Office, also because I was determined to affect a number of reforms in the interest of transparency and democracy. The main functions of a parliament are to check and challenge the work of the Executive, make and change laws, debate important issues and check and approve government spending. During 507 parliamentary sittings, 186 Acts of Parliament were enacted, significantly more that the 117 during the eleventh legislature, the 116 during the tenth legislature and the 122 during the ninth legislature.
Whilst on the subject, I cannot fail to emphasize the importance of two Acts of Parliament which were also enacted during the past legislature and which shall directly be affecting parliamentary work for years to come.
I shall start by mentioning the Parliamentary Service Act. The Maltese Parliament has finally joined national parliaments from around the world who have long been enjoying administrative autonomy from the Executive. This was an important milestone whose effects shall result in a stronger parliamentary democracy for our country. Indeed, for the first time in its history, the Maltese Parliament may start enjoying full administrative autonomy.
The second Act of Parliament which I believe shall have a marked impact on the Members of Parliament is the Standards in Public Life Act. The most noticeable impact of this Act is the appointment of a Parliamentary Standing Committee and a Commissioner on Standards with the power to investigate breaches of statutory or ethical duties of categories of persons in public life, including the same Members of Parliament. In practice this shall mean that, amongst other things, for the first time there shall be an entity with the power to verify the veracity of the declarations of assets presented to the Speaker by Members of Parliament. This alone should raise the level of accountability which all Members are duty-bound to uphold with respect to the citizens who elected them and therefore bestowed upon them the honour to serve in the House of Representatives.
The Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which is now drawing to a conclusion, also meant a significant increase in work for the Maltese Parliament, which in the last five months organised six inter-parliamentary meetings in the context of what is referred to as parliamentary dimension of the Presidency of the Council. Since January the Maltese Parliament has welcomed to Malta around 750 delegates from national parliaments of the European Union, candidate countries, observer countries, as well as from the European Parliament. During these six meetings, themes which are considered important for the European Union were discussed, amongst them Malta’s priorities for the Presidency of the Council, the European Union’s foreign and defence policy, the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, migration, the EU maritime policy, poverty and social exclusion, and the economic opportunities for climate change.
This year is the European year dedicated to global development, I fully believe that there is a need that we Europeans understand and act as quickly as possible so that the African continent and its people is given the necessary support and dignity it deserves. Malta firmly believes that the challenges of irregular migration in the Mediterranean can only be addressed holistically by affording protection to the vulnerable but also by working with partner countries in Africa to stem the flow of irregular migrants. We must make sure that any migration policies are not in themselves detrimental to the development needs of the country of origin. I am aware this is a long term undertaking, but there is no alternative to enhancing cooperation with partner countries of origin and transit in Africa to address the root causes of migration.
I must say that the Parliament’s work was not limited to what took place here in Malta. A lot has been achieved on an inter-parliamentary level. Amongst them, is the recognition by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) of the work carried out by this Parliament and its Chair. Furthermore, during the 35th annual conference of Small Branches of the CPA held in December 2016, I was elected Chairperson of the CPA Small Branches, comprising 43 countries or small branches throughout the Commonwealth that have a population of half a million or less. This means that the work carried out on the inter-parliamentary front within CPA has been fruitful and has contributed to the prestige and honour of the Maltese Parliament abroad.
I wish to all those present a successful session and a pleasant stay in Malta.
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