Malta prepares to take over EU presidency

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Malta is set to take over the Presidency of the European Council in January for the first time since joining the EU in 2004.

Parliament’s Conference of Presidents, which is composed of Parliament President Martin Schulz and the political group leaders, visited the island on Thursday 8 December to find out how the country was preparing for it.

Led by Schulz, the group leaders started their day by visiting Maltese President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, who singled out poverty and unemployment as the key challenges facing the EU.

The delegation then had a meeting with Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech. In the press conference afterwards Muscat said: “We are here to act as honest brokers both in Council and with the other institutions. Europe must stand up to be counted, not by stamping its feet, but by standing by its principles.”

Schulz said he was impressed with how Malta was preparing for the presidency.

“The expectations are high, but so was the satisfaction of the group leaders on what they heard from you. Small countries can take on the challenge with strong commitment. My experience is that smaller countries are always successful.”