Time to shift focus from parliament to environment: President to

Malta’s 79 MPs were sworn in on Saturday as the country’s 14th legislature officially got underway, with the government promising to switch its infrastructural development focus to safeguarding the environment.

Addressing the new MPs, President George Vella said it was time that environmental projects were given the same importance afforded to infrastructural ones in previous administrations.

“It is not enough that we safeguard the country’s natural environment – ​​this is the duty of all those within public entities whose decisions can impact the state of the environment.

“We need to be innovative when it comes to public and new open spaces in urban zones – and ensure smart planning to safeguard our villages’ unique characteristics,” Vella said.

He was reading a speech penned by the Office of the Prime Minister, auspiciously known as the “speech from the throne”. Through this speech, the president traditionally lays out what is expected from parliamentarians for the coming five-year term.

Prime Minister Robert Abela signs his oath.  Photo: DOI/Clodagh O'NeillPrime Minister Robert Abela signs his oath. Photo: DOI/Clodagh O’Neill

His address followed the swearing-in of 79 MPs, including 22 women, 12 of whom were elected to parliament through a gender quota mechanism.

The former editor of Labor’s English-language website The Journal Randolph Debattista was co-opted into the House without contesting the March 26 general election.

‘Malta is neutral but we cannot keep our eyes shut’

Towards the beginning of his address, Vella referred to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to address Malta’s Parliament on Tuesday.

Vella said that Parliament – ​​Malta’s highest institution – was sending a strong signal on its very first meeting, that the war was unacceptable, condemnable and should be halted at once.

“The only acceptable path is that of dialogue. Our country is a neutral one. However, neutrality does not mean closing our eyes when faced with injustice and disgusting behavior,” he said. That is why Malta implemented sanctions and provided humanitarian aid, among others, Vella added.

Opposition leader Bernard Grech takes his oath.  Photo: DOI/Clodagh O'NeillOpposition leader Bernard Grech takes his oath. Photo: DOI/Clodagh O’Neill

Vella also referred to governance reforms approved by two-thirds of the House over the past two years.

“While acknowledging that no country, sector or individual is perfect, we will do our utmost to ensure Malta is at the forefront of modern democracies with strong rule of law systems in place.

“We have enacted, and will continue to enact additional reforms, however, we also want to ensure that the justice system and whoever administers it better understand the realities of those they are faced with. Justice is blind, but justice needs to be sensible and sensitive to the developing social realities.”

Other priorities:

  • Boosts to Gozo businesses by 10 incentive per cent
  • Allocate at least 10 per cent of European funds to Gozo
  • Facilitate access to bank services and financing
  • Launch of a national digital strategy
  • A tourism strategy for the next eight years
  • Promote consumption of local agricultural and fishing produce
  • Ensuring children’s access to extra-curricular activities (arts, sport and culture)
  • Increase pattern leave from two to 10 days
  • Introduce a five-day carers’ leave in cases where relatives fall ill
  • Allocation of funds and fiscal incentives for culture sector and creative economy
  • Reform IVF legislation
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