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6 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 8 MAY 2022 OPINION 2 maltatoday EXECUTIVE EDITOR Matthew Vella Letters to the Editor, MaltaToday, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 9016 E-mail: Letters must be concise, no pen names accepted, include full name and address maltatoday | SUNDAY • 8 MAY 2022 Citizens' Assembly can chip away at EU trust deficit Editorial OVER the last decade, citizens' mistrust towards na- tional and European institutions and political elites has persisted: giving rise to new political movements that seem to pursue populist, nationalist and anti-Eu- ropean discourses, as alternatives to the federalist solutions. But the experience of the Conference on the Future of Europe - which ran from October 2020 until April 2022 - seems to have offered us a shift in the way Eu- rope forges the paths ahead for its political evolution. Over the past decade, the European Union has broadly retained the usual institutionalised, Brus- sels-based system, in which MEPs canvass citizens, industry, lobbyists and experts alike, in a to-and-fro with the EU's executive and elected leaders to develop the way forward. The Conference on the Future of Europe has been a clear step away from this model, with a 'citizen-led' approached that started with an online platform to collect ideas from EU citizens, and the use of citizen panels that hosted European citizens and EU experts in conferences and dialogues. The success of the CFOE could provide a new mod- el for further democratisation of the EU, even though the clear disparity between citizen-led initiatives and the 'realpolitik' of Brussels experts, and the govern- ment ministers who call the shots at Council level, cannot be so easily bridged. But it is clear that democratisation of the EU cannot be simply extended to entities that include industrial and social stakeholders, lobbies, or parliaments – the citizenry needs to be allowed a role of unfettered con- tribution to a dialogue that is also organic. The digital age has allowed this to become even more possible. It is clear that the urgency to rethink the role of Eu- ropen citizens at this time of great digital transition and post-industrial evolution, requires greater trust from the EU institutions; as does the need to phase out dependence on Russian energy and the call for carbon neutrality. This means emulating the CFOE's inclusive instrument for participatory democracy be- yond national parliaments. This in fact forms the backbone of a call for a per- manent European Citizens Assembly that could be- come part of the EU institutions: as yet another way of bridging the decision-making inside Brussels, with the need for a popular voice that properly communicates the social and economic realities on the ground. The manifesto for the European Citizens Assembly by Citizens Take Over Europe is one such initiative, backed by NGOs who demand more democracy from the EU, and who see the Conference on the Future of Europe as groundwork for such a forum for delibera- tive democracy. As proposed in their manifesto, the key feature of a Citizens' Assembly is the direct involvement of citi- zens, drawn by lot and gathered to represent the cul- tural identities and the diversity of society – beyond partisan divisions, particular interests and nationali- ties – in the decision-making process. They see the ECA as a possibly powerful, new partic- ipatory pillar that can serve the greater good, includ- ing on politically sensitive and technical issues. Digital platforms and online consultations remain powerful instruments for transnational deliberation, but they can also promote a digital divide. And this is why a European Citizens' Assembly needs a physical place where citizens from all corners of the continent can meet several times. The premises of the European Parliament are ideally suited to welcome and facilitate such a multicultur- al and multilingual dialogue. A well-designed digital space could then ensure continuous transnational de- liberations in-between the physical gatherings of the citizens, as well as for the preparation of the agenda setting phase. The ECA will ensure participation of citizens before and after European elections, to a larger extent than the European Citizens Initiative and the right to pe- tition. The Conference on the Future of Europe has been an experiment in learning about democratic citizen en- gagement across the European continent. Continuing this exercise would be beneficial to civic activism and deliberative democracy. And as we get closer to the 2024 European elections, capitalising on the CFOE now should be the way forward. Only through this kind of democratisation pro- cess can Europe's social model overcome the deci- sion-making of technocrats who are far removed from ordinary life, and only interested in sustaining market forces' dominance over society. 9 May 2012 Six-year inquiry raises international questions on Maltese justice A magisterial inquiry into a fatal 2006 mari- time accident in the Bay of Biscay finally came to a close last week, after a six-year delay that prompted questions about Malta's justice system in the international media. Magistrate Jacqueline Padovani Grima con- cluded that there were sufficient grounds to de- termine that the Kleine Familie, a small French fishing vessel which foundered in 2006, resulting in the deaths of five of its crew members – had been involved in a collision with a much larg- er vessel: the Malta-flagged chemical tanker, Sichem Pandora. The duration of the magisterial inquiry has since been called into question by the French media, after a separate investigation by French maritime authority had come to the same con- clusions four years earlier. The facts hitherto established by Beamer – the French authority responsible for maritime safety and similar considerations – were that the Klein Familie had set sail from Cherbourg with six crew members on board at around 4.15am on 5 January 2006. Later that morning a passing merchant ves- sel reported sighting a red rocket flare; and at 9.45am, she picked up a sole survivor from a life raft. No trace was ever found of any of the other crew members. A French military submarine eventually lo- cated the wreck, and divers determined that the vessel had been involved in a collision with a larger ship. Preliminary investigations es- tablished that the damage on the wreck of the French fishing vessel corresponded to a dent on the keel of the Malta-flagged ship. Among other things, the French inquiry deter- mined that: "The first decisive factor in the ship- wreck was the poor visual lookout carried out on the Sichem Pandora, with the small radar cross section of the Kleine Familie as a contributory factor, the presence of the flashing marker lights and poor lookout on the part of the skipper being the two other decisive factors." The Sichem Pandora was escorted to Dunkirk and impounded by French maritime police pending criminal investigations. ... Quote of the Week "We do politics like a big local council within a big country… local politics lacks vision." Marisa Xuereb, Chamber of Commerce president when hosting Bernard Grech and a PN delegation MaltaToday 10 years ago

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