In 2014-2020, Malta is managing three operational programmes under EU Cohesion Policy. Main ressources are allocated through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and from the European Social Fund (ESF). For this period, Malta has been allocated EUR 729 million. I firmly believe that, as local administrators, we can make an important contribution in translating Cohesion Policy into a tangible agenda for local and regional authorities, in particular as part of their continuous struggle to protect nature and the environment. This has become an urgent matter, and although the clock is ticking against us, I believe that we still have time for concrete action. What we strongly require is the necessary will and political commitment. In this regard, to be successful, we have to join forces, irrespective of the size of our municipality or region.
Coming from the smallest country in the European Union, and living in the second smallest locality on Gozo, the smaller inhabited island of the Maltese archipelago, I could easily ask what contribution I could possibly make in this regard. Experience tells a different story! Looking back at the short twenty-year history of my village’s local council, I conclude that even though there is always more to do, we are in fact delivering. First of all, we rely on education to make the community aware of the urgent need to safeguard our environment. We are making every effort to inform local people of all ages about this topic and to raise their awareness as much as possible. This educational campaign starts at primary school and moves all the way up to lifelong education. Children are slowly becoming important advocates of this new awareness, taking it from their school desks to their families. Climate change is on top of the agenda. In this regard we do our best to educate our families to use alternative sources of energy, as much as possible. And we are reaping the fruits of this new awareness! More than 60% of our households use some kind of alternative energy and green energy use is constantly increasing. Considering our geographical dimension, we may only be a drop in the ocean, but we are really happy to make this – albeit small – contribution!
The territory of our locality is blessed by being one of the most naturally outstanding areas on the Maltese Islands. It brings together many elements of nature’s beauty: geology, flora, fauna, ecology
as well as history and archaeology. The area of Dwejra, which lies within the boundaries of our village of San Lawrenz, is a candidate for inclusion in the UNESCO’s World Natural Heritage list. It is a true gem that merits care and conservation and this burdens us with a huge responsibility, not just as political administrators but also as members of the community where it is situated. This unique site must be protected not just for us and our future generations, but even for Europe and for the rest of humanity. Plans in place to push for Dwejra to be recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Geoparks site will remain in place despite the tragic collapse of the Azure Window in March 2017. If each city in Europe and worldwide commits to protecting its own natural heritage we will certainly live in a better and more sustainable world than the one we inherited from our forefathers. This collective effort will make us true protectors of creation.