Malta's unique role in pivotal year for the EU
(VALLETTA) - European Union leaders visited Malta Wednesday to mark the launch of the first Maltese EU presidency, as it takes on a pivotal role in Europe's political development during a historic time for the EU.
Malta tries its hand at an EU presidency at a difficult time for the EU, with the next six months set to offer unprecedented challenges and dramatic upheavals.
2017 is the year in which the EU celebrates the sixtieth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, and the Brexit procedure is expected to be formally launched in March.
The EU hopes that a summit in Valletta on 3 February and meetings in Rome on 25 March will mark a fightback against a palpable sense of pessimism, and instead send messages of hope and unity to Europe.
It also hopes against hope that this year's difficult elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands might turn the tide against the negative messages of Brexit and the U.S. election.
The spring is also set to bring a demanding test for the whole of the EU with regard to migration, especially on the Central Mediterranean Route.
Nonetheless, Malta is well prepared to play its part in what is a unique role, said Council president Donald Tusk at Wednesday's inauguration.
"Few have a better understanding of Italians, who will host the Rome celebrations, and few have a better understanding of the British, who we will begin to divorce", he said. "And, as we know, divorces - without mutual understanding of the partners involved - can turn their lives into a nightmare. Finally, few have a better understanding of the essence of the migration tragedy in the Mediterranean."
At a joint press conference with Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said the Rome summit was an opportunity for the EU to show that "the leaving of Britain does not mean the end of the European integration and of the European dream and of the European project".