As Slovakia’s EU presidency is slowly coming to its end, Malta, who will take over the EU’s helm in January, has announced its strategy to focus on social issues. Malta’s anticipated shift towards social issues will mean a sharp departure from the agenda that the Central European country has had during the second half of this year. During the six months of Bratislava’s first EU presidency, the country has faced criticism for its negative stance towards migration and procurement rules. Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico even resorted to calling journalists “dirty anti-Slovak prostitutes” for bringing the attention to these allegations.
Malta, the tiny Mediterranean island, is also new to the presidency but its agenda for the upcoming half a year is rather unconventional compared to most previous presidencies. Valletta’s priorities include, for example, LGBT rights and gender issues with the emphasis on getting more women into work. The tiny country has just made history by becoming the first EU country to ban gay conversion therapy whose aim is to “cure” people of their homosexuality.
The island country also wants to focus on migration and it has pledged to shift its attention to the implementation of the EU’s notorious refugee quota program. The Maltese social agenda comes at a good time when the EU has seen a number of positive developments such as a decrease in youth unemployment – an EU-wide issue that Brussels has been addressing by taking a variety measures. Malta, whose population of 423,000 constitutes only 0.08 percent of the EU’s population, has largely rejected Euroscepticism and decided to focus on social issues including civil liberties.