The role played by members of civil society is crucial in a democracy. Civil society organisations must be allowed to work freely and we will always stand up to ensure that their rights are guaranteed. The EU has an essential role in strengthening the work done by civil society in Malta and in all European states. MEP Roberta Metsola and MEP Francis Zammit Dimech addressed the European Parliament Plenary Session debate on the role of civil society.
The European People's Party Coordinator on the issue, Roberta Metsola, who led the debate in Parliament, said: “Civil society has always been a a catalyst for change in our European Union. In Malta the role so many organisations are playing as they push the need for protection of media freedom, environmental responsibility and the quest for justice, characterises a spirit in my country today.
Yes, they are sometimes thorns in a politician’s side but that is why they exist and why a healthy civil society is so desperately needed. They are there to hold those in authority to account, to speak truth to power and to demand better. Without them democracy is weaker. So when they find themselves under threat, unable to access funding or unable to operate as freely as they should, then we should all be concerned and we will not ignore the issue."
MEP Francis Zammit Dimech said: “It is unacceptable that some Member States, including Malta, appeals made by civil society - including those on good governance - are ignored; that questions raised are also ignored, and in some instances, members of civil society are systematically discredited by politicians through deceptive tactics and campaigns. Civil society should have a right of opinion, right to express itself and participate, right to be informed of what is happening in the country and the freedom to associate itself and take a stand on various political issues. The fundamental rights of civil society should be protected.”
Zammit Dimech, who late last year moderated the EPP-Group Public Hearing on Models of Civil Society, added: "It is crucial that organizations that form part of civil society receive funding to be active at national and European level. We also must ensure that the EU assists in the financing of offspring projects without much paperwork to really help these organizations to play an active role in shaping national and European policies." Zammit Dimech thanked civil society in Malta and Europe for their determination. He also commended the work of the Civil Society Network in Malta and thanked them for their feedback ahead of the debate.