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MEP candidates stress the need for more widespread education on the EU

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On Monday 17th March, the European Documentation Centre in collaboration with the European Parliament Office, organised a debate in which MEP candidates who are also European Studies graduates went head to head to discuss Europe and the European Union’s most hotly debated topics at the moment.

The candidates present were Kevin Cutajar, Miriam Dalli and Cyrus Engerer. Dr. Peter Agius, the head of the European Parliament office in Malta and Arnold Cassola an Alternattiva Demokratika candidate were also present in the audience to give his input.

Malta’s sparse representation in committees in the EU, owing to its minute size, was the first topic to be put up for debate. All candidates stressed that although it is no mean feat for Malta to have full representation in such committees, it does not mean that Malta is inferior. Moreover, all candidates expressed which committees they would like to be a part of since all have varying interests namely employment, human rights and the internal market. Lobbying was also given its due importance. Above all, the concept of European identity is key.

The increase in the number of Euro sceptics MEPs was the next topic of discussion. Once again, all candidates seemed to be in agreement that this development should not be ignored. Also, all  were of the opinion that this shows the lack of trust that many citizens have in the EU. Dalli said that although this might be healthy, since Parliament will have different points of views and ideas during discussion, the issue will arise if particular groups will constantly block the initiatives being debated. Cutajar and Engerer stressed that the rise of Eurosceptism reflected in Parliament clearly shows that citizens rely mainly on what other people as well as the media say and they base their perceptions on the latter.

All candidates acknowledged and appealed that more education and information sessions should be made available to the public to enhance the public’s interest and keep the European flame alive. A witty member of the audience pointed out that probably the main reason for the public’s passiveness is due to the exaggerated salary given to such MEPs and even suggested that such salary should be cut down. All candidates stressed that cutting down salary is not the sole driving force for their work but it is the decisions taken in the European Parliament which really have the strongest impact.

The final two topics were Malta’s role in the EU and what the candidates have to offer should they be elected and the new Commission president to replace Barrosso. Engerer said that although the agenda is made by the European institutions, he will do his best to stand up for what he believes is best for Malta and the citizens. Dalli also expressed her desire to push forward the European concept on a macro level and on a micro level, encourage what is best needed for the citizens of the member states particularly Malta. Cutajar continued to say that he will contribute to the EU project and help to tackle issues which he believes are most important both for Europe as well as Malta.

Regarding the new Commission president, all candidates defended the choice made by their respective political groups that is Jean Claude Juncker for the European People’s Party and Martin Schulz for S&D.

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Make Your Choice through the Ballot Box: LYV Malta launch non-partisan Campaign

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As the European Parliament election campaign gears up, we get used to the same few faces cropping up on all social media platforms, as the main issues are eventually polarized by the dominance of the two major political parties. Thus it becomes ever so easy for the neutral or floating voter to become disenchanted with the election and perhaps dismiss its importance.

One particular campaign which has just been launched plans on changing this. Last Saturday 8th March a good number of youths gathered at Dar l-Ewropa, Valletta, for the launch of The League of Young Voters Malta (LYV Malta) campaign. Youths and MEP candidates had the chance to mingle, take photos and the occasional selfie, and were addressed by Andrew Micallef, National Ambassador of LYV Malta, Dr. Peter Agius, Head of the European Parliament Office in Malta, Kunsill Nazzjonali taż- Żgħażagħ (KNZ) President Isabelle Camilleri, Miriam Teuma, CEO of Aġenzija Żgħażagħ and Hon. Dr. Stefan Buontempo, Parliamentary Secretary for Research, Innovation, Youth and Sport.

The League of Young Voters initiative is a pan-European one. Its aim is to reach out to young people who want to send out a message without being affiliated with a particular political party. LYV Malta hopes to be a campaign with a difference: by youths, for youths, putting into the spotlight issues that directly interest and affect young people. A good number of ambassadors representing various youth organisation are also on board to promote this campaign.

LYV Malta is collaborating with Aġenzija Żgħażagħ, European Parliament Office in Malta, and Kunsill Nazzjonali taż- Żgħażagħ. More information can be found on: www.facebook.com/lyv.malta or www.youngvoters.eu/mt

 

Posted in Events, News

Students give GĦSL feedback about proposed changes to course structure

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On the morning of Wednesday 18th December, GĦSL represented by President Clive Gerada alongside 1st and 2nd year class representatives Francesca Zarb and Luisa Cassar Pullicino respectively, as well as faculty board representatives Paul Caruana Turner, Patrick Gatt and Robert Dingli, organised a consultation meeting with law students to discuss the current issue of a proposition to remove the Doctorate of Laws (LLD) title and replace it with Master of Laws (LLM), so that the course is in accordance with the Bologna process requirements to which Malta is signatory. Students present had the opportunity to ask questions to the panel, which was chaired by Dirk Urpani, and express their own opinions on the issue, which will be made known during a future meeting to be held by the said organization with the Parliamentary Secretary for Justice Dr. Owen Bonnici.

During the meeting, students again voiced their concerns regarding possible discrimination at the workplace between lawyers with a Doctorate and a Masters degree, as well as the possibility of disadvantageous public perception. While acknowledging the validity of such a worry, the panel stated that a change in title would not affect employment since firms and other legal entities will be fully aware of the changes by the time they come into place, if they pass through Parliament.

A particular issue raised by the students was the part of the proposal which replaces the end of course thesis with a dissertation during fourth year and a log book system in fifth year, whereby students formally report their court visits and other work experience sessions to University. According to the panel, again in consensus, a shorter dissertation instead of a longer thesis would not jeopardise students in prospective employment, since after all the content within the research is far more relevant than the length. In other parts of the discussion, the panel further asserted that the legal requirements for the law course will not change, and that credits have been placed strategically and efficiently in the situation of a 3-year-long Doctorate being reduced to a single year of Masters.

Earlier this month, the Dean of the Faculty of Laws Dr. Kevin Aquilina addressed law students with the proposal in question. In brief, during this initial session, Dr. Aquilina stated that students would not be jeopardised by the change, but the majority of the student body has remained uneasy as to whether or not the presented changes would truly benefit the affected students. Hence, GĦSL felt the need to set up Wednesday’s discussion in order to affirm a displeased consensus among law students, and to use this consensus against the possible implementation of the mentioned proposal.

Seemingly the students believe that, if such change is necessary and the proposal is accepted by the House of Representatives, the Doctorate title is removed for prospective students who are informed of the change before entering the course, and thus is not applied to those already undergoing their legal studies. In this way, the requirements of the Bologna process would be satisfied, but at the same time the process would not be unfair for current students who entered the course with the intention of attaining a Doctorate. By the end of the consultation, the panel in fact confirmed that it will take this complaint on board and vocally present it to Dr. Bonnici in the coming weeks.

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Malta Model United Nations Society’s “Debating Academy” at the U.S. Embassy

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On Monday, November 25, the Malta Model United Nations Society (MaltMUN) organised a “Debating Academy” for 40 young people at the U.S. Embassy.  U.S. Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley welcomed guests.  She thanked MaltMUN executives and Dr. Allan Louden, the guest speaker, for their valuable contributions to the event.

Dr. Louden, Department of Communications at Wake Forest University, motivated attendees by sharing his expertise in debate, rhetoric and communication.  MaltMUN members with experience in Model United Nations programs overseas shared stories and encouraged young people to take part.  Following the presentations, participants formed teams to debate important international topics.

Ambassador Abercrombie-Winstanley expressed her support for MaltMUN’s youth leadership programs, saying “The U.S. Embassy is proud of its record in educational exchange between Malta and the U.S.  As Malta’s future leaders, you are key to the development of Malta’s international relations.”

To learn more about future events and activities by the Society visit MaltMUN at https://www.facebook.com/MaltMUN

Posted in Events

Hearts, Bodies and Souls: An interview with Ritty Tacsum

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Ritty Tacsum, one of Malta’s most promising young photographers, launched her much awaited project titled “Four Rooms” on the third week of October. I had the honour to meet the artist herself and ask her a few questions, but let me give you a quick overview first.

While I was looking at the photographs, several things were running through my head, including “Provocative”, “Thought Provoking” and “Beautifully composed”.

The exhibition, as promised in the title I featured throughout all for rooms of the upper galleries and every room has its own feel, its own atmosphere.
The first room presented MY SKIN – a walk-in closet full of clothes spilling out of it and when you walk in you find elegant photographs in black and white of beautiful nudes mostly with blurred or obscured faces. The lighting is impeccable and a lot of earthy textures are present in the background. On the outside of the closet we have 2 large digital prints of a naked torso, obscured neck and face. What’s interesting about these prints is that they are set in a way that they look like a collage of tangible fabric textures.

Another room is in MY BODY – portraits of models with concealed faces in various state of undress as well as a set of smaller prints of models photographed under water. This room is definitely not for the faint hearted, but you can feel the thought and work that went behind these photographs, was not to shock but to raise a certain awareness of how beautiful the human body is and the different dimensions with its “rooms”.
The next room was in MY MIND – this room is characterized by two kaleidoscopic reflectors in a dark room. Colours danced all over the room and on the opposite wall there was an installation in a form of a spiral made up of tissue boxes. As the artist said herself the four rooms are not necessarily connected but this room was quite a vision.

And last but not least, probably the room I enjoyed the most, in MY HEART – here you have an ode to Maltese landscapes and the religious tradition that some of us have at heart. You also have epitaphs to couples in the throes of love making with dirty soles on a very old floor. A few prints representing, what I felt was, a vision of loneliness and the dark fog that descends with depression. The pivotal art piece in this room is the beautiful and imposing digital print of the Holy Mary transferred on a sideways view of a Valetta landscape.

As you can hopefully see I was very much taken by this exhibition. So let’s see what Ritty had to say to a few questions I asked her:

Maria: What was the initial inspiration and concept behind the exhibition? What did you want to convey?

Ritty: The initial inspiration was a movie by Jaco van Dormael, ‘Mr Nobody’. Four Rooms is a project about human relationships and the very many strata that makes us whole; it aims to present the layered and developmental process in the formation of those same relationships. Through this project I wanted to show that there’s more to a person than just a nice face or an expensive shirt. There are other ‘rooms’ that one needs to explore.

M: A prominent feature was the digitally manipulated picture of the Virgin Mary over the Valletta landscape – everyone was commenting how beautiful it was. We saw a lot of iconography of the Virgin Mary in the last room – is there a special significance? and if so what is it?

R: I’ve been brought up in a very religious family and even though I’m not religious myself, I’ve always been fascinated with my mum’s religious shrines.
Ritty Tacsum has also since been invited to the MoCA Taipei to exhibit for two weeks.

If you’re interested kindly visit http://www.rittytacsum.com/fourrooms for a good look at the work.

Posted in Events, Interviews, News

Does Anybody Feel like Strummin’?

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Lets’ say that you are a music lover, who likes anything from oldies and goldies, to modern rock and pop. Wouldn’t a mix of these genres played in one night by over 80 guitarists simultaneously, accompanied by a band and talented singers, fit the description of musical heaven to you? Having personally attended last year’s Strummin’ show, I can assure you that it is.

I recently met up  with Mr. Robert Cassar, the Communications Coordinator of Strummin’s Board, and who is certainly much more able to shed light on the concert’s details than I am.

NC: Strummin’ has been taking place for the last ten years. How did it find its origins?

RC: Back in 2002, the first edition of the concert was called Strummin’ Home and the idea was to have a guitar choir with strumming guitarists playing popular songs while raising funds for a good cause.

NC: How has Strummin’ changed throughout the years?

RC: Strummin’ sure has come a long way since its origins. To begin with, it has become ZHN’s largest annual project with more and more people taking part each year. Last year, it was rebranded to Strummin’ to better reflect one of the aims of project – that of donating funds to various local charities. This year the beneficiary chosen are Hospice Malta. The best thing about Strummin’ is that the guitar choir keeps growing year after year, so be prepared for some surprises! Every year we also try to pair the talent on stage with further entertainment for the audience and with names like Pawlu Borg Bonaci and Luke Dalli, you cannot really go wrong, can you!?

NC: Every year Strummin’ adopts a different theme. What is this year’s theme and where did the inspiration for such a theme come from?

RC: The theme is often one of the initial decision that the organising committee makes. You can rest assured that this is one of the most battled decision the committee has to take! The verdict for this year? Strummin’ the Elements. So this year’s songs will emphasise the great wonders of the earth as well as explore the beauty of the forces of nature. You’d think earth, water, air and fire have nothing to do with music, but brace yourselves… It was actually pretty difficult to narrow down the song suggestions for this year’s edition. And there is a treat for everyone, you can rest assured!

NC: When do the preparations for Strummin’ commence? What do they exactly involve?

RC: Preparations for the next edition begin pretty much as soon as the concert is over. The organising team are all volunteers who take care of every little detail – from sponsorships, marketing and fundraising, to creating the stage, coordinating the music and of course creating the guitarists’ oh so necessary prop, the chords booklet.

NC: What is amazing about the concert is that there are no fixed rules – for instance age, musical background, knowledge of the guitar – that define the qualities that strummers should have. What is the idea behind this?

RC: Strummin’ is like a platform for young local talent while raising funds for worthy causes. Everyone has a place in the Strummin’ family so whether a newbie or a hard rock guitarist, if playing guitar is your passion, you can be on stage. And for the not-so-musically inclined, well,

NC: How many strummers are taking part this year and by how much does their age varies?

RC: This year we have a record number of over 80 guitarists with people from all walks of life. The youngest would be around 9 whilst the eldest guitarist… well that would be telling now!

NC: What should people expect out of this year’s Strummin’ and what are the future prospects of the concert?

RC: Strummin’ keeps getting bigger and better each year, and that is our target – promoting talent, entertaining our audiences with great music and raising funds for our beneficiaries. That’s a prospect which will always be to the fore. As for what to expect this year – it’s 4 elements and 4 words: Eighty guitarists; One stage…Intrigued? Join us on 11th and 12th October at Sir Temi Zammit Hall at University to see for yourself.

NC: One last message you would like to get through…

RC: Earth, Water, Air, Fire, over 80 guitarists, great music… Our elements promise a wonderful night, and all for a good cause! So what are you waiting for?

Tickets are on sale from www.sayitmalta.com/strummin or ticket hotline 79244418.

 

Posted in Events, Interviews, News