Sunday

22nd Sep 2019

Malta protesters try to save green lung

  • Biggest-ever Malta protest on environmental topic (Photo: Lara Calleja)

Thousands of Maltese people flocked to the streets of Valletta on Saturday (20 June) to challenge the proposed construction of a private university on virgin public land.

Organised by a newly established movement, the Front Harsien ODZ (Front for the Protection of ODZ), protesters marched through Malta's capital in a bid to sway prime minister Joseph Muscat to stop development of a pristine stretch of land measuring 90,000 square metres.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • AUM construction to destroy green lung in south of Malta (Photo: Lara Calleja)

Members of public at the rally showed frustration at being excluded from the decision-making process, saying the project would destroy a green lung in the south of Malta.

They said "public land should not be used for private economic purposes" and that "the environment should not be treated as a commodity".

The controversy over the American University of Malta (AUM) project erupted in early May when Muscat announced €115 million of foreign investment for the scheme.

Within two days, the Maltese government signed a deal with a Jordanian firm, Sadeen, in a lavish event which included the US ambassador to Malta, Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, as guest of honour.

The PM said the new-build would transform Malta into an "educational hub" and "offer pluralism in the tertiary sector".

Additionally, Sadeen's representative in Malta, Thaer Mukbel, told local newspapers the project "would benefit Malta”, describing the growth potential as “crazy”.

The area earmarked for construction, called Zonqor Point, is listed as a mixture of “Agricultural Land” and “Area of Ecological Importance and Site of Scientific Importance”. It also enjoys a Maltese planning classification under which no development is permitted.

Muscat announced a nature park of around 50.6 hectares to be located next to AUM in order to assuage criticism. But environment groups say the gesture is meaningless because Zonqor Point is protected under national law.

For their part, local farmers, who are to be evicted as a result of the construction, joined the protest movement. It’s still unclear where they’ll be relocated to.

The AUM project has also ruffled feathers at the University of Malta. The same week the AUM was announced, it emerged that Malta's Education Act had been updated to lower requirements for educational institutions to be recognised as universities.

Front Harsien ODZ spokesman Michael Briguglio said he is "overwhelmed by the massive turnout" at last Saturday's protest - the biggest in Malta on an environmental topic.

He appealed to the prime minister to guarantee Zonqor Point protection and to publish details of the agreement between his government and Sadeen.

But Muscat remains keen to forge ahead despite the backlash, saying AUM benefits national interest.

Chemnitz neo-Nazis pose questions for Germany

UN human rights commissioner urged EU leaders to condemn violence that recalled the 1930s, but the local situation in former East Germany does not apply to the whole country.

Former Malta opposition leader fears for his life

Simon Busuttil spent 10 years as an MEP before returning to Malta to lead the opposition. He now fears for his life amid probes into high-level corruption in Malta's government.

Puigdemont reclaims Catalonia's leadership

Back in Belgium after Spain lifted a European Arrest Warrant against him, the separatist former leader wants to be the real power behind the region's government and a new push for independence.

News in Brief

  1. Ireland: right Brexit deal is 'not yet close'
  2. UK secrecy on Brexit holds back wider EU talks
  3. Feminist mass protest in Spain after 19 murders this summer
  4. Global climate strike starts ahead of UN summit
  5. UK Brexit minister to meet Barnier on Friday
  6. Russia-Ukraine gas deal talks show 'progress'
  7. Nobel economist: Ireland 'not good EU citizen' on taxes
  8. Germany takes carbon border tax on board

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Europe goes to New York This WEEK
  2. Nine EU 'commissioners' asked to clarify declarations
  3. Dismiss Italy's Salvini at your peril
  4. Malta PM accused of 'blackmail' over slain reporter
  5. Diplomats back Romania's Kovesi for EU top prosecutor
  6. Brexit raises questions for EU defence integration
  7. Low-carbon cities can unlock €21tn by 2050, report finds
  8. France, Italy want 'automatic' distribution of migrants

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us