Thursday

20th Feb 2020

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 20 years of archives. 14-day 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. EU unveils white paper on AI and data strategy
  2. Dutch court rules against Russia in €46bn Yukos case
  3. Britain to bar 'Polish plumber-type' migrants
  4. Greece seeks EU help to get back classical statues from UK
  5. HSBC to cut 35,000 jobs worldwide
  6. Regions chief appeals against cutting EU cohesion funds
  7. Verhofstadt criticises UK Brexit negotiator
  8. Turkish court acquits Gezi park activists

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  2. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December

Latest News

  1. EU leaders face major clash on rule of law budget link
  2. North Macedonia warns EU on 'dirtiest ever' election
  3. Western 'endarkenment' and the voodoo politics of Europe
  4. Warning of agricultural 'digital arms race' in EU
  5. Cayman Islands put on tax-haven blacklist after Brexit
  6. Boris' Brexit bluff? - UK will resist alignment to the end
  7. US still open to Kosovo-Serbia land swap
  8. EU countries enter final phase of budget talks

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us