Sunday

25th Sep 2022

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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.

EU seeks crisis powers to take control over supply chains

The Single Market Emergency Instrument (SMEI) introduces a staged, step-by-step, approach — providing emergency powers to the EU Commission to tackle any potential threat which could trigger disruptions or shortages of key products within the EU.

Testimony from son rocks trial of ex-Czech PM Babiš

In a fraud trial relating to €2m in EU subsidies, Andrej Babiš son testified his signature on share-transfer agreements was forged. He claims his father transferred the shares to him without his knowledge, making him a front man for scheme.

‘Rushed’ EP secretary-general pick sparks legal complaint

The appointment has been criticised for being rushed — Alessandro Chiocchetti only takes up his new position in January — and for overlooking other candidates, whose experience in administration management was seen as more substantial.

Podcast

How Europe helped normalise Georgia Meloni

Should Georgia Meloni be considered neofascist? She insists she's a patriotic conservative. And indeed, if she's prime minister, she's expected to respect Italy's democracy — if only to keep money flowing from the EU.

Editorial

Background reads: Italy's election

With Italy heading to the ballot boxes this Sunday, let's take a look at what EUobserver has published that can help understand the country's swing to the (far)-right.

News in Brief

  1. More Russians now crossing Finnish land border
  2. Report: EU to propose €584bn energy grid upgrade plan
  3. Morocco snubs Left MEPs probing asylum-seeker deaths
  4. EU urges calm after Putin's nuclear threat
  5. Council of Europe rejects Ukraine 'at gunpoint' referendums
  6. Lithuania raises army alert level after Russia's military call-up
  7. Finland 'closely monitoring' new Russian mobilisation
  8. Flights out of Moscow sell out after Putin mobilisation order

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  5. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling

Latest News

  1. Ireland joins EU hawks on Russia, as outrage spreads
  2. Editor's weekly digest: Plea for support edition
  3. Investors in renewables face uncertainty due to EU profits cap
  4. How to apply the Nuremberg model for Russian war crimes
  5. 'No big fish left' for further EU sanctions on Russians
  6. Meloni's likely win will not necessarily strengthen Orbán
  7. France latest EU member to step up government spending in 2023
  8. Big Tech now edges out Big Energy in EU lobbying

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us