Joanna Drake, former leader of the pro-EU membership movement Iva Malta fl-Ewropa, will as from today be the top European Commission representative in Malta.

Dr Drake was chosen from a list of more than 30 candidates that included top civil servants and ambassadors following a tough contest launched by the European Commission.

Dr Drake said she wanted to win the hearts and minds of the Maltese over Europe.

"I have to admit my job is not easy especially now that we are experiencing our first EU years. My objective, however, is to see that support for the EU will not keep plummeting as indicated recently in the Eurobarometer survey.

"Support should be on the rise although it's natural that in the first years of accession there is a drop in support."

She explained that the fall in support for the EU was to be expected in the new member states as expectations prior to membership had been high. She said that by time, EU membership will prove to be very beneficial. It's a matter of making people understand more what is going on and how their life will be affected.

Dr Drake, a 41-year-old lawyer specialising in EU affairs, competition law and telecommunications, obtained a Masters degree in European studies from the College of Europe in Bruges.

She has authored a number of publications on European and Community law and entered the political ring as a Nationalist Party candidate for the general elections and the European elections.

She lectures at the University of Malta and has served in government boards and authorities. Until a few days ago, Dr Drake was chairman of the Occupational Health and Safety Authority and headed the legal office of Vodafone Malta.

Dr Drake will be stepping into the post occupied until recently by Ronald Gallimore, who lead the Commission's delegation in Malta during the accession negotiations between Malta and the EU.

Dr Drake said that in her first year she wanted to launch a new EU communication strategy aimed at getting the EU message closer to the Maltese citizens.

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