In a coup for Malta, 500 delegates from a pan-European information network are spending four days for their annual general meeting.

The delegates represent some 500 different centres across the EU which make up Europe Direct, which seeks to make information about the EU more easily accessible and intelligible to the public.

The network decided on Malta as the venue for its AGM following the successful lobbying of Malta’s EU Representation. It has expressed interest in holding the next one here too, due in early 2013.

Europe Direct centres complement the role of the European Commission and EU representations in disseminating information, serving as a bridge between EU institutions and public.

“Many of the centres already have their own existing information networks when they join Europe Direct,” Malta’s Head of EU Representation Martin Bugelli said.

“By tapping into already existing networks, Europe Direct makes it simpler for citizens to get the answers they need about EU-related issues.”

In the AGM’s speech, Public Dialogue Parliamentary Secretary Chris Said spoke of the importance of communicating EU policies to the public.

He said one of the EU’s challenges was that of addressing citizens within their local settings.

Dr Said emphasised that communication was not a one-way street and that greater emphasis had to be placed on listening to what the public had to say, “as it’s ultimately because of their future and well-being that the EU came to be”.

Malta has two Europe Direct members. The Genista Research Foundation has an office in Mosta and provides information about EU policies as well as giving the public an opportunity to send feedback to EU institutions.

Union Ħaddiema Magħqudin also serves as a Europe Direct centre, with its office in Floriana handling approximately 55 queries a month.

It holds public seminars on implementing EU directives as well as providing students with EU-related information.

The AGM allowed delegates to exchange information and ideas as well as plan Europe Direct’s upcoming year, Mr Bugelli said.

Besides, it gave Malta significant exposure during tourism’s low season.

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