Becoming the first elected Maltese MEP to address the European Parliament, Simon Busuttil yesterday highlighted the need for the European Union to inch closer to the citizen.

Dr Busuttil warned in his two-minute intervention it would be a mistake to assume that things would fall into place now that the enlargement has been sealed. It should be a priority for the Union to ensure that it translates its success for the benefit of all its citizens.

It was especially important for the European Commission to explain to its citizens the developments taking place in the Union and how their country was benefiting.

"How can people see these opportunities and seize them if they don't know what the EU really stands for and how it can affect their life?" the 35-year-old lawyer said.

European citizens, he said, also want concrete results from the EU - they demand more job creation and a better standard of living. But above all, the people wanted the EU to communicate and to be close to them.

"It's a big challenge and we have a huge responsibility, both us as MEPs, but more in particular the European Commission," he underlined.

Speaking in his native language, Dr Busuttil told the assembly it was an honour for him to speak in Maltese.

Despite being a small country, Malta had proved to be an example of the European and Mediterranean vocation along the years. It was now prepared to continue giving its contribution as a member of the European Union.

The five Maltese MEPs - Dr Busuttil, David Casa, John Attard Montalto, Louis Grech and Joseph Muscat - will know today on which committees they will be serving over the next five years.

The European People's Party will chair eight committees and the Socialists will chair six.

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