Most people have already made their mind up about who they will vote for in the European Parliament elections. Many will be guided by party allegiance and others will consider issues which are at heart to them.

Voting for an MEP is very different to voting in national elections, since the issues are broader and often more complex while seemingly detached from our daily realities. However, decisions taken at EU level have an impact on a national level. Therefore, making the right choice is important in ensuring that these elections translate into tangible positive changes in our daily lives.

The Kamra tal-Periti is a member of the Architects’ Council of Europe (ACE), which has 46 member organisations in 31 countries representing 575,000 architects. The ACE aims to promote the importance and value of architecture and a high quality built environment (also referred to as Baukultur); to support a sustainable built environment of the highest quality; safeguard the highest standards of education and practice; foster cross-border practice and be a voice for architects in Europe.

In preparation for the elections, the ACE presented a manifesto, fully supported by the Kamra tal-Periti. It sets sustainability in the built environment as its primary goal and puts forward four main priorities and measures to achieve them.

The first priority focuses on achieving high quality architecture and Baukultur across the EU. Architects are calling on the European Parliament to consider the quality of the built environment, European cultural heritage and high-quality architecture as being of public interest; and to regard the social and cultural value of architecture as a key lever for more cohesive societies, to help citizens identify more strongly with their built environment.

We also focus on the nature of architectural services in EU policies relating to public procurement, service provision, professional qualification and climate change.

These proposals aim to support the Council’s 2019-2022 Work Plan for Culture, to ensure quality-based procurement and to achieve the highest standards in education.

Another priority is to secure affordable housing of high quality. This is not just an acute local issue but is also relevant EU-wide. We want the Parliament to encourage Member States to promote sustainable housing based on inclusiveness and a social mix of inhabitants. This is a target which the Kamra tal-Periti is already actively working towards through a design competition for Sustainable Housing Programmes in conjunction with the Parliamentary Secretariat for Social Accommodation and the Housing Authority.

Complete lack of appropriate training

European architects are also requesting that the quality of housing stock is maintained in the long term, applying the principles of the circular economy and providing incentives and subsidies to ensure social quality and sustainable solutions.

In tandem, Member States should provide support for peer learning for local and regional authorities, as well as providing corresponding public subsidies in an accessible and prompt manner.

All these measures are aimed at addressing, as a matter of urgency, the lack of affordable, quality housing in parts of the EU.

The third priority relates to climate change. It is crucial to consider the value of architecture and the built environment as a driver for a sustainable future and for achieving the EU’s climate change ambitions. A sustainable built environment means taking holistic approaches and finding intelligent solutions for an appropriate use of resources. It is also imperative to realise that decisions taken in the comparatively short-term planning process have long-term economic, social and environmental effects.

The fourth priority is that of education and up-skilling through the Professional Qualifications Directive. This priority focuses primarily on the profession and the routes to qualification, as well as on the enhancement of international mobility and open markets for young professionals.

The complete lack of appropriate training and registration in the local industry is completely unacceptable and is one of the main reasons for its unruliness.

The Kamra tal-Periti has pushed many of the above proposals on the national political agenda and promotes these principles through its activities and events. Just last week, it proposed its vision for a complete overhaul of building regulations, with a view to achieving a quantum leap in the quality of our building stock.

There is still a long way to go on many of the aspects of the manifesto, both on national and European levels. Choosing the right candidates to push this agenda forward is therefore an important consideration and one which may be crucial at this particular moment in time when issues related to climate change and sustainability are so critical.

Simone Vella Lenicker is the President of the Kamra tal-Periti.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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