On the occasion of World Children’s Day, President of Malta Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca participated in a panel discussion organised by the European Parliament Intergroup on Children’s Rights, Eurochild and UNICEF at the European Parliament in Brussels.
Entitled ‘The Europe we Want,’ the session took the form of a Q&A Session with questions being asked by children and young people from various European countries.
The President explained that children and young people are very central to her Presidency, and said that “It is essential for us to keep providing safe and non-judgemental spaces, where children and young people could speak their minds and freely express the experiences that they have lived or are living, each day of their lives.”
President Coleiro Preca stated that this has been the ethos behind the inception of ‘The President’s Secret Garden’ – a community of learning through which children and young people are empowered to become active citizens. This has also led to the creation of a Children’s Council and a Young People’s Council, within The President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society.
“Through these councils, children and young people are our experts and consultants for anything that has to do with them,” the President said.
The President also spoke about the right which children have to be heard – a right which emanates from Article 12 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child of the United Nations, and further explained that “within the Presidency and through the President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society, we create as much opportunities and safe spaces for children to engage, speak up, to explain their aspirations – aspirations which I also advocate to policymakers.”
Whilst calling the Q&A event as a breakthrough, President Coleiro Preca called for an in-built, ongoing, child consultation process within the institutions and structures of the European Union.
“We need an ongoing process within our structures where children can speak, where they can have safe and quality spaces, and where the European Union can have an ongoing dialogue by the children, with children and for adults. It is our duty as adults to hear children, to consider what they say, and act on what they say,” the President said.
This process cannot be a one-off occasion, but it should be ongoing, as children are our present and our future.
On children’s protection, the President called for the harmonisation of children’s legislation, within the European Union.
“We harmonise so many things in the European Union. I think we should harmonise our legislation on children. Children are our present and our future. We must ensure that children, no matter who they are or where they come from, have the same level of standards, and the same level of protection,” President Coleiro Preca appealed.