Malta was one of the top countries in the European Union that listed freedom of speech as a priority that should be defended by the European Parliament, according to the latest Eurobarometer study.
Together with Finland, Netherlands, United Kingdom and Belgium, Malta chose freedom of speech over the protection of human rights and gender equality.
This data reflects the current climate where continuous calls for freedom of speech – both on a local and an international level – have taken place since the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and, more recently, in light of the political situation in Malta where Prime Minister Joseph Muscat is being urged to step down immediately due to his political links to the assassination.
The autumn Eurobarometer survey traditionally asks citizens which political issue the European Parliament should deal with as a matter of priority. With regard to European values, a clear majority of citizens see protecting human rights worldwide (48%), freedom of speech (38%), gender equality (38%) and solidarity between EU member states (33%) as the main fundamental values to preserve in the European Union.
Malta was the only country that called for the strengthening of a common migration and integration policy as a “top-level concern” to prioritise while 69 per cent of the Maltese listed air pollution as an issue.
For the first time ever, climate change was at the top of the list of citizens’ priority issues. Nearly every third respondent (32%) said they wanted the European Parliament to address combating climate change as its biggest priority. The absolute majority of respondents (52%) consider climate change to currently be the most pressing environmental issue, followed by air pollution (35%), maritime pollution (31%), deforestation (28%) and the growing amount of waste (28%).
Nearly six out of ten Europeans believe that the youth-led protests over climate change in 2019 contributed both at European and at national level to more political measures against climate change.
The fight against poverty and social exclusion (31%), combating terrorism (24%) as well as tackling unemployment (24%) were also ranked as important in the average EU ranking of citizens’ priorities.
Malta was also among those countries where the European Union was seen in a more positive manner, with an increase of 7% while Denmark registered 10% and Finland registered 8%.
European citizens said they would like to see the European Parliament playing a stronger role, with 58% of respondents calling for a more influential Parliament in the future. This is an increase of 7 percentage points since spring 2019 and the highest result for this since 2007.