Culture minister Owen Bonnici admitted that the government has only recently started the process of drafting an updated management plan for Malta’s most important world UNESCO World Heritage Site – Valletta – despite it being asked for since 2011.
The Shift recently reported how the government’s failure to meet deadlines laid down by UNESCO and to cooperate on matters related to cultural heritage are putting Valletta’s status at risk, something then denied by UNSECO ambassador Mgr Joe Vella Gauci.
But when asked by Nationalist Party MP Julie Zahra about The Shift’s reports, Bonnici conceded there is a delay but denied Valletta’s status is at risk.
“Malta should be able to finalise the reports by the end of this year”, Bonnici said.
“During the last session, UNESCO did not ask again for the reports, but as a procedure reiterated its past decision,” he insisted.
Confirming that the technical reports are still works in progress, Bonnici insisted that the government was optimistic that, this time round, it would be in a position to present these reports by the new deadline set by the World Heritage organisation during its recent meeting held in Riyad, Saudi Arabia, in September.
The Shift reported how the government is risking the status of Valletta as a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its delay in presenting the necessary reports requested by the international organisation.
In a strongly worded decision taken last month in the previous UNESCO World Heritage Convention, Malta was given until the end of 2024 to present its updated report on the state of conservation of Valletta, better known as a management plan.
UNESCO has been waiting for this plan since 2011.
Sources from within UNESCO told The Shift of increasing concerns over how the extension of the museum of Malta’s St John’s Co-Cathedral is .progressing. This includes a possible departure from the plans originally rubber-stamped by the organisation’s international experts.
Speaking to The Shift recently, Malta’s ambassador to UNESCO, Vella Gauci, played down these concerns, claiming he is keeping his international counterparts informed and there are no objections
Local experts have asked Vella Gauci to seek a new UNESCO experts’ mission to “see what is being done to the Co-Cathedral”.
So far, it is not known whether Vella Gauci has accepted the challenge. At the same time, UNESCO is independently evaluating the possibility of sending a review mission after receiving ‘alert’ reports from various individuals on what is going on at St John’s.
Explaining the recent initiative by his ministry to comply with UNESCO’s 2011 formal request, Bonnici said that new experts have been tasked, including a new Valletta site manager, to develop the necessary reports.
The minister did not give any details on the experts commissioned by his Ministry.