All posts by Jurgen Cassar

Participation in the Clean Energy for EU Islands Forum

The Commissioner for Environment and Planning Perit Alan Saliba joined the Clean Energy for EU Islands Forum organized by the CE4EU Islands Secretariat in Pantelleria, Italy.  The CE4EU Islands Secretariat was established by the European Commission and the European Parliament in 2018 with political backing from a declaration signed by Malta and other 13 EU countries.

This project is in its third phase of implementation where 30 islands and island groups from all around Europe have been chosen for support in achieving a fully renewable energy supply by 2030.  Being one of these 30 islands, Pantelleria boasts of a hybrid power system backed with a battery storage installation and solar farm that is in the process of being expanded further.  Despite a low population of 7,000 and being as large as Gozo, Pantelleria and Malta have very similar meteorological and geographical characteristics with both their economies highly dependent on tourism.

Many of the 2,200 european islands and the 20 million islanders depend on expensive fossil fuel and energy imports for their energy supply despite having access to extensive solar, wind and wave renewable energy sources.  The EU4EU Islands Secretariat is assisting EU islands in devising, preparing and implementing decarbonisation plans for their energy systems.

In Pantelleria the Commissioner also attended a workshop entitled “Impacts from onshore and offshore wind energy” highlighting various challenges encountered by EU islands, particularly Malta with its high population density being surrounded by extremely deep waters.  Information on new technologies and the extravagant costs of floating wind farms when compared to the costs of onshore wind technologies should shift Malta’s priorities towards exploring onshore wind installations outside its territory particularly now that its grid connection to mainland Europe will benefit from a second interconnector.

In September 2024 the CE4EU Secretariat will issue a call for new follower islands to continue building on its 30 islands for 2030 initiative, fostering technical aid and knowledge in other EU islands as well.  Although it is extremely challenging if not impossible for Malta and Gozo to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040, proposing a similar initiative for an island project that is in the pipeline can provide a great opportunity to establish a benchmark project on how carbon neutrality can be achieved whilst pushing up Malta’s share of renewable energy.  Manoel island is an island within an island, located in the harbour with a vast historical content that offers a great setting to learn from and compare ways how natural resources and clean energy were successfully managed by our ancestors.  The Office of the Ombudsman offers its full support in implementing such a strategy not only to reduce the demand for energy in such a project by implementing high energy performing buildings and smart mobility options, but also in introducing renewables for the production of energy on site.

Courtesy Call from the Ambassador of Greece to Malta

The Parliamentary Ombudsman, Judge Emeritus Joseph Zammit McKeon, received a courtesy call from the Ambassador of Greece to Malta, H.E. Tasia Athanasiou.

The Ombudsman commenced the meeting by emphasising the productive working relationship between the Office of the Ombudsman in Malta and the Ombudsman in Greece. He expressed his respect for the current Greek Ombudsman, Dr Andreas Pottakis. Both Dr Pottakis and Judge Zammit McKeon collaborate closely on the Executive Board of the Association of the Mediterranean Ombudsman, where the Greek Ombudsman serves as President and the Maltese Ombudsman serves as Secretary General and Treasurer. The Executive Committee of the AOM met last week in The Hague, and it will meet again in September in Paphos, Cyprus. The two institutions regularly discuss and collaborate on matters of mutual interest as Mediterranean countries.

The Ambassador noted that both countries face similar challenges, particularly regarding migration and the integration of migrants into society, which often necessitates cultural adaptation. The Ombudsman highlighted the continuous outreach efforts of his office to communities in Malta, ensuring that the Office of the Ombudsman serves not only Maltese citizens but also other communities, offering assistance and guidance.

The discussion then addressed the current challenges facing Europe, regional conflicts, and the vital role of Ombudsman institutions in safeguarding individual rights. The Ombudsman underscored his efforts to establish a National Human Rights Institution in Malta. He stated that the Ombudsman institution promotes fairness, justice, and good governance. Additionally, the Office of the Ombudsman is actively involved in educating the public about their rights and civic duties, exemplified by the Students’ Talk initiative in secondary schools.

This meeting is part of a series of outreach meetings with the Diplomatic Corps of highly represented communities in Malta.

Recommendations Implemented: The policy on Regularisation of Political Presence During School Hours was modified

After a complaint lodged with the Office of the Ombudsman in April by a candidate for the forthcoming elections to the European Parliament, an investigation was conducted by the Commissioner for Education into the policy used by the Education Division in relation to visits to schools by prospective candidates. It transpired that a written policy was only formulated and distributed to all Heads of Schools and Heads of College Network five days after the complaint was communicated to the Ministry responsible for education. Possible loopholes were identified by the Commissioner for Education, who also recommended that the policy be made public.

The Commissioner’s recommendations – modification of the policy document and publicity on the internet – were accepted by the Ministry in question. The policy document, revised with effect from the 15th May 2024 – is available here: https://edukazzjoni.gov.mt/different-policies/

The Commissioner emphasises that it is of paramount importance that the policy be applied and implemented in good faith across the board.

 

The Ombudsman meets the Italian Ambassador to Malta

The Ombudsman, Judge Emeritus Joseph Zammit McKeon, received a courtesy call from the Ambassador of Italy to Malta, H.E. Fabrizio Romano.

The Ombudsman began the meeting by welcoming the Ambassador and explaining that such meetings with the Diplomatic Corps of prominent communities in Malta highlight that the Office of the Ombudsman serves not only Maltese citizens but also every person who might feel aggrieved by the Maltese public administration, including Italian nationals.

The Ambassador thanked the Ombudsman and explained that the Italian Embassy in Malta sometimes acts as a bridge with public authorities when encountering difficulties with the public administration. The opportunity to resort to the Ombudsman when these efforts do not succeed is an added avenue for resolving grievances.

The Ombudsman took the opportunity to update the Ambassador about the 13th World Conference of the International Ombudsman Institute, which he recently attended at The Hague, and explained the role of the Malta Ombudsman in both the European Regional Board and the World Board. The Ombudsman noted that during the week-long conference and meetings, the Office of the Ombudsman explored collaboration methods with counterpart institutions.

The meeting concluded with both parties commenting on the excellent long-standing relations between both countries and their people.

Students from the St Clare College Pembroke Secondary School visited the Office of the Ombudsman

A group of students from St Clare College Pembroke Secondary School and their teachers visited the Office of the Ombudsman to attend a talk in the context of a targeted initiative to deepen students’ understanding of the Ombudsman’s role and the importance of good governance.

The visit included a detailed presentation by the Commissioner for Education, Chief Justice Emeritus Vincent De Gaetano, who explored the Ombudsman’s role and functions and how this role and these functions promote the right to good administration within the general framework of the rule of law.

Students were informed about their rights and duties, the importance of a transparent and accountable public sector, and the need to uphold democratic values and insist on efficient governance.

At the end of the session, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, Judge Emeritus Joseph Zammit McKeon, highlighted the importance of such initiatives and emphasised that the safeguarding and protection of rights is of paramount importance in a healthy democracy, underscoring that informed and aware persons are fundamental to maintaining the balance of power and ensuring accountability in public institutions.

The students and their teachers were actively engaged throughout the session. They took the opportunity to ask questions and showed an interest in learning more about their civic responsibilities.

In a short message sent to the teachers after the presentation was over and the students had left, the Commissioner for Education said: “Both the Ombudsman and I, and other officers in attendance, were impressed by the high standard of knowledge of general and public affairs shown by the students and by the exceptionally good and confident way that they expressed themselves, and their positive interaction with the speakers. This is surely a feather not only in their cap but also in that of their teachers and of the school as a whole.”

IOI World Conference in the Hague comes to an end

The last day of the IOI World Conference was dedicated to the theme of ‘Future Generations’, which focused on addressing the needs of an increasingly younger population, facilitating the participation of children and young people in society, and safeguarding children in an increasingly digital world.

The session concluded with a summary from the conference host, Reinier Van Zutphen, Ombudsman of the Netherlands and President of the IOI Europe Regional Board. Mr. Van Zutphen provided an overview of the topics discussed throughout the conference, highlighting the exceptional cooperation between ombudsman colleagues. He reflected on the productive exchange of experiences and ideas over the past week and referenced the Hague Declaration approved by the General Assembly.

The declaration encourages ombudsman institutions to discuss and share how the conference themes have been implemented in their respective countries, not only within their regions but also across the entire membership. It calls on these institutions to utilise all available resources, be they digital or analogue, including teamwork within offices, international cooperation, or training that can aid in disseminating knowledge and expertise. It concludes that ombudsman institutions should actively consult and incorporate citizens’ experiences into their work to ensure that citizens’ perspectives are integrated into daily practices.

In her closing remarks, Nashieli Ramírez Hernández, President of the IOI and Ombudsman of Mexico City, emphasised that ombudsmen cannot remain passive or neutral in the face of challenges. She urged ombudsman institutions to innovate and advocate vigorously for state actions that enhance the lives of people.

The Hague Declaration

The First Meeting of the IOI European Regional Board

The inaugural meeting of the newly elected European Regional Board of International Ombudsman Institute (IOI) was presided by the President of the board, Reinier Van Zutphen, Ombudsman of the Netherlands. The meeting was attended by elected members, including the Parliamentary Ombudsman of Malta, Judge Emeritus Joseph Zammit McKeon; the Ombudsman of Slovenia, Mr Peter Svetina; the Ombudsman of Cyprus, Maria Stylianou Lottides; and Mr Marc Bertrand, the Ombudsman of Wallonia and of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation.

In the course of the meeting, Marc Bertrand was approved as Vice President of the European Regional Board. The Office of the Ombudsman of the Kingdom of the Netherlands was also assigned to manage the board’s administrative matters.

It was also agreed that Malta and Cyprus will represent the IOI European Regional Board at the upcoming Ombudsman International Conference, scheduled to be held in Cassino, Italy in September.

The board preliminarily discussed items to be included on the agenda for the next regional meeting.

The Parliamentary Ombudsman was accompanied by Mr Paul Borg, Director General, and Mr Jurgen Cassar, Head of Communications and Research.

Day four at the IOI World Conference: Emphasising outreach and vulnerable Groups

Left to Right: The European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, Head of Cabinet of the EU Ombudsman, Gundi Gadesmann, the Director General of the Office of the Ombudsman in Ireland, Elaine Cassidy and the Parliamentary Ombudsman of Malta, Judge Emeritus Joseph Zammit McKeon.

The fourth day of the IOI World Conference, under the theme ‘Act Together for Tomorrow’, organised by the International Ombudsman Institute and hosted by the Ombudsman of the Netherlands in The Hague, focused on Value Dilemmas and inclusiveness in outreach to vulnerable and marginalized groups.

The plenary session commenced with a keynote speech by Emily O’Reilly, European Ombudsman, titled ‘The Art of the Ombudsman: Navigating Strategic Choices and Principles’. She discussed the profound challenges and essential roles of ombuds institutions amidst global crises, highlighting the critical role of these offices in safeguarding democratic values and responding to the erosion of human rights. O’Reilly emphasised the importance of resilience, strategic action, and the preventive role of ombudsmen against the abuse of power, advocating for ombudsmen worldwide to embrace their duties with courage and integrity.

Following the keynote, participants engaged in three breakout sessions discussing the definition of Ombuds Values, challenges for new ombudsmen, and the mandate as a framework or starting point.

Later in the day, a plenary interview featured the Ombudsman of the Netherlands and President of the European Region Board of the IOI, Reinier Van Zutphen, who spoke about inclusiveness and outreach to vulnerable and marginalised groups. He shared insights on how Ombudsman institutions should engage vulnerable people and use data to prioritise outreach efforts.

After the plenary session, Ombudsman Judge Joseph Zammit McKeon and Mr Jurgen Cassar, Head of Communications, participated in a breakout session on ‘Best Practice Paper Outreach to Vulnerable and Marginalized Groups’. Malta contributed significantly to the research leading to this best practice document, which the IOI will publish in autumn 2024.

Mr Paul Borg, Director General, represented the Office of the Ombudsman in a session discussing how ombudsman institutions can contribute to peaceful, just, and inclusive societies.

Left to right: The Omudsman of South Africa, Kholeka Gcaleka; the Ombudsman of Wallonia and of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, Marc Bertrand; the Ombudaman of Malta, Judge Emeritus Joseph Zammit McKeon and the Ombudsman of the Brussels Region, Catherine De Bruecker

 

The Ombudsman with the Ombudsman of the Brussels Region, Catherine De Bruecker

 

The Executive Committee of the Association of Mediterranean Ombudsman (AOM) met in the Hague

The executive committee of the Association of Mediterranean Ombudsmen met on the margins of the 13th IOI World Conference.

The executive committee comprises the President of the AOM, the Ombudsman of Greece, Andreas Pottakis; Vice Presidents, the Ombudsman of Slovenia, Mr. Peter Svetina, and the Ombudsman of Albania, Ms. Erinda Ballanca; and the Secretary-General and Treasurer, the Ombudsman of Malta, Judge Emeritus Joseph Zammit McKeon.

The Executive Committee reviewed the Financial Report the Treasurer presented and the Secretary-General’s Activity Report. Discussions also covered the activities that the AOM will organise in 2024 and the Biennial Conference of 2025.

Additionally, the Executive Committee considered other matters and initiative proposals by other members of the AOM.

 

Act Together for Tomorrow: The 13th IOI World Conference focuses on climate change

The 13th IOI World Conference, held in The Hague, continued into its third day of meetings with the participation of the Parliamentary Ombudsman Judge Emeritus Joseph Zammit McKeon.

The conference commenced with an opening address by His Majesty King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, who warmly welcomed delegates from over 100 countries. His Majesty underscored the vital role of ombuds institutions in safeguarding human rights and enhancing good governance. He praised the historical significance of the ombudsman role and its impact on public service and advocacy. Furthermore, the King emphasised the essential function these institutions serve in tackling global challenges such as climate change, technological ethics, and social inclusivity, and he encouraged enhanced global cooperation to share knowledge and promote collective advancement.

During the opening remarks, the Ombudsman of the Netherlands, Reinier Van Zupthen, highlighted the conference themes—Climate Change & Living Conditions, Value Dilemmas, Outreach, and Future Generations. He stressed the importance of effective governance and the protection of human rights, pointing out the significance of current actions for future generations and the global responsibility shared by all attendees.

The ceremony also featured Ian Buruma’s keynote speech, ‘We Are the People: Citizenship, Identity, and the Nation-State,’ which addressed contemporary issues in global citizenship and national identity.

The focus then shifted to the sub-theme of ‘Climate Change and Living Conditions’, with a keynote address by Peter Boshier, Chief Ombudsman of New Zealand. He discussed the crucial role of ombudsman institutions in advocating for public concerns, emphasising the need to listen actively to the grievances of the people affected by climate change.

The conference also included several breakout sessions covering topics such as dealing with environmental refugees, national approaches to loss and damage, ensuring universal access to basic services, cross-border cooperation between ombuds institutions, and proactive measures to prevent future harm.

This year’s IOI World Conference provided a platform for sharing experiences and best practices and reinforced ombuds institutions’ commitment to address urgent global issues collectively.

The Ombudsman together with the Ombudsman of Northern Ireland, Margaret Kelly

 

The Ombudsman with Mr Peter Svetina, Ombudsman of Slovenia and Ms Maria Stylianou Lottides, Ombudsman of Cyprus and their delegations.

 

The Ombudsman with Mr Matanyahu Englman, State Comptroller and Ombudsman of Israel

 

The Ombudsman discussing with Ombudsman of Albania, Mr Erinda Balanca

 

The Ombudsman with the Ombudsman of New Zealand, Mr Peter Boshier

The Parliamentary Ombudsman of Malta joins the IOI World Board of Directors

The Parliamentary Ombudsman of Malta, Judge Emeritus Joseph Zammit McKeon, has participated in his inaugural meeting of the International Ombudsman Institute (IOI) World Board of Directors. Judge Zammit McKeon represents the European Region alongside four esteemed colleagues: the Ombudsman of the Netherlands, Reinier van Zutphen; the Ombudsman of Slovenia, Peter Svetina; the Ombudsman of the Lazio Region, Marino Fardelli; and the Ombudsman of Wallonia-Brussels, Mr. Marc Bertrand.

The first meeting of the new IOI World Board of Directors was chaired by Ms. Nashieli Ramírez Hernández, the newly elected President of the IOI and current Ombudsman of Mexico. This pivotal assembly highlighted the IOI’s commitment to enhancing the effectiveness and reach of ombudsman institutions globally.

The functions of the IOI World Board of Directors include:

  • Authorising expenditure and overseeing financial decisions to further the objectives of the IOI.
  • Entering into trust arrangements to create funds for the IOI’s benefit.
  • Proposing amendments to the By-laws, with changes requiring approval by a majority at the General Assembly.
  • Adjusting membership fees and classifications to reflect the evolving needs of the IOI community.
  • Overseeing the overall supervision and efficacy of the IOI’s Executive Committee and regional directors.

The board established various working committees during the meeting and approved regional subsidies. These subsidies are designed to support projects fully funded by the IOI or co-funded in collaboration with multiple voting members, emphasising projects of special importance.

The IOI will announce the opportunity to apply for these subsidies following the board meeting, encouraging initiatives that enhance the role of ombudsman institutions in public governance.

The Parliamentary Ombudsman participates at the General Assembly of the 13th IOI World Conference

From left to right: The Ombudsman of Ukraine, Dmytro Lubinets, The Ombudsman of Mexico and Incoming President of the IOI, Nashieli Ramirez Hernandez, the Parliamentary Ombudsman of Malta, Judge Emeritus Joseph Zammit McKeon and the Ombudsman of Netherlands, Mr Reinier van Zupthen.

The 13th IOI World Conference progresses with the International Ombudsman Institute General Assembly, which convenes every four years and was attended this year by 237 delegates from 80 countries. These delegates represent ombudsmen, mediators, and human rights institutions worldwide.

This General Assembly, the first held in person in eight years due to previous gatherings being moved online because of the COVID pandemic, featured a full agenda. Parliamentary Ombudsman Judge Emeritus Joseph Zammit McKeon participated in these significant proceedings.

During the assembly, boards from various global regions presented their work reports. The assembly culminated with the approval of The Hague Declaration, which outlines the members’ collective commitment towards addressing pressing global issues.

The Hague Declaration outlines several critical recognition and commitments:

  1. The reality of climate change and its profound impact on global citizens, asserting the responsibility of ombuds institutions to mitigate the associated challenges.
  2. Recognising that ombuds institutions operate under national mandates and international guidelines may present dilemmas in serving citizens.
  3. Ombuds institutions have an obligation to identify and proactively reach out, to citizens who are less aware of these services.
  4. The advocacy role of ombuds institutions for future generations who cannot represent themselves.
  5. The imperative for ombuds institutions to consider the long-term impacts of their actions, ensuring a positive contribution to future challenges.
  6. The strategy to include Climate Change & Living Conditions, Value Dilemmas, Outreach, and Future Generations as recurring themes in future IOI activities.
  7. The encouragement for ombuds institutions to discuss how conference themes apply in their respective countries and to share these insights across the IOI network.
  8. Utilising all available resources to spread knowledge and expertise, including digital tools, teamwork, international cooperation, and training.
  9. Ombuds institutions need to engage with citizens, integrating their experiences into daily practice to better represent their perspectives.

This assembly addressed immediate institutional concerns and set a strategic agenda for addressing long-term global challenges, underlining the critical role of ombuds institutions in today’s interconnected world.

The Parliamentary Ombudsman is accompanied by Mr Paul Borg, Director General and Mr Jurgen Cassar, Head of Communications and Research.

The Parliamentary Ombudsman of Malta, Judge Emeritus Joseph Zammit McKeon together with the Ombudsman of Portugal, Maria Lucia Amaral.

 

The Parliamentary Ombudsman, Judge Emeritus Joseph Zammit McKeon together with the Public Protector of South Africa, Kholeka Gcaleka.

 

The Parliamentary Ombudsman with the Secretary General of the IOI and Austria Ombudsman, Gaby Schwarz.

 

The Ombudsman of Malta together with the Ombudsman of South Korea Yong-Hak Joo.

 

From left to right: The Parliamentary Ombudsman of Malta, Judge Emeritus Joseph Zammit McKeon, Former Ombudsman of England and UK Health Ombudsman, Mr Rob Behrens, Mr Paul Borg, Director General and Ombudsman of Basque Country, Mr Manuel Lezertua Rodriguez.

 

The Ombudsman together with the Ombudsman of Hong Kong, China, Mr Jack Chan.

 

The Ombudsman with the Ombudsman of the Wallonie, Brussels, Mr Marc Bertrand.