19 FEBRUARY 2003

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Chamber of Planners favours EU membership

The Malta Chamber of Planners was recently one of the latest professional organisations to speak in favour of EU membership, when it decreed it considers membership in the European Union as a major step forward in the further development of a planning culture in Malta.
In a statement the Chamber explains, "Upon accession Maltese planners would be in a position to work in different Member States and develop further the skills which they have acquired over the ten years since the founding of the Planning Authority (currently, the MEPA). More importantly, however, they will have opportunities to participate in interesting experiments in the field of spatial planning, which are taking place in different parts of the EU, and in which Malta will definitely be involved."
The date set for the next wave of accessions comes shortly after the initiation of a long-term project designed to transform the practice of spatial planning within the EU. Following a long series of discussions throughout the 1990s, the Ministers responsible for spatial planning in Member States agreed to a European Spatial Development Perspective, which is intended to provide the framework for the integration of sectoral policy which has a spatial dimension.
According to the Chamber, "The objectives of this perspective are not simply about the integration of sectoral policies, but also about balanced and sustainable regional economic development, the consolidation of a European infrastructure, and the implementation of EU cohesion policy.
"The Perspective was issued after Ministers of spatial planning from all EU Member States reached an agreement following nearly ten years of discussion and debate. The Perspective is not a Directive; it is rather a framework within which different policy fields can be integrated.
"This means that spatial planning will no longer be simply about domestic affairs - planners working in specific regions or towns will be keeping in touch with developments in other Member States and collaborating with colleagues across the Continent. The more adventurous will have the opportunity to develop an
international portfolio. Malta also has the potential for the setting up of joint-venture planning firms providing their services to clients located in different Mediterranean countries."
In anticipation of these developments the Chamber had applied for membership in the European Council of Town Planners. In June 2002 it was officially accepted as a member, and will shortly be actively participating in the setting up of networks of national planners' professional associations, which shall be disseminating among planners from different Member States, information concerning developments in different parts of the EU. This would help prepare planners to face the new challenges with confidence.
The Chamber explains, "Maltese planners will thus be sharing with their colleagues from other European states the excitement of the discoveries which they will be making in seeking to attain the goals of the European Spatial Development Perspective, and hopefully in reviewing the Perspective which will have to be adjusted in order to take into consideration the needs of the new Member States.
"The Chamber has been working towards the attainment of such relationships with European counterparts since its inception in 1997, and has publicly expressed its views in various reports and press statements. Its members are looking forward to keep up the tradition of Maltese workers who have successfully competed in overseas markets. They are not interested in collecting alms but in having the opportunity to work towards the furthering of the ideals of balanced and sustainable development in a seamlessly interconnected Europe. This should enable them to further develop the skills which they have learnt since the late-1980s when the preparatory work leading to the establishment of the Planning Authority (currently, the MEPA) was initiated."

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
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