Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Gozo Ministry punishing the Victoria Local Council

Every Gozitan is fully aware of the rivalry between the Gozo Ministry and anybody who may be influential in the feudal island of Gozo. This is no secret!

One may remember that few years ago the Circolo Gozitano was publishing a monthly Gozitan newspaper called 'The Edge'. This was also destroyed just after few months of its publications.

I have to say that the Victoria Mayor had been trying his best to initiate a number of initiatives in his locality, but the lack of support or rather dismissal from the Ministry for Gozo is so evident.

What is now happening at the Cittadella is a case in point:

Alternattiva Demokratika (AD) - The Green Party welcomes the fact that EU funding is being used for the drawing up of a Master Plan for Cittadella, Gozo. However, AD has serious doubts about the process that was used during the selection process for the adjudication of the tender when groups with much more experience were discarded in favour of a University department that has no experience in the drawing up of master plans.

Arnold Cassola, Alternattiva Demokratika Chairperson and Candidate for European elections, stated: “AD is informed that among the groups that had shown interest one found the top international and local experts in the various fields. The ‘company’ chosen, or rather the University group, is in fact -as the Ministry statement itself states-, engaging a number of foreign and local experts to draw up its reports as it itself has no experience in this field. Furthermore, master plans are drawn up over twelve months so that a full weather cycle is taken into consideration.”

I added that AD hopes that there will be a genuine consultation with all stakeholders and all those that have a particular interest in the site. AD cannot understand why the Rabat Local Council was not involved at all up to now and hopes that it will be seriously involved at this stage. No serious plan for Cittadella can be done without a proper study of the problems relating to the historic core of Victoria”.

Yvonne Ebejer Arqueros, AD candidate for European elections, said that: “AD insists that the Church and Heritage Malta, the two prime stake holders, will be involved in a serious manner at all stages and not quite excluded, as has happened up to now. Furthermore it is hoped that the Master Plan also includes a Management Plan for the Cittadella”.

Prof. Arnold Cassola concluded: “The Green Party hopes that the Government will go ahead with nominating the Cittadella and the historic core of Victoria for listing under the UNESCO World Heritage List”.

Watch this video:


On Sunday Tuesday 15th March 2009, Arnold Cassola, the Malta Green Party leader and candidate for the European Parliament elections of the 6th June accompanied one of the farmers member of the Ager Foundation and a group of German tourists on one of his farms.

Prof Arnold Cassola and myself emphasised the importance of a government strategy for the development of rural and alternative tourism niches that would also create innovative employment in this region and for which the European Union allots considerable funds. On the way down the citrus garden, the German delegation could notice the destruction going on the pristine land the construction of the new Nadur cemetery and they wondered how such a project copuld take place on thjis pristine land!

We said that Government continues to brand Gozo as an eco-island, and, unbelievably, this has not yet been substantiated by an eco-tourism plan that would highly benefit Gozo and the stakeholders within such sectors.

Rightly so, Arnold Cassola declared that Alternattiva Demokratika (AD) maintains that a sustainable ecological tourist strategy for Gozo demands clear consolidated planning rather than random ministerial declarations with no end in sight. MEPA has a legal responsibility to safeguard Gozo’s environment. Public opinion believes that this environmental watchdog is increasingly becoming complacent with monied applicants and then toughens its stand with the weaker ones.

Alternattiva Demokratika strongly believes that Gozo has an inherent basis for such innovative tourism niches. It observes the futility of government and local authorities attempts to promote Gozo as a distinct tourist destination when professional training leading to entrepreneurial initiatives in eco- and agri-tourism is nonexistent in our University and Institute of Tourism Studies. Consequently these sectors lack qualified personnel and any such investment is disabled from its inception stage.

Prof Cassola added that the Government needs to recognise the financial potential of this tourism sector for our islands’ domestic product, and its special significance to Gozo where tourism suffers seasonal downturns. Such niche tourism projects fit Gozo’s low tourist season when paradoxically it is during such winter months that nature blesses its valleys and hills in an abundance of green scenery.

Alternattiva Demokratika has for years been reiterating that Gozo could be the model for the development of niche tourism and its innovative employment opportunities.

AD's proposal three years ago for Gozo to become an eco-island was meaningful and realistic and certainly not a promotional exercise. The Party believed then and now that Gozo and its residents deserve a clean environment, rich in its traditions and offerings for the benefit of the islanders and its guests. Gozitans and environmentally-conscious individuals want decisive implementation of such tourism projects instead of repeated monotonous declarations and promises.

Govanna meets a German Green!

The Hon. Giovanna Debono Minister for Gozo met a delegation from the German Parliament on their visit to Gozo, as part of their programme during their visit to Malta on the 13th of this month.

The discussion meeting held at the Ministry for Gozo, focused on the main aims of the Eco-Gozo vision as well as on how the island of Gozo benefitted from tourism from the German market. Eco-Gozo?

Some days before, I received a call from an official from the Malta parliament, in my capacity as the founder of the Ager Foundation, in order to organize an agro-tourism tour to the delegation while in Gozo. But few days later the same person send me an SMS asking to cancel this this.

Minister Debono also delivered information about the role of the Ministry for Gozo on a regional basis in the national context. I'm sure that our Minister got all the expertise here!

Following the meeting, the delegation, which forms part of the Malta-Germany Parliamentary Friendship Group, visited Dwejra and the concrete eye-sore and the Ta’ Dbieġi Crafts Village where a mushroom farm is being proposed in an Outside development Zone area, the Archaeology Museum and the Citadel as well as the Ġgantija Temples.

The delegation’s aim for this visit, led by the group leader, Mr. Ernst-Reinhard Beck, was to discuss current issues which are of mutual interest for Malta and Germany. The group’s main interests are economy, education, environment and culture. But what are the Gozo Ministry's main interests?

I wonder.