This EU Council presidency is something we have worked so hard for as a nation. It will be a very proud moment for Malta and Gozo, one that needs to be an opportunity for us to show how far we have come since we joined the EU in 2004.
As a Maltese national who has always believed that Malta's place is in the EU, and as an MEP, I want the presidency to be a success with the best possible outcome for the country and for Europe. In the coming months, perhaps more than ever before, we need to work on getting the EU closer to citizens and underlining why we need Europe and why the values that make us European must be reaffirmed.
The first six months of next year are crucial for the development of Europe. We need to stop thinking that Europe is some mythical, far away entity. If the UK referendum taught us anything, it is that the EU needs to respond to people's concerns and that means having more Europe in some areas and less Europe in others. We need to go back to “Europe being big on the big things and small on the small things”, as Commission President Jean Claude Juncker aptly once said.
Europe is facing a difficult time, but difficult times are what forged the Europe we know today and I have faith that we will emerge stronger than before.
I understand the frustrations that people have with the EU - I share some of them - but I think that having a united, safe Europe makes it worth it. But that is not to say the EU should not reform. It must.
The EU must be there to serve the people and to respond to the needs of people it serves and not faceless structures and smoky institutions.
We also need to do much more to face down rising populism and populist leaders. It never ceases to amaze me how Prime Ministers can come to Brussels, agree on a number of laws or initiatives and then go home and blame Europe as if they had no part in it.
The Maltese presidency also comes at a time when the EU's migration and asylum legislation are being re-negotiated. We will be in a position to influence the EU's direction on this sensitive issue more than at any previous time in the past. We cannot let the opportunity to push forward true fair sharing of responsibility slip through our fingers.
We are probably the first generation of politicians who do not know world war in Europe and perhaps we need to revisit why a united Europe is so essential.
And that is a point that we need to come back to time and again. We have Europe because we have learnt what a disunited Europe can lead to.
The political and historical importance of the next six months for Malta is huge. I have never viewed Malta as a small country – while our geographic realities are what they are, we have never had a sense of inferiority and have always managed to live up to all our responsibilities and obligations as an EU member state. Now we will be leading the EU and it is our responsibility and duty to leave our mark on the European legislative and political landscape.
Europe needs people to stand up for it and I hope that the Maltese presidency will do just that.