Short reflections after a few days in Valletta (Wir sind Europa!)

These are 4 short texts (and photos) originally published on the Wir sind Europa! Instagram account.

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Bonjour! This is me, Nicolas, rushing to #Malta airport. I am no Maltese, but French and travelling to Valletta for the „Living Cities, Liveable Spaces“ conference (http://conference.valletta2018.org/). Of course I always misspell living and leaving, but I believe „Leaving Cities, Leaveable Spaces“ would also have been a good title for the conference: Malta is a small island, but the traffic is so dense and chaotic that leaving the city is not easy. And the weather so good this #November that nothing pushes you away. Sorry again, it sounds a bit confused in between the names of Malta and #Valletta, also the notion of island, cities and country is unclear, but from a traveller’s point of view coming from Lyon (France) Valletta is a big village (6.000 inhabitants) and Malta a medium city (450.000 inhabitants). Moreover, the city welcomes 1.500.000 tourists each year: we could almost define it as a resort! Is it city? Is it a country? Is it an island? No it is an ECOC! Yes, Valletta will be one of the two European Capital of #Culture in 2018. So whatever we call it, let’s have a taste of Valletta/Malta. (@nclsbrtrnd) #wirsindeuropa #europe #europa #valletta2018 #v2018 #lcls #ecoc

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The walls built by the Knights of St. John retain powerfully the many narrow streets at right angles that plunge into the Mediterranean, Republic Street seems like the vertebral column of the Rock. The pedestrian street goes from the large, mineral square of the recently built Parliament to the Grand Master Palace (the Presidential House). Republic Street is lined with shops selling #souvenirs or clothing, glaciers and cafés (including the fabulous Caffé Cordina), museum entrances, religious and administrative buildings. In the adjacent streets you may see a few more popular shops and the many plates of law firms and real estate agencies. Throughout the day, the Republic Street is roamed according to the hours of employees going to their offices, elegant civil servants, small and large groups of tourists greedily photographing #Christmas decorations, #Maltese taking a walk, students celebrating their graduates noisily and sometimes even politicians. At night, there a few young partygoers hanging around, very mannered guests waiting in line for an official meal at the Grand Master palace and Maltese and African workers transforming the shops for an upcoming re-opening. In the middle of the street, at the level of the great musical and luminous Christmas dome, in front of the Law Court and the magnificent St. John's Co-Cathedral (where a Caravaggio painting is exhibited) numerous candles and messages of courage and commitment pay tribute to journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, murdered a few weeks ago. She was particularly interested in #corruption and money laundering. (@nclsbrtrnd) #wirsindeuropa #europe #europa #Valletta #Malta #daphnecaruanagalizia #panamapapers #blackfriday #citylife

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Have I written that Malta is a small country, Valletta a small capital? Of course it is, but the island (three islands in fact) is above all a node where some of the most powerful flows that shake Europe converge and it concentrates some of the most important societal problems. Did you know that? The vast majority of Maltese speak English fluently. The Maltese national language is close to Arabic with recent additions of Sicilian, Italian, English and French. Malta is the second largest EU country (after Luxemburg) in terms of number of cars per inhabitant. They saturate traffic and make it difficult to move from one municipality to another. 1/3 of the dwellings in Malta are uninhabited, due to the absence of property tax (buildings too "problematic" are abandoned) and empty rentals for those doing business in the country or acquiring Maltese nationality. The island is becoming one of the world's leading online gaming and betting platforms. In 2018, the government's will is to make Malta the "capital" of #Bitcoin. Nearly 15000 Eritrean, Iraqi and Syrian migrants have been arriving annually in Maltese waters since the mid-2000s, almost none of them nowadays through negotiations with Italy. The majority of migrants today come from Great Britain. The Individual Investor Programme allows you to acquire Maltese citizenship, the minimum cost would be about 1150000€, many of those new citizens being from Russia and the Caucasus. These are a few situations which can be judged positively or negatively, that also provide the framework, resources and challenges to mobilize the community (to use the term of #ECOC) or, preferably, engage Civil Society. Did you see that view ? I made this photo from the #Barrakka neighborhood. A traditional boat sails around Valletta, there in front of the restored Fort Sant' Anglu and a little further on, behind the gigantic yacht, one guesses the commune of Birgu and the very pretty "Three Cities". (@nclsbrtrnd) #wirsindeuropa #europe #europa #Valletta #Malta #citizenship #civilsociety #taxes #migrants #business #traffic #language

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There are already people here! Men, women of all ages, a few children, families and groups of friends. They started drinking some local #Cisk beer, whiskey or gin-tonic. Climbing the four steps of the Filarmonica Nazzionale "La Valette" from Rue de la République, one does not know if one enters a café, a social club or a church. The room is large and high, painted in light blue and white, generously lit by neon lights. On the left, three snookers, a large plaster statue of Jean de Valette (founder of the town) next to the large wooden bar in full activity, the whole area is occupied by large tables coated in red where discussions, smiles, and backstrokes go well. In the middle of this joyful organization, the 23 musicians set up their desks, chairs, instruments, jackets and cases in the middle of the tables and on the billiards. They joke with audience members: friends and relatives, familiar with the repertoire who support and encourage. We are in one of the many music companies (a Banda) that exist in every municipality across the country. Most of these societies were founded in the 19th century (Malta was British at the time); they train amateur musicians, children and adults all year round, free of charge. All these amateurs take part in the #fanfares that animate the Festas: the popular festivals (in conjunction with the local church) organized throughout the summer in the streets of Maltese cities. The bandas work a popular repertoire consisting of traditional songs and pop music and opera hits. Competition seems to be of the most importance: the brass band is the cultural emblem of an entire neighbourhood! Most orchestras also have their own building: sometimes enormous, besides courses and rehearsals, they can host operas created by amateur artists (there are two opera houses in Raba on the island of Gozo), bars, restaurants, billiard clubs… These #clubs are exceptional places of socialization and artistic practice, they federate all generations of Maltese, they ensure the transmission of a very lively local culture. (@nclsbrtrnd) #wirsindeuropa #europe #europa #Valletta #Malta #citizenship #civilsociety #music #bandas #amateur #popular

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For this travel to Valletta, I received the support of the Roberto Cimetta Fund

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