The European Bench project originated in Italy, promoted by the Italian branch of the Young European Federalists (JEF) organisation, with the support of the offices of the European Parliament and the European Commission in Italy. It was a strong response to the vandalisation of a European Bench in the Italian city of Lecco, which was defaced by Nazi symbols in July 2021.
This prompted a group of local JEF members to launch a crowdfunding effort to repair the damaged bench. They succeeded in much more than that: thanks to their drive, there are now more than 50 benches throughout Italy that sprang from this initiative.
The project is now coming to Malta, with the inauguration of the first bench in the Humanities area of the University of Malta's Msida campus just after Europe Day. This bench is planned to be the first of a series, aimed at promoting European values and unity in the face of hate and intolerance.
At the press conference for the launch of this initiative, JEF Malta’s President Nicole Spiteri explained the thinking behind the project:
“The European Bench at the University of Malta serves as a powerful symbol of the importance of creating spaces that foster dialogue, understanding and collaboration among individuals from different European countries and no less in Malta. As part of a wider initiative to strengthen European integration, this physical commitment to bringing people together highlights the value of diversity and the benefits that come from working together towards common goals. We therefore look forward to expanding this initiative further on a national level."
For MEP Alex Agius Saliba, “the European Bench initiative encompasses the values that make us truly European. An initiative that was taken up by JEF to fight against right-wing extremism by promoting the values of solidarity, democracy and equality – values that are enshrined in the EU treaties and are being promoted in an artistic way with these benches. Hopefully we will see more benches like this one mushrooming all around Malta and Gozo.”
Our head, Dr Mario Sammut, said that “the bench will offer a visual testimony of the presence of the European Union in our lives, and the European Parliament Office supports enthusiastically such worthy initiatives”.
Today's European Bench launch concluded a week of activities and initiatives celebrating Europe Day in Malta and the rest of the EU.