This Christmas could not come sooner, bringing some tranquility at the close of a roller-coaster year. Together, we lived through some very significant events on the world stage, such as the unusual US election and the Brexit referendum.

We witnessed other situations that are shaping our decade, like the growing migration crisis and the spiralling conflict in Syria. Not even the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, brilliant though they were, were free from controversy.

2016 was equally an eventful year for our country. We have seen thousands of people take a stand over issues they hold dear, such as good governance, environmental care and sensible urban development.

This was also a defining year for the Nationalist Party and we are now seeing the first fruit of a long and patient process of renewal. We have proved to be an effective Opposition, holding the government to account both inside and outside Parlia­ment. But we also went further and put forward an alternative vision for our country, along with a host of new policies and proposals, proving that we can also offer a real choice as a credible alternative government.

Our vision is that in our country, we all deserve to succeed, together. And we aspire to do this by working on four fronts: the economy, social justice, quality of life and good governance.

In this vein, we have already proposed innovative ideas to real problems that people care about.

In particular, we unveiled a comprehensive set of proposals to address the troubling issue of good governance in our country. My personal commitment is to clean up the political system once and for all. And I have also committed myself to investigate and fight corruption and to serve justice to all those who have been the victims of injustice.

We launched a set of concrete ideas to address traffic congestion in the short-term. We also published pre-Budget proposals for two years running.

I understand that many people are losing trust in politics. But the solution is not to turn our backs on our country, but to do something about it

And most recently, we launched a new policy on the retail sector, focusing on the largely neglected category of small businesses. Significantly, we have proposed to reduce income tax to just 10 per cent on the first €50,000 in profits for all small businesses and self-employed individuals in whichever economic activity, be it trade in goods or services, including professional services.

In the new year we will continue to give more flesh to our vision. We are particularly keen on addressing those people who are being left behind, notably workers on low incomes and pensioners. We will also home in on ways in which we can make a leap forward in terms of our qua­lity of life, in areas such as the environment, public transport and infrastructure, all of which have suffered serious degradation in the past four years.

We are proud that Malta will hold the EU presidency during the first half of 2016. We will give our support to ensure a productive presidency, which after all, we ourselves secured for our country as a result of EU membership.

Come March, the Nationalist Party will itself host the largest-ever political event in Malta, with our political family, the European People’s Party, convening here for its biennial congress. The congress will bring here key political leaders from across Europe and represents a key moment in the transformation of European politics at a critical juncture for the future of Europe.

The new year therefore promises to be a busy and exciting one.

I am glad to see the Nationalist Party confidently back on its feet, playing an effective and constructive role in our democracy, but most importantly, giving a voice and offering hope to people who feel short-changed by the broken promi­ses of the current government.

I understand that many people are losing trust in politics. But the solution is not to turn our backs on our country, but to do something about it. This is what I am committed to do and I urge you to do your part, in whichever manner you are able to.

For at the end of the day, our country does not belong to a select few, but to all of us. And we therefore owe it to ourselves to give our country back to the people.

Merry Christmas and happy 2017 to one and all.

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