The world is facing challenging times, probably the most difficult period in living memory. Starting with the debilitating COVID-19 pandemic and compounded by the full-blown Russian invasion of Ukraine, global resilience has been stretched to the limit.

Europe and its citizens have been hard-hit. A multitude of new challenges have emerged affecting all levels of society, particularly those already facing serious difficulties. Many EU citizens, including Maltese, have been pushed below the poverty line and others are barely surviving. Energy and food supply, previously more or less taken for granted, are now areas of major concern.

EU citizens, making unprecedented sacrifices over extended periods, have displayed fortitude and unity in their support for the Ukrainian people, confirming a determination to defend values like democracy and freedom in the EU’s immediate neighbourhood.

It is in this scenario that I have decided to present my candidature for the European Parliament elections to be held towards the middle of 2024, as an ADPD candidate and as part of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance.

Over the years, the EP has made important strides in moving beyond an EU institution to becoming a major international player.

The timely and unequivocal role played by President Roberta Metsola in the Ukrainian crisis is but one example. But much more needs to be done. The European Parliament has the potential of becoming a stronger representative force for the benefit of European citizens in these difficult times.

As part of this institution, I aspire to be that somebody who is the voice of the people, who speaks their language without rhetoric and pomposity and without resorting to the brand of Maltese tribalism which has ‘graced’ the European Parliament thanks to representatives who thought it wise to extend their village bickering to a wider audience.

Strengthening the link between the average Joe and the EU institutional set-up is key to keep the EU relevant and to counter the impression citizens often have of being overwhelmed by an unfathomable and distant bureaucracy. More work on the ground is needed, also for people to better understand the complex way in which the EU operates.

This work cannot be reduced to token appearances at a village festa or to dishing out vote-buying favours. It must be focused on understanding what the EU can do to consistently address difficult situations and improve prospects. In this context, I believe the EP can prove instrumental in discussions on introducing a living wage across member states to give those on the brink of poverty a much-needed boost.

While the European Parliament needs to work with the European Commission and the European Council on an ongoing basis, it can certainly show greater unity in bringing pressure to bear on crucial issues. Coordinated energy saving measures across the EU territory and a stronger emphasis on consolidating and even expanding the agriculture sector in all member states should be top priorities.

More than ever before, Europe must find ways to become more self-reliant when it comes to energy and push ahead with its green deal. Incentivising the use of energy from renewable sources would benefit not only the environment and the economy generally but also serve to curb reliance on Russian sources.

It is time that good governance and the rule of law are pursued more assiduously at the EU level- Sandra Gauci

Another crucial topic is migration. Malta has become a bridge to many human beings fleeing an unbearable life in Africa. We cannot look the other way as a constant stream of boats filled with desperate people passes us by, often perishing in the process. The root causes need to be addressed with Malta’s active participation in the EU structures.

Criminals are making money out of despair and inaction amounts to complicity. Moreover, one cannot ignore those migrants legally working in jobs considered either too demanding or poorly paid. In a Europe which professes equality, there is no room for exploitation.

The fact that Europe’s population is an ageing one makes discussions on a living wage at the EU level even more urgent. In the aftermath of COVID-19, working remotely has become a convenient alternative. But why shouldn’t salaries for the same kind of work be equal across Europe irrespective of location? This to me would be an ambitious but logical step which takes the internal market to a new level.

MEP candidate and ADPD representative Sandra Gauci. Photo: Facebook/Sandra GauciMEP candidate and ADPD representative Sandra Gauci. Photo: Facebook/Sandra Gauci

COVID-19 also highlighted the importance of reinventing oneself as jobs were shed in a changed environment. Lifelong education took on an added dimension. The European Parliament is well-placed to strive for equal opportunities for the citizens it represents irrespective of gender, country, social status, age or sexual orientation.

As a Maltese representative in the EP, I am convinced that overhauling Malta’s reputation is key for the country to regain its credibility following Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination and the series of scandals reverberating beyond our shores. Malta does not exist in a bubble. We have responsibilities towards our citizens and towards the wider international community.

With corruption in Malta now rife, the sense of solitude in fighting injustice is widespread and disheartening – it is time that good governance and the rule of law are pursued more assiduously at the EU level. Malta’s behaviour as a rogue state is affecting the EU itself and needs the EU’s unequivocal response.

People who know me are aware of my commitment towards the disadvantaged, those facing difficulties and in favour of inclusivity. I myself have experienced discrimination first-hand when I was excluded from parliament as a result of the gender corrective mechanism not applying beyond the PLPN fortress. It is this spirit that I aim to carry forward during my EP election campaign. The challenges are numerous but I am confident my energy, frankness and candour will resonate and be positively received by the electorate.

My candidacy for the 2024 EP elections is an expression of my determination to step up to the plate at this crucial period. An honest, non-populist approach is needed in the quest for the best solutions. The time is ripe to think differently and vote differently!

Sandra Gauci is deputy chairperson of ADPD.

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