Eddie Fenech Adami coined his famous mantra, “Is-sewwa jirbaħ żgur”, during an earlier time of corruption and malfeasance. It reflected his deep-felt conviction that good would eventually win out, that moral rectitude and principled politics would most certainly, one day, become the accepted norm.

The rest is history still in the making and the question is open of whether Fenech Adami will ever be proven right when it comes to politics.

The historic election of Roberta Metsola as president of the European Parliament is an episode the former prime minister and president might well use as evidence in his favour.

Especially after the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, the MEP has been a champion of the need for more anti-corruption measures, most notably being appointed to head a new EP body to promote the good fight in 2019. Corruption kills, she said at the time, calling for more EU action to protect people from corruption and criminality.

For her steadfast stance, she has been trolled in Malta, vilified and called a traitor. Her election to preside over one of the EU’s most important institutions is a European repudiation of the efforts to demonise her and a triumph of the values she stands for.

She spelled out those European values in her superb maiden speech to the parliament as its president: “…democracy, dignity, justice, solidarity, equality, rule of law and fundamental rights”.

On a personal level, her landslide election is an obvious acknowledgement of her capabilities and credentials for the job. She has an excellent record as an MEP and she is a consensus builder who knows how to reach across to political opponents and work for the common good.

On a national level, her election as the first Maltese to head an EU institution means some positive news amid the erosion of rule of law. It is also a victory for women in general, and gives hope to the many who continue struggling to break through the glass ceiling.

It is on a European level, though, that her main challenges now lie as she outlined in her inaugural speech. She showed she has the right priorities as she looks ahead: climate change and strengthening the EU’s collective security, rule of law, free speech and fundamental rights. She laid stress on the importance of the EU remaining united and principled, and her strong message against the despots who are bent on destroying the union is to be applauded.

The important tasks ahead of her include working with the other EU institutions and member states to end the pandemic, helping in the search for a diplomatic solution to the serious crisis in Ukraine and raising the profile of the EP by making it more relevant to people’s lives.

For “Our House” matters, she said, listing women, healthcare workers, judges, LGBTIQ communities, farmers, the racially discriminated and the “vulnerable, oppressed and abused” among all those to whom the parliament can make a difference. “When people look to us to defend our values, they will find an ally.”

Of course, ideals are one thing and putting them into action is another. Metsola has been in politics long enough to be under no illusions. Pragmatism and realpolitik have, no doubt, been important factors in getting her this far: her achievement this week entailed negotiations up to the last minute in the labyrinth of European politics. In pursuing her vision, those qualities will come to her aid.

Ultimately, Metsola’s victory gives hope to those who persist in their fight for the truth, despite being trolled, insulted and derided.

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