Ahead of the European Parliament election in May, the Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry is calling for “a mature quality of debate that brings the very best of the country’s values”. Its pious views are shared by many but since the level of most political discussion remains stuck in deeply-rooted divisive modes, it is most unlikely that its call will be heeded.

As a result, the campaign for the election of the island’s representatives in the European Parliament is not likely to be any different from all others held so far and will, therefore, probably be characterised by the usual rounds of mud-slinging and tit-for-tat accusations that reduce debates to meaningless confrontations. The situation is not vastly different to that obtaining in some other countries, the only difference being perhaps that, since Malta is very small, the impact is usually more far-reaching and stronger than in larger communities.

As the European Union is at the crossroads in the wake of a rise of populism sweeping across the mainland, the European Parliament needs people who can reaffirm the Union’s ideals, including, if not particularly, that of solidarity, which has taken severe knocks following the challenges immigration has posed to Europe, especially to countries at its southern borders, such as Malta and Italy.

As Europe discusses its future – without Britain and in light of the electoral gains by far-right parties – it is the people on the ground, the politicians, who have to steer the EU into the right direction. Writing in this newspaper a few days ago, the president of the Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, Frank Farrugia, said the forthcoming election is about selecting “our best ambassadors to the European Parliament”. There have been a few exceptions, true, but Malta’s representatives in the European Parliament have been doing a good job, giving a sterling contribution in quite a range of subjects. There, the good of the country prevails and MEPs of different shades work together for the common good. And that is how it should remain.

Regrettably, when very sensitive issues, like the rule of law and the protection of journalists, were raised in the European Parliament and elsewhere over the past weeks and months there were quarters, notably from the Labour camp, that were quick to cry foul and worse. The European Parliament and other institutions were even accused of interference in local affairs. Apart from the fact that the European Parliament is now ‘our’ Parliament too, those making such accusations should bear in mind that when the majority of the Maltese people voted for the island to join the European Union, they did so because they wanted to see standards to rise all round and have bodies that would bring us in line when we err.

Mr Farrugia was right when he noted that anything we do and say here is likely to be picked up and either raise Malta’s profile in the global stage or, alternatively, is used to hurt its reputation with the obvious negative repercussions.

It is, therefore, necessary that voters would choose wisely and elect the right “ambassadors” to represent Malta in the European Parliament.

Likewise, the electoral campaign should consist of positive and constructive arguments, always bearing in mind the fact that Malta is an EU member state not a fiefdom.

This is a Times of Malta print editorial

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