Although Malta is changing beyond recognition, nothing has changed in its tribal partisan politics, which preclude any reasonable debate of European issues despite the countdown to the MEP elections on May 25.

Few wonder what being an EU Member State means beyond the millions we have received in funds, the millions earned through the nationalisation by investment scheme or the increasingly multicultural society we live in. Is anyone spotlighting the challenges the EU currently faces?

The local press glosses over how off the pulse the EU has become. Meanwhile, Brussels and its vassals pursue their siege mentality while hurtling insults against critics.

I have always harboured mixed feelings about the EU. Back in 2004, the EU stood as a beacon of the freedom, opportunity and prosperity that people of my generation and older had been denied. Yet as I cast my ‘Yes’ vote, I had Joseph Conrad’s description of “sepulchral white” Brussels in his novel, Heart of Darkness, echoing in my ears. And it has preyed on my mind ever since.

What spurred me on to say ‘Yes’ 15 years ago was the hope for a better future for young people since the Labour government back in the 1970s and 1980s had institutionalised deprivation on all fronts. Basically, I did not want young people to go through what I had.

While Malta has benefitted from its EU membership, I am far from convinced of a better present or future for today’s youngsters. Headlines scream the resurgence of far-right political parties in the EU as the thorny problem of illegal migration keeps on growing like a metastasised tumour, while Italy confronts a Europe that refuses to live by its own maxim of solidarity. Factor in Angela Merkel’s admission that multiculturalism in Germany has failed – a failure made worse by her open-door policy. Add hubris gone to Emanuel Macron’s head despite having advocated a new vision for Europe based on nurturing European values.

European values! What values? Even the staunchest of EU champions who only dish out platitudes and refuse to address the burning crux of Europe’s identity crisis, rampant unemployment in many of the weaker Member States as well as the Post-WWII scourge of crushing the family unit across the board, have lost their shine. They are only intent on making the most of the gravy train that commutes exclusively along the top bureaucratic echelons in Brussels – once a month via Strasbourg. 

Meanwhile, the same grey suits in the greyer city have the cheek to impose austerity measures and constricting economic targets to retain the German powerhouse at all costs, little realising that they are hammering the nails in their own coffins. Most (Merkel included) are too busy wheeling and dealing to ensure a smooth succession to Jean-Claude Juncker.

What a far cry from its founding vision! Indeed, it is always inspiring to reflect on how the EU grew from the incessant conflict between France and Germany, whose statesmen finally decided that it was about time to discuss peace and collaboration after the atrocities of two world wars in close succession (plus the accretion of centuries of enmity and war) which killed millions and scarred millions more.

…MEPs’ phenomenal salaries and perks…recall the arrogance and insensitivity of the ancièn regime. Anyone for a new take on ‘Let them eat cake!’?

Significantly, this vision did not include Jacques Delors’ manic obsession to pin the EU’s economy to the euro, nor a re-mapping of continent boundaries. As the Treaty of Rome paved the way to the European Common Market and subsequently the European Union, the collaboration between countries in Western Europe was undeniably instrumental in maintaining peace and boosting material lifestyles in a sizeable part of the Old Continent, to the extent that the Iron Curtain could no longer hang. 

Admittedly, the EU has achieved a great deal despite being, like any other human organisation, tainted with hypocrisy and corruption. But it has grown into a bureaucratic behemoth and a deaf one at that. Deaf to its disgruntled citizens while turning its back on its roots.

Consequently, the deep divisions are inevitably aggravated by disenchantment and distrust born out of a wilful deafness at the top. I have lost count of the times European politicians from various Member States affirm that the EU must get closer to the people. To no avail. Nor am I banking on the Citizens’ Consultations in all Member States making real headway.

Europeans are not only concerned about the impact of mass migration on their daily lives and the myth that multiculturalism fosters a brotherhood of man.

Take the Schengen Agreement. At a surface level, abolishing internal borders is great for commerce and travel. But dreaming of a European version of the US as regard to open borders has realised worse than a nightmare on the security front. Terrorist attacks clearly show that both internal and external borders are more than vulnerable to evil intent and open-door policy. In addition, intelligence units in the various Member States are not sharing their information; at least not enough.

Take MEPs’ phenomenal salaries and perks which are immune to any global or national credit crunch, but hell-bent on exacerbating millions about to plummet or already plummeted below the poverty line. They recall the arrogance and insensitivity of the ancièn regime. Anyone for a new take on ‘Let them eat cake!’?

Take how anyone who disagrees with mainstream EU dogma is instantly labelled as a fascist or populist. Is the right to have our own opinions and express them no longer a right? Are we living a grimmer Orwellian reality?

Take the unprecedented joblessness in countries like Italy, Greece and Spain (all swamped by tidal waves of irregular immigrants) where unemployment has become a lifestyle, crossing borders a matter of survival while feeding a concomitant brain drain. This is no racist rant, for irregular immigrants are victims of a heinous human trafficking business even though they have fuelled cheap labour. Nor are they the cause of the dire lifestyles in the poorest of EU Member States like Bulgaria. No doubt respective domestic politics contribute heavily to the plight of struggling economies; yet the noose of Brussels cannot be denied either.

Take waste separation. A feverish crusade to have every household separate trash to the predictable jingle of reuse and recycle. Now I am all for eco-friendly measures and outlawing all carcinogenic materials, but why has the EU been dragging its feet to eliminate trainloads of plastic and paper at source, particularly where foodstuffs are concerned? When is it going to put an end to the junk mail stuffed in our letter boxes on a daily basis? 

Take the fish quotas that any fishermen in the North or Mediterranean Seas will tell you have triggered off an incredible tonnage of fling-back-dead-fish into the water – a mind-boggling slaughter that makes a shambles of the eco-system the quotas were supposed to protect in the first place.

The list goes on and on. The common weave is the money-making by a coterie including consultants who swear allegiance to EU policies so long as millions pour in. The result? A rootlessness and a ruthlessness that feed on each other.

How truly wretched to see betrayal from within, no matter how predictable.

(To be continued)

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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