The political narrative between the two main parties over the past few weeks seems to have taken on a divide between Adrian Delia’s constant emphasis on the need to choose the best representatives to advance Malta’s interest in the European Parliament and the Prime Minister’s emphasis that the upcoming ‘European’ Election is a choice between him and the Leader of the Opposition.
When I was heading the European Parliament Office before joining Antonio Tajani’s cabinet in Brussels I was asked several times why the Maltese turn out to vote in such force. Malta is indeed the EU country with the highest turnout, excluding those where not voting results in a fine akin to an overspeeding ticket.
My reply to these curious colleagues was that the Maltese vote massively because our campaigns provoke antipathy, or let’s say hate, in the other party, so much so that our emotions drive us to the voting booths.
The reason most Labour supporters will go out to vote will be Delia and the Nationalist Party, who are exposing the other party’s lies and inefficiencies. In the same way, most Nationalist Party supporters will go out to vote to stand up to the Prime Minister and the excesses and abuses of the present Labour government.
We manage to bring out these strong emotions in Malta like nowhere else, also thanks to our tightly knit social and family networks and the strengths of the political parties’ media, especially closer to D-day.
If you needed any proof that hate works wonders to win votes, look at how Norman Lowell is overtaking PD and the Greens at the polls. The problem with this is that hate will not get you anywhere in the European Parliament. It will not deliver an iota to the voters. For anyone to gain any result for Maltese and Gozitan voters from the European Parliament, they will need to use argument, charm and untiring hard work from Monday to Friday for 46 weeks a year in the European Parliament Committees and plenary.
We need the best qualified people who can deliver results
The Prime Minister is busy enough with Castille matters and One radio interviews. The same goes for the Leader of the Opposition, who is on the ground every single day, visiting communities, factory floors and families across Malta and Gozo. Neither of these fine gentlemen have the luxury to take coffee with MEPs from the 28 Member States, to ease any opposition to an amendment necessary to advance the prospects of Maltese youths, our businesses or those who feed us in the primary industries.
The Prime Minister will not be able to hold Cyrus Engerer’s or Alex (Agius) Saliba’s hands to draft and lobby for amendments in the European Parliament committees. He will not be there at the committee meetings of the Socialists when they will need to discuss how to advance their manifesto pledge on abortion and tax harmonisation.
No, in that committee room in Brussels and in the plenary sessions in Strasbourg we will have those we vote for on May 25.
Delia and the PN are therefore right on this too. On May 25 we need to choose the best qualified people who can deliver results for Malta and Gozo. For European Union membership was never a guarantee in itself. Whether you are one of the “Iva” generation or coming after that, whether you voted for or against Europe, now you will recognise that with Europe we can do a lot for Malta. The thing is, we are falling behind, and this election will be critical if we want to carry on reaping the benefits due to the Maltese people. Only one in 20 of our youths enjoy the benefits of EU educational programmes. We need to expand this by far, so that every single Maltese youth gets to benefit from apprenticeships, traineeships or study under EU educational programmes.
Likewise, only a handful of our businesses get to participate in EU grants to invest in their operations, so we need to empower them to tap EU funds, coming directly from Brussels without government intervention. Our smaller businesses are suffering from internet competition without much help for them to be online in their own right; we can use digital funds to help them.
Our farmers and fishermen are suffering under EU rules on whose drafting they have no impact. That can change with a stronger presence of our MEPs in Brussels on those topics and beyond. Our identity and our traditions can also find a platform in Europe with MEPs scouting opportunities both for funding and exposure.
There is too much we can do together for this election to be turned into another ‘mine is bigger than yours’ between the two party leaders. Politicians are naturally programmed for direct confrontation, and I admit, seeing the leaders battle it out is indeed a spectacle not to be missed. But our children’s future and Europe’s possible opportunities are too important to take second stage on May 25.
Dr Peter Agius is a PN candidate for the European elections, former head of the European Parliament Office in Malta and cabinet member of European Parliament President Antonio Tajani.
This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece
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