Change does not happen unless people demand it. If we ever needed a reminder that we cannot afford to walk past standards that we should not accept, recent events in Malta have given us a multitude of such reminders – the murder of an immigrant, the assassination of a journalist and the mugging of an elderly couple in broad daylight. 

A society where inequality is growing and people are treated as human resources rather than human beings is not something we can just walk past and forget. How can we change? What can we do? These are questions I ask myself every day, and I am sure many of you do too.

My experience in civil society has taught me that it is not those in power who lay the foundations for meaningful change, but the people and communities who start the drive towards a better society. 

Time and time again, people in power have failed to do this. They have walked past and accepted lower standards than we deserve. My belief in the power of the voice of the people has informed my activism during the past 25 years, and it has led me to contest the European elections, because the European Parliament directly represents all European Union citizens and has made such change happen.

Everyone in our society deserves to live without fear, in a safe and just society where clean air and open public spaces are not an electoral promise but a basic reality. Those in power are walking past these standards every day. 

Political endeavour needs to happen both in Brussels and in Malta, putting the person at the centre, free from behind-the-scenes donors, to ensure the interests of all are honestly represented. Rather than walking past these issues, I will do my utmost to listen to all the people in our communities: people of all ages, of different genders and sexualities, of all social classes and backgrounds, workers, the unemployed, those with precarious jobs, those experiencing poverty, illness, or loneliness.

Over the past year the Nationalist Party has been on the ground like never before and has shaped a manifesto based on the aspirations, wishes and concerns of the people, speaking about a caring society and presenting concrete proposals on decent wages, quality education, public healthcare, environment, quality of life, human rights, governance and democracy.

Our particular challenges and vulnerabilities as a small island State need to be understood and recognised in the EU

On my part, I pledge to fight the real issues – to fight for clean air and sea, for green, open spaces, for climate justice, for the protection of our endangered biodiversity and ecosystems, to secure our children’s future, for social justice, for workers’ rights, for sustainability, for the dignity of the poorest and weakest in our communities, for the safety of those who seek protection and find themselves in danger. 

These issues need to be consistently integrated into the policy and legislation that shape our Union and our lives. Our particular challenges and vulnerabilities as a small island State need to be understood and recognised in the EU, providing an opportunity for Maltese MEPs to become a European voice for small islands around the world, especially in the fight against environmental destruction and climate disaster. 

During these 25 years I have been active at the forefront of various successful campaigns, fighting for EU membership, defending agricultural land, striving to keep stipends in place, advocating for divorce and LGBTIQ rights, stopping unsustainable development proposals and organising the biggest civil society demonstrations in recent Maltese history: the call to defend Żonqor and the call for justice for Daphne.

I have done this because I love my country, and I wish that all those who live in it experience a society which is truly democratic, inclusive, decent and kind. 

I believe in the European project, and wish to work so that it truly stands for social justice, environmental sustainability and democracy, leaving no one behind. We owe it to those who have suffered, or are suffering and humiliated among us.

The coming election will not change those who govern us, but our vote can surely send them a clear sign of the standards we want.

Michael Briguglio is a sociologist and Nationalist Party candidate at the European Parliament elections.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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