The imminent EU Parliament elections in Malta carry a significance much beyond the traditional Labour and Nationalist confrontation. The voting result that will emerge will not reveal solely a victory, or a loss, for a party, but will also reveal the extent of Malta’s belief in European values.
The Labour Party never had in the past a European vocation and it is questionable if it has it now. In 1970, on winning the election, Dom Mintoff reversed the pro-Europe policy of the Nationalist George Borg Olivier. From a path set by Borg Olivier towards a Common Market affiliation, Malta changed course. Mintoff removed destination Europe and inaugurated destinations China, North Korea and Gaddafi’s Libya.
There is no need to elaborate much on the lack of European credentials of Mintoff’s successors, namely Alfred Sant and Joseph Muscat. Our collective memory is still fresh and don’t we all recall the stiff opposition put up by these two gentlemen to Eddie Fenech Adami’s proposal for Malta to become a member of the European Union.
The referendum delivered a clear majority in favour of Europe. The majority included a good percentage of rebellious Labour voters.
With satisfaction we then believed that a majority of the Maltese population understood the meaning of, and adopted, the European vocation.
This belief unfortunately is today in doubt. Does a majority understand what EU membership implies? Are we living up to EU values, standards and ideals?
An overview of Malta in 2019 reveals a state of affairs that somewhat leaves us worried. Tolerated, if not approved and supported, by a Labour majority electorate, too many malfunctions are occurring in so many vital sectors. A persistent lack of good governance, on the part of this Labour administration, has led to a weakening of vital State institutions.
Many people have serious doubts on how independent and impartial our law courts can be. This since a current system, on how judges and magistrates get appointed, discredited by the EU’s Venice Commission, was hurriedly still adopted in the selection and appointment of three judges and three magistrates.
The police force appears to be seriously malfunctioning, and not through casual inefficiency, but rather seemingly through interventions and appointments that have debilitated its willingness and ability to be effective.
This is leading to an apparent weakening in the rule and observance of law in general and in respect of particular citizens who transgress with impunity.
State institutions, set up to monitor and apply checks to abusive and wrong decisions on the part of our rulers, appear to have lost their effectiveness, staffed as they have been with somewhat inadequate and partial persons. Little needs to be said about institutionalised corruption, the phenomenon appears widespread and known to all.
This generally unhappy predicament of Malta is certainly not indicative of a prevalence of European values in the mindset of most Maltese
It has to be stated that we have now moved on from the days when an illiterate mob ransacked the offices of the Times of Malta; however, a section of the press still operates in an atmosphere of intimidation and marginalisation.
Nevertheless, due to morally strong and principled newspaper boards, a determined press persists. This resilience is also owed to courageous journalists, some of whom, like the lamented Daphne Caruana Galizia, risk paying the ultimate price for their integrity and commitment.
This generally unhappy predicament of Malta is unfortunately positively viewed by a Labour-leaning majority of citizens. This is certainly not indicative of a prevalence of European values in the mindset of most Maltese.
Malta’s EU membership has delivered many advantages and benefits. For instance, we have acquired ample funds to elevate our standard of living. If desired, we have access to institutions that give support and advice so we improve our governance. Considering some worrying legal turn of events, we have, most significantly, acquired access to a judicial recourse above the national one. Some sharp people, with a business acumen, discovered that membership enhanced the monetary value of saleable passports. But the less said on this matter, the better.
A former MEP, Simon Busuttil, and two current MEPs, Roberta Metsola and David Casa, currently epitomise the ideal Maltese Europeanist. These three protagonists, allied with Lawrence Gonzi, worked, and work incessantly, to translate our EU membership into an interaction with the Union set to enhance Malta’s civic values and democratic development.
With dedication and at great personal sacrifice, and risk, Metsola and Casa have leveraged Malta’s EU membership to fight particular aspects of Labour’s bad governance. For this effort they have been called traitors by various high-placed government officials.
This narrow-minded and ridiculous accusation has been taken up by hordes of Labour adherents and random columnists. A very non-European, stupid and intolerant behaviour.
Rather, Metsola and Casa deserve our gratitude and support since with their commitment they sustain our aspiration to become truly European. Their re-election to the EU Parliament will allow this aspiration to survive. Much as there are many other valid candidates, with their track record, Metsola and Casa should be the front runners.
They both display promising leadership qualities that lend hope to a possible recovery of the Nationalist Party. No doubt their election will be a defeat to a menacing Labour Party.
Arthur Muscat is writing in his personal capacity.
This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece
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