A recent Eurobarometer survey found Maltese trust in the EU’s direction has plummeted 40 per cent in a year with 36 per cent saying things are headed in the wrong direction and the same percentage unsure. Malta’s MEPs reflect on this result. Giulia Magri writes
Time to reboot – Roberta Metsola
European Parliament president and MEP Roberta Metsola said politicians cannot ignore people who feel distant or disillusioned, and that failing to address such issues will only lead to increased polarisation and radicalisation.
“I believe it is time to reform and reboot the European Union,” she said.
What with Brexit, the unprecedented pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the climate emergency, people were living through difficult times, she said.
“Europe needs to invest in its future, in the green and digital transitions. But in doing this we have to make sure not to leave anyone behind. We need to create a safety net for our businesses and keep a human-centric approach.”
She said a crucial part of her job was to listen to people’s concerns and understand their hopes and expectations. Maltese and Gozitans were interested in how MEPs’ decisions affected their daily lives and how they could help improve life in Malta.
“Twenty years after joining the EU, Europe is no longer a distant entity. Europe is us. It is Mosta and Ħamrun. It is Victoria and Għarb. It is our currency, our security and our future.”
She said next year’s European elections were an opportunity for the voter’s voice to be heard.
“Your vote matters.”
Focus on citizens’ priorities – Alex Agius Saliba
MEP Alex Agius Saliba said the main reason for the decline in trust was that the EU was not giving priority to the most pressing issues that citizens were currently facing.
“EU citizens want to see a more social EU and not an EU which chips away our social budget to divert money for ammunition industries,” he said.
He said the EU had to focus more on citizens’ priorities.
“EU citizens want real action when it comes to migration and not only buzzwords and nice talk. EU citizens are fed up with bureaucracy and over-regulation which are hurting our competitiveness and our small businesses.”
Mediterranean countries like Malta and Italy have long argued that EU rules put an excessive burden on border nations.
Premature to draw conclusions – Alfred Sant
MEP Alfred Sant sees the survey in a different light, commenting that Eurobarometer readings do not necessarily have a long-term significance unless they follow a consistent trend over a period of time.
“In the past, such EB readings sometimes went yo-yo,” the former prime minister said.
“So it’s extremely premature to say that the Maltese are falling out of love with the EU if there has ever been such a ‘love’.”
He did recognise that the Maltese are feeling the effects of inflation, just like other EU citizens, and that they too are experiencing increasing uncertainties about the possible outcomes of the Ukraine war.
“And they realise that the necessary Green Deal changes that must come are going to be socially onerous, like transport,” he added.
Another issue is the Mediterranean migration problem and the Maltese overpopulation issue.
“Still, in my view, it is just too early to extract from this EB reading some reliable indication as to how the next EP elections could go,” he said.
Lives more difficult – David Casa
David Casa said such surveys provide a snapshot of the mood of European citizens at a time when they have faced numerous challenges in the last few years.
He said global issues have impacted the livelihoods of EU citizens, including the Maltese, which has resulted in a drop in trust.
“But I think that this result reflects the essential fact that the life of the people in Malta is becoming more and more difficult,” he said.
He noted that earlier this year, a separate Eurobarometer survey found that only 36 per cent of people in Malta thought that the country and its government were heading in the right direction.
“Seen in this context, I believe that when things take a turn for the worse, people look to the EU for solutions.”
He said that it was important for the EU to remain close to the people and intervene when it could.
“And when it is the government’s job to act, then the EU should still make its position clear and offer support in the ways it can.”
Uniformity not the solution – Josianne Cutajar
“The Eurobarometer’s findings are indeed a cause for reflection,” MEP Josianne Cutajar said.
She said the decline in trust in the EU among the Maltese was due to an accumulation of effects brought about by the pandemic, Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and the negative impacts of inflation.
There had been discontent with the EU over issues such as migration, with citizens feeling the pinch of one-size-fits-all policies that did not consider the challenges and needs of small island nations like Malta.
“It is understandable that when faced with policies that feel inapplicable to us, a community may feel overlooked,” she said.
That was why she had presented several amendments to legislation and policies that did not take Malta’s realities into account.
“In my view, the EU must remember that while unity is essential, uniformity is not always the solution,” she said.
“The needs of islands and peripheral regions can differ from the needs of continental Europe. Recognising and respecting these differences is crucial for forging a more united Europe.”
Change the way we work – Cyrus Engerer
MEP Cyrus Engerer said it is time for the EU to change the way it works and make a difference in people’s lives.
He pointed out how for eight years there have been no decisions at EU level regarding migration, due to the system in place which was “not functioning”.
“Maltese people have heard about solidarity, read about solidarity, and year after year we continue to hear this, but nothing has happened and no legislation has been adopted,” he said.
“Unless we change the way we work, this is the result we will have, an EU becoming less attractive at face value.
“When you look deeper, there is a lot happening: 80 per cent of Maltese laws are decided in Brussels, that is how important it is to vote next year.”
He said people expect an EU that makes a positive impact in their lives and bold action from the Commission.
The European Parliament elections are set for June 6-9 next year.