The Malta Independent 19 November 2018, Monday

Lawrence Gonzi retires from politics

David Casa Saturday, 27 July 2013, 09:24 Last update: about 6 years ago

As with any politician in a polarized nation such a Malta, the praise one is bound to receive tends to be dependent on political allegiances. Last week Lawrence Gonzi, Malta’s former Prime Minister, delivered his last speech in the Parliament. This was followed by a series of speeches from both sides of the House, full of praise for a person who will surely be remembered as a great statesman. 

After 25 years of remarkable service Gonzi has decided to retire from politics to spend more time with his family. His long career in the House of Representatives began in 1988 when he was made Speaker, a position he held for both the sixth and seventh legislature. During his farewell speech to Gonzi, PM Joseph Muscat praised Gonzi for being the best orator in the House. Gonzi always sought ways to improve parliamentary processes and while serving as speaker he took the initiative to introduce a number of reforms such as the setting up of permanent committees and the introduction of a number of new procedures covering matters relating to the time established for the debate between the two sides of the House.

After successfully contesting the 1996 elections Gonzi became a Member of Parliament for PN. Due to his hard working nature he quickly assumed greater responsibility within the party undertaking a number of roles such as opposition Whip, Shadow Minister for Social Policy and Secretary to the Parliamentary Party. Shortly after he became Secretary General of the Nationalist Party. His success did not stop there and the dedicated politician quickly climbed the party ranks. After his re-election in 1998 the ever popular Gonzi was appointed Minister for Social Policy and Leader of the House of Representatives. In addition, he served as Deputy Prime Minister. He maintained these positions until 2004. This was an important year for Gonzi as he was victorious in the PN leadership contest and was appointed Prime Minister, a fitting role for natural leader. At this time Malta had just become a member of the European Union. Gonzi, as Minister for Social Policy, played a vital role in ensuring Malta received the best possible deal during the accession stage. Assuming the position of Minister for Finance, Gonzi was at the forefront of Malta's accession to the Eurozone. Prior to joining the Eurozone Malta was required to comply with the Maastricht criteria; which necessitated Malta to restructure its economy. While introducing the necessary economic reforms Gonzi once again demonstrated his ability to take the initiative and introduced improvements to the management of public finances, increased Malta's competitiveness on an international scale and accelerated the restructuring process of the public sector.

Unsurprisingly, Gonzi was re-elected Prime Minister in 2008. His greatest task in foreign policy was the Libyan Crisis in 2011. Malta played an important role in the crisis. Not only did it provide safety for the foreign nationals evacuated from Libya, but it also allowed NATO jets implementing the UN's no fly zone to land in Malta facilitating an exchange of information with NATO. Malta's assistance during the crisis has been recognised by the Transnational Council which took over after Gaddafi was removed from power. Gonzi handled the crisis in a truly skilful and diplomatic manner. This challenge clearly highlights Gonzi's natural leadership skills and demonstrates his strong belief in human rights. This belief is also evident in the tremendous work Gonzi has carried out to improve conditions for people with disabilities and change the negative mentality towards such vulnerable group of society.

 

Gonzi also made significant improvements to the private sector, particularly with regards to employment. From 2004 to February 2013 2,800 jobs were created every year. Furthermore, average salaries increased by 33%. He also succeeded in widening the middle class and increasing the number of women in the labour force. Gonzi managed to effectively navigate Malta through the economic crisis, allowing the country to emerge relatively untouched. He is leaving behind a legacy of reformed social, economic and educational structure as well as €1,128 million in EU funding for Malta. The achievements discussed here are just the tip of the iceberg in Gonzi's long successful career as he never shied away from any responsibility or challenge.

During his last day in the House of Representatives Gonzi received numerous farewell speeches from both sides of the House. Prime Minster Joseph Muscat thanked Gonzi for all his advice on dealing with the EU Council. Muscat continued by stating that despite belonging to opposing parties he had great respect for Gonzi who was a strong political adversary and a man who stuck to his values. Simon Busuttil and Anglu Farrugia also gave farewell speeches and Robert Cutajar organised an event in his honour. Gonzi also received messages from the President of the Commission Barroso, Commissioner Tajani and the President of Luxembourg. They all spoke very highly of Gonzi and acknowledged his great contribution to creating a stronger, more effective Europe.

 
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