The Malta Independent 22 September 2019, Sunday

An end to partisanship

Sunday, 19 May 2019, 08:38 Last update: about 5 months ago

Robert Micallef

It is to be ardently hoped that the forthcoming European elections will help us start a new chapter that overrides the strictures of petty politics and re-guides Malta’s new MEP team into an era of cooperation

 

During the past few years it has become increasingly frustrating to watch Malta’s name being unfairly dragged through the mud inside the European Parliament, the result of partisan machinations on the part of Opposition MEPs riding on the EPP bandwagon. It has occurred in stark contrast to the island’s manifest economic success, its remarkable management of EU funds and impressive role over such issues as immigration and Brexit.

It was not like this before 2013, when we had a change of government after 25 years. Until that historic electoral event, Maltese MEPs had given a most interesting display of harmony inside the European Parliament. They worked together, they backed each other and they showed a united front on all issues of particular interest to those who had, after all, elected them – the Maltese people.

However, one could not say they set an example to the rest of EP delegations from the other 27 member states. That was exactly what one expected of representatives from the same country, and the history of the EU’s highest institution is replete with such renditions of national unity among MEPs with contrasting ideological backgrounds. So what triggered the volte-face post-2013?

Sadly for Malta, the MEPs who had been on the governing side until that year were seemingly not prepared to offer the same positive caucus mentality that had prevailed in the previous years, since the EU’s inception, now that they found themselves representing a party emphatically sent into Opposition. Suddenly, their main errand was delivering the same negative partisan packet produced in the national parliament to Brussels and Strasbourg, regardless of the inevitable impact it would have on both the Maltese people and the economy.

That most of their tactics failed to obstruct the gradual growth of the national economy into what it is today – strong, sustainable and still growing – is all due to three main reasons: 1) The Labour MEPs did their work in mitigating the effect of all the negativism hurled at Malta by their Maltese counterparts and a few of their misled friends; 2) Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s high level of trust among other European leaders and EU institutions and 3) The Maltese people’s overwhelming support for the Labour Government.

It must be infuriating for some to realise how their destructive strategies have not produced the desired result – that of derailing a popular government, confirmed in power in another general election victory in 2017. Inevitably, there has been a public and internal backlash for the PN, reflected in the current pitiful state of the Opposition Party and the consistently pro-Labour opinion poll ratings.

It would be wrong, however, to give the impression that all is well and Malta can look at the forthcoming European Parliament elections as merely another opportunity for the good guys to prevail against the bad guys. Unfortunately, politics does not work like that. Hence the need for a cautious approach to the next electoral exercise which will determine who will be Malta’s six representatives in the European Parliament.

People will vote and people will expect all six of them to find a reasonable way of bringing back the unison and harmony that once existed, regardless of on-going national controversies, rooted ideological differences and old political scores. Not only is it not too much to ask from our representatives, but it is also a prerequisite, a major criterion, for those of us who are pledging to bring about this much-needed change in Malta’s European mind-set.

To say people are tired of the current scenario of confrontation would be an understatement. For MEPs to cooperate in the best interests of the country is not a choice, but a demand that has been – and continues to be – echoed across the political divide.

The Maltese electorate will have its say on 25 May. It is a voice to be listened to, to be trusted and taken on board by all those involved in this democratic exercise. Ignoring it is to the peril of those who do, for the message is reaching us loud and clear enough. It is not addressed to one side or the other. It reaches both, entreating each and every one of us who eventually manage to cross the electoral threshold, into seeking – albeit rediscovering – the path that leads to a better, more united Maltese front in all European institutions. This certainly also applies to the European Parliament where, it cannot be denied, national interests have always been – and will always be – a priority for all elected representatives.

Looking back in anger won’t help. It is to be ardently hoped that the forthcoming European elections will help us start a new chapter that rightly overrides the strictures of petty politics, re-guiding Malta’s new MEP team, from both Government and Opposition sides, into an era of more cooperation, mutual ambitions for the nation and more respect for those who expect from each and every Maltese MEP these very things. In a nutshell: an end to partisanship in the European Parliament.

 

 

Robert Micallef, Labour MEP candidate, was a negotiator for Malta’s Presidency of the European Union and an economist with the European Commission.

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