The Malta Independent 22 September 2019, Sunday

The European Parliament as a platform for opportunity

Thursday, 23 May 2019, 07:52 Last update: about 5 months ago

Robert Micallef

I believe the Maltese electorate deserves to be represented by MEPs who genuinely have the Island’s future at heart. In submitting my candidacy for the European elections of 25 May, I choose to use as basic sustenance two key elements in my EU career so far – my work on the accession negotiations as an official of the European Commission during which I served as the economist of the EU delegation to Malta throughout the preparations and negotiations that led to Malta’s membership, and then my role as a senior official at Malta House in Brussels in preparation for the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union, as well as serving as an EU Presidency negotiator on behalf of the Council.

To have witnessed Malta’s successful accession from close quarters was not only a privilege, but it gave me the impetus to gradually cement a European career, emphatically away from the bitter element of petty Maltese politics which has unfortunately driven some Opposition MEPs in recent years.

Malta’s Presidency of the European Union in 2017 was a challenge many cynics thought could prove the smallest member state was about to bite more than it could chew. The opposite occurred, with Malta and the Maltese once again rising to the occasion and making of that Presidency a remarkable success and certainly a hard act to follow despite the fact it occurred amidst the untimely onset of Brexit and a desperate resort to some unfair, below-the-belt tactics by the Opposition. I recall with pride my role during this Presidency, chairing on behalf of my country a number of key European working committees primarily in the area of finance and development and representing the Council at high-level meetings and tough negotiations with the European Parliament, all of which were carried out in a serene and fruitful atmosphere.

I modestly refer to my role in chairing the EU’s preparations for the European External Investment Plan that will mobilize € 44 billion of investments in Africa and the EU's neighbourhood. This was one of the main deliverables of Malta’s EU Presidency and is now the EU’s long term plan to address the root causes of migration by creating ecoomic and social opportunities across the African continent.

Europe is on the threshold of a new socio-political era and Malta needs to have her representatives ready and willing to face the onslaught from within and without the EU’s highest institution. There are burning issues, such as immigration, taxation and many on-going external challenges, that will need to be addressed in what is highly likely to be a boiling cauldron in Brussels and Strasbourg. Malta’s voice has to be heard, heard clearly, and heard convincingly. In my opinion, the European Parliament should not be a platform for partisan confrontation but an opportunity to strive for economic and social openings for everyone.

Malta’s proven European conviction is a major asset in its drive to retain what has been won and achieved since 2013. I see it as my new avenue to trudge after the initial thoroughfares I have traversed in a European context over the years since I first taught political and European studies at our university, edited Eurobarometer surveys for the European Commission, served as an advisor in the European Parliament and, in earlier days, elected with Federica Mogherini, the EU’s current High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, to the leadership board of the European Youth Forum in Brussels.

It is a commitment I eagerly make as I reach out to an electorate that, since 2004, has shown an inclination towards a keener approach to European politics from both a national and regional perspective. Moving away from the sapping attitude of a Europe embroiled in internal and external issues is perhaps the ultimate target of every EU-committed individual. It is in everyone’s interest that these elections do not take the form of an autopsy, but are seen and felt as more of a welcome process of rejuvenation. Only in this way can the present worrisome wave of populism and nationalistic division be overcome.

 

Robert Micallef is a Labour party candidate for the European Parliament, formerly an economist employed by the European Commission and a negotiator for Malta’s EU Presidency

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