The Malta Independent 30 May 2020, Saturday

A union of people

Carmelo Abela Friday, 22 May 2020, 06:41 Last update: about 7 days ago

Last week, in order to commemorate Europe Day, I contributed to an online discussion about the Future of Europe which was organised by MEUSAC.

I must say that as Minister responsible for Social Dialogue I am indeed proud to be able to collaborate with the team at MEUSAC in order to demystify the European Union and make it more relevant to our everyday lives.

In its 12 years of operations, MEUSAC has assisted some 470 organisations to benefit from €60M in EU funds. Throughout our conversation I was happy to witness all civil society representatives lauding MEUSAC’s sterling work in the area of funding-related support for research via personalised assistance in applications for EU funds. Others mentioned the valuable information given by MEUSAC on Malta’s stand on various proposals of policies and legislation; along with the work on tying organisations with EU counterparts.

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I am convinced that by further enhancing its output and its already laudable efforts, MEUSAC can indeed become one of the most effective bridges that the Maltese citizen can have to the European institutions. In fact this will be one of my main targets for this legislature.

During the discussion, which was held together with representatives of social partners and civil society, we managed to touch upon a myriad of topics that are all central to the state of the Union.

The main point that I wanted to highlight was my belief that the EU should be more people centric: of the people, close to the people, for the people. Indeed I believe that both the depiction and the functioning of the Union should be more that of a Union of people, rather than an EU of leaders or individual countries.

Solidarity, sustainability and youth

Moving on, I also believe that when the founding fathers of the European Union envisioned a united Europe, they imagined a Europe of solidarity not of individualism; a Europe where member states stick up for each other. The version of the EU that we have witnessed throughout the first stages of COVID-19 has shown cracks that are worrying. However we should not despair as we have seen how we are already learning from our own mistakes.

 

Let’s make this an opportunity for us to work closer across borders, be it in our health sectors and also in job creation and retention. Being close to each other in difficult times will definitely reinforce our sense of union.

Sustainable development is another space that could bring Brussels closer to our homes. Our mantra needs to be always that of making the best use of our resources. The institutions need to show that they truly understand and believe that the decisions that are taken today will change the lives of millions of Europeans, the day after tomorrow.

Europe’s role on the world stage

I also believe that the EU becomes more relevant when it takes up a clearer global role. We need more EU on the global stage and I mean this not just in terms of visibility, but because of my belief that our contribution is ever more needed on the world stage at this moment in history.

If anything, we can start by showing our mettle in the regions surrounding the EU. An effective Union should strive to deal with problems at the roots, before further problems stem. Vis-a-vis the African continent, what this means is harnessing economic growth, so that native Africans will have a better future at home leading to less problems with migration and human trafficking.

Apart from that, peace in the Mediterranean is a must. There can be no peace in Europe without peace in the Mediterranean, and hence a common front which is respectful of international agreements is needed in this regard.

It is via these tangible and pragmatic methods that the EU can become more relevant. It is through such action and spirit that it can carve out a place not just in the future of our political landscape, but also in the future of our communities and everyday lives.

Carmelo Abela is a Minister within the Office of the Prime Minister 

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