The Malta Independent 19 June 2021, Saturday

TMID Editorial: Not only a conference – Europe’s future

Wednesday, 12 May 2021, 09:10 Last update: about 2 months ago

The conference on the future of Europe was launched last Sunday, an appropriate date, given that for the past years it has been celebrated as Europe Day.

The event will span over several months and end in early 2022, and among other things it will serve to offer each and every European citizen the opportunity to voice concerns and also make suggestions on how the concept of Europe will move forward.

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Since the concept of a united Europe came to be soon after the end of World War II, the bloc has evolved, not only by moving from an initial commercial and economic association into the far wider spectrum of general politics and relationships with non-EU countries. It has also grown from the initial six member states to 27, while other countries are seeking to join. Only Britain has chosen to leave the group, a process that took years to complete and which is still causing repercussions, particularly in terms of trade.

The idea to have European nations coming together to form one common front – after centuries of warfare which culminated in the 1939-1945 war that had a devastating effect on most of Europe – was commendable. Now that what started as the European Economic Community in 1957 is in its seventh decade, it must take into account all that it has stood for in all these years and look ahead.

Over the years, EU leaders and European institutions have been accused of living in a bubble. They were told that they were not listening to the needs of their citizens, and that very often they took decisions which were unpopular. They were also blamed for procrastinating on matters of vital importance and for adding to the already heavy bureaucracy of the European structure.

But a united Europe has also led to beneficial results to the community, projects which aided the development of the individual countries and the uplifting of standards, especially in nations which are less rich than other members.

The EU is not perfect, far from it. As an institution, for example, it has failed to show enough solidarity with its own members states in the south when it comes to migration issues. Malta is one of the countries that are negatively affected by the phenomenon, and it has often found itself isolated in dealing with evolving situations when people’s lives were at risk. In this respect, and in other spheres, the EU must take action.

Malta has been an EU member for 17 years, during which the country has reached targets which would have otherwise gone astray without European membership. Since 1 May 2004, there have been more benefits than losses for the country. The funds that Malta obtained from the EU – under both the Nationalist and Labour administrations – have aided the country to move forward and will continue to do so over the next seven-year period covered by the latest financial agreement.

Not everyone is happy. And this is why the conference that started last Sunday could become important. Citizens, particularly those who are disenchanted by the European ideal, have the opportunity to speak up.

Now is the time to do so.

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