The Malta Independent 17 May 2022, Tuesday

Climate change, justice, and making Europe better: Metsola’s maiden speech as Parliament President

Albert Galea Tuesday, 18 January 2022, 12:27 Last update: about 5 months ago

Roberta Metsola gave her maiden speech as European Parliament President soon after taking the coveted seat on Tuesday morning, giving due focus to things such as climate change, truth and justice, and to what needs to be done to make Europe a better place and one which offers hope to everyone in it.

Metsola on Tuesday became only the third female European Parliament President, and became the youngest to ever hold the role – even if she was elected on her birthday.  She is also the first Maltese person to ever hold such a high post in a European institution, having been elected with a mammoth 74% of the vote.

ADVERTISEMENT

Starting her maiden speech as European Parliament President in Maltese, Metsola said that she was honoured with the responsibility that she has been entrusted, and promises that she will work with all her energy in the name of the Parliament and for the good of European citizens.

In Italian, she offered her tributes once again to her predecessor Davide Sassoli, who passed away last week.

Switching to English, she said that she would always stand up for Europe, and for its common values of democracy, dignity, justice, solidarity, equality, rule of law and fundamental rights and for the politics of hope and the promise of the European Union.

“I want people to recapture a sense of belief and enthusiasm for our project. A belief to make our shared space safer, fairer, more just and more equal,” she said.

Metsola said that there must be a fight back against the anti-EU narrative “that takes hold so easily and so quickly”, and against disinformation and misinformation, which has been further amplified during the pandemic, which “fuels easy cynicism and cheap solutions of nationalism, authoritarianism, protectionism, isolationism.”

“These are a false illusion offering no solutions. Europe is about the opposite,” she said.

“It is about all of us standing up for one another, bringing our people closer together. It is about all of us defending those principles of our founding mothers and fathers that led us from the ashes of war and holocaust to peace, to hope, to prosperity,” she continued.

She said that the European Parliament matters.  She said that it matters to judges who are under attack, to health care frontliners, to women fighting for their rights, to the vulnerable, the oppressed, and the abused.

It matters, she said, to those forced to flee from natural disasters, to the families of those killed in terror attacks; to armed forces and law enforcement serving under difficult conditions; to those seeking protection; to farmers, NGOs, entrepreneurs, LGBTIQ communities, to those discriminated against based on their religion, skin colour, or gender identity – and to “all those who believe in the promise of Europe.”

“This House matters - and when people look to us to defend our values they will find an ally,” she said.

She said that for people to look to Europe with confidence, MEPs must burst through the Strasbourg and Brussels bubble to bring Europe, its ideals, and decisions to people in different towns and villages across the continent.

Turning to policy, Metsola focused first on climate change, saying that the European Green Deal and the pledge for Europe to become the first carbon free continent is the right answer to this crisis.

“This is not only a necessity and an urgency, it is also an opportunity for Europe to take the lead, to re-invent itself, to ensure growth, sustainability and prosperity, while reducing emissions,” she said.

She said that the economy cannot decouple itself from the environment, and that businesses need easier access to funding which will allow and innovative spirit to take hold in the continent.

Europe needs to be at the forefront of digital transformation, and keep following the model of “open economies and open societies.”

She noted that Europe’s collective security – particularly as Ukraine faces attacks on its sovereignty and territorial integrity – remains a common challenge.

“For the European Union to remain credible and exert its influence globally, we have to remain principled. This is our true strength. For autocrats and despots the EU is a threat, simply by existing,” she said.

She said that Europe, while having a legacy of war, also has a legacy of healing, and that this experience must be used to end the separation in the EU’s last divided country: Cyprus – where a part of the country is still occupied by Turkey.

She said that the House must also reverse the lost momentum when it comes to the EU’s relationship with the Western Balkans

Turning to those who are critical of Europe, she said to those who seek to destroy Europe: “know that this House stands against you.”

“To those who attempt to undermine democracy, the rule of law, free speech and fundamental rights, who see women as a target, and who deny the rights to our LGBTIQ citizens - know that this House will never accept it,” she said.

“To those who try to blackmail Europe through hybrid attacks, this Parliament will not weaken solidarity among members - know that Dictators will never divide us,” she continued.

“And, let me say, to the families of Daphne Caruana Galizia and Jan Kuciak, journalists killed for doing their job: your fight for truth and justice is our fight. To the loved ones of Olivier Dubois, abducted for almost 300 days in Mali I say his struggle for freedom must become our struggle,” she added.

Metsola said that Europe’s political model needs to be one that empowers and that is diverse so it can motivate a younger and more sceptical audience to believe in Europe.

She said that having the first female President of the House since 1999 in herself matters, but that it must go further.

“Our Institution’s commitment to having more diversity, gender equality, guaranteeing women’s rights - all our rights - must be reaffirmed,” she said.

“I know I stand on the shoulders of giants. The shoulders of Simone Veil - Auschwitz inmate 7-8-6-5-1 - who tore off the shackles of that painful part of our European history to blaze a path through ceilings as the first woman to be European Parliament President; the shoulders of the millions of nameless women who endured so much and who fought for us to have the opportunities they were never afforded,” she said.

“The shoulders of Ashling, Paulina and all the other women whose lives have already been stolen this year. The shoulders of Europe’s displaced and the disappeared; on all those who fought and suffered under totalitarianism and sacrificed everything for Europe,” she continued.

This is a reference to Polish national Paulina Dembska who was brutally murdered in Malta at the turn of the New Year, and to Ashling Murphy, an Irish teacher who was found dead after going for a run in her home country.

“On the shoulders of all those who believed and who believe still. We stand here thanks to them. We stand here for them,” she concluded.

  • don't miss