The Malta Independent 15 April 2024, Monday
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‘We have to show Brussels that the periphery states matter’ – Volt Malta MEP candidate

Kyle Patrick Camilleri Sunday, 11 February 2024, 09:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

An MEP candidate from Volt Malta has spoken of the need to show the European institutions that periphery states matter, adding that "we cannot have policies that are redundant and somewhat outdated that are harming states like Malta, Spain, Cyprus, Ireland and others".

Speaking to The Malta Independent on Sunday, Volt Malta's thus far sole MEP candidate, 21-year-old Matthias Iannis Portelli, said that what differentiates Volt Malta from other political parties, in his opinion, are their long-term solutions. "Most parties tend to, unfortunately, disregard the reality of the future of politics. Portelli also said that as a member state of the European Union, it is important to work alongside it, as "our future resides there".

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"I believe in our policies, that they are the solution and that they are a long-term solution to end the current problems we have," Portelli said. He made these comments while saying that other political parties' short-term visions may see them propose good policies, however, he said that short-term visions do not greatly affect the future. He said that through its long-term focus, Volt Malta does not entrap itself into a policy cycle whereby in five years' time "we have to again revise issues, burning money and time".

The young MEP candidate believes that it is good that Volt Malta are more progressive than other local parties, and that, as a result, he trusts that youths appreciate their form of "honest politics", which he described as being firm in what they believe in, even if some people disagree. Referencing the recent legalisation of cannabis as an example, Portelli believes that "the country cannot be labelled as totally conservative" and that "if we begin to have these conversations, the people may surprise us".

While discussing his party's progressive stance in contrast to Malta's historically perceived conservative beliefs, Portelli said: "Malta has a funny history in this regard - we tend to be the most advanced LGTBIQ+ country in Europe and the world, but then we have archaic stances and opinions on pro-choice, for example." On the heated abortion issue, Volt Malta is the first firmly pro-choice party on the Maltese islands. Portelli had said that "some parties tend to shy away from having a firm grip with it or that they only seem in favour of it when public discourse tends to lean in that direction".

Portelli, who is currently a Master's student, told this newsroom that he joined Volt Europa in 2020 after feeling "politically homeless" and that "there is too much dichotomy in Malta".

He decided to contest this June's European Parliament election as, he said, it is important to show that "there is a political alternative and that there is a way forward in a healthy, progressive way".

"I just want to do my part to show the Maltese and other EU citizens in Malta that I want to better the islands, life on the islands, but also life for people in Europe", he said. The progressive MEP candidate noted that MEPs represent all Europeans, and therefore, feels it wrong to say that he should only act for Maltese.

Referencing Volt's ambitions, he said that they want to reform the European Union, strengthen its geopolitical leadership, improve quality of life across the Union, have more humane migration policies and also have a more sustainable and habitable environment.

He added that Volt Malta's manifesto is influenced by other foreign Volt subsidiaries, known as "Chapters", in order for the pan-European movement to retain the same beliefs across Europe. Volt Europa's end goal is to attain 23 seats in the European Parliament so that they may form their own Volt parliamentary group, he said. Noting that the politicians of other European Parliament parliamentary groups have similar values that still differ to certain degrees, the introduction of a Volt faction within the European Parliament would be the first time a pan-European movement/party would take up an entire EP parliamentary group exclusively for its own party members, he said.

He stated that Volt aims to enhance the EU's geopolitical influence across the continent, with the goal of bolstering peace within the Union amid ongoing conflicts in its neighbouring regions. "It must step up its game and cannot simply rely on others to maintain peace," Portelli added.

On climate change, the MEP candidate highlighted the need for pro-environment policies to be "properly cohesive, yet flexible enough to help us adapt to technical challenges". This is something that, in his view, "the EU doesn't fully understand" and something that "other parties fail to acknowledge".

On the issue of migration, Portelli spoke in favour of human rights. He said that "we have to understand that we must tackle the source, though we cannot just be savage and disregard human life". Moreover, "we must help and do our best to mitigate that loss and also help to take care of other human beings". In this regard, he said that if a natural disaster had to hit the Maltese islands and greatly affect Maltese, we would not want to be treated in the same manner we tend to treat foreigners and migrants.

 

Looking back at the 2022 general election

The upcoming European Parliament elections are going to be Volt Malta's second participating elections, meaning that the 2022 general election was Volt Malta's first locally.

The party had acquired the least number of votes among all contesting parties in the 2022 general election, though despite this, Portelli says that his party "only has room to grow now".

Portelli said that Volt Malta only contested in four out of 13 districts in 2022, and stated that the party was happy with the results and feedback received. "The results were pretty much great, for the first time."

He told this newsroom that they were content with their results for two reasons. Firstly, Portelli noted the party's financial restrictions. Secondly, he said that according to feedback the party received since then, Volt Malta discovered that most of their members and supporters do not reside within the districts they had contested in during the 2022 general election. As such, they have a much more positive view towards the EP elections this June, since there is no district limitation. He further mentioned that one of the party's two candidates in 2022 initiated their campaign relatively late in the process.

The party, he said, will try to capitalise on social media reach and narrative-building through a more digital campaign. Competing with the major parties and their own party media is "frustrating", Portelli stated, though elaborated that Volt Malta "must adapt to the times" and continue striving to appeal to the public, which is why they are pushing for a more digital campaign in preparation for this June.

Portelli said they aim to run a campaign this year with three main goals: to make the party, its name, and its values better known, in spite of what he said was misinformation on what the party stands for; to reach or get close to the election quota and to "empower voters to be more active citizens and help them to question what we and other parties are saying".

The 2022 general election attained the lowest turnout for a Maltese general election since Malta gained independence. Regarding this matter, Portelli pointed out that this is a concern shared by all political parties, and he anticipated an even lower turnout for the European elections.

Looking from an optimistic view, Portelli said that European elections are known to better favour third parties historically, and he hopes that through MEP debates, pre-existing mentalities can be changed. Portelli also believes that third parties are "definitely" on the rise in the Maltese islands.

He said that with his party's progressive core set of beliefs, their targeted demographic are young voters. According to him, they are the "most likely to appreciate their policies and proposals".

If elected, he said that he has one main goal - to change the perception that "Brussels does not care about Southern people", such as Maltese, and with that, strengthening the voice of the periphery states and their citizens. As an example, he noted that the EU tends to push in favour of transport via trains, though this does not affect the native citizens of island states like Malta and Cyprus.

Looking to the future, Portelli said that following this campaign, his party will have even more knowledge, skill and will to enhance both their grassroots efforts and relationships with diverse communities, to begin preparing for the next general election. "In doing so, hopefully we grow enough for our message to grow in the national scene and for voters to understand how we specifically want to change certain things."

 


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