Giving our active youth tools to change the world

We must motivate and encourage engagement. Rather than seeing activism as a threat, we must cultivate a critical and opined society. Whatever medium and tools are chosen to put forward thoughts and ideas, they should be made available and known

I truly believe that young people should and can change the world. Albeit a recent debate in our media questioned our youth’s activism, last week was one of results - most of which came because different groups of young people understood the power of activism.

While on Saturday I was closely following the protest on Kemmuna to free the beach to all those wanting to make use of it, I received a message on Facebook from a University student called Nigel, asking for a meeting on an upcoming vote in a joint meeting of the European Parliament’s ENVI and ECON committees.

The only time I could meet Nigel was on Monday morning at the airport before my weekly flight to Brussels. To my surprise, Nigel did not come alone. He was joined by another four students, all of whom had exams on the same day. Yet, they all felt it was important to halt their studies to speak to me on the Taxonomy Delegated Act I was bound to vote on the next morning.

They reminded me of my youth activism. It all starts with a dream. Mine was that of changing Malta from zero to hero on LGBTIQ rights and equality. Some used to tell me that it would be impossible to change conservative Malta and that it would take decades to achieve something close to my dream. Yet, in my last year as a youth (according to the European Union age 35), Malta took over the first spot on the ILGA Europe Rainbow map.

I was ecstatic to communicate with Nigel, Mariah, Michele, Nicos and Julia that during the vote at Committee stage, we rejected the European Commission’s classification of gas and nuclear sources for energy production as green.

An important step in our journey towards a carbon neutral Europe in 2050.

They had come to the meeting so prepared, not only with an analysis of the delegated act but also with statistics, alternatives and a vision for the future that I really hoped they would see the results they worked for.

My inclination to vote the way I did was already there, as was that of my group the Socialists and Democrats, but with the meeting, I reaffirmed my conviction and wanted to let those who met me know that with their activism, they were part of the world we are striving to change in the European Parliament.

Seeing democracy at work is always humbling. Civil society has a big role to play and we must protect and motivate it. It is for these reasons that I’ve been very much active in the LIBE Committee, in its joint work with the JURI Committee and my friend and colleague from the Socialists Tiemo Wölken, in the report on the protection of journalists and our amendments to include civil society protection.

Protecting civil society is as important as protecting journalists. Those who are at the forefront advocating for change are always in the line of fire. This could be seen this week too during a press conference held by Women’s Rights Foundation as they filed a judicial protest by a number of women fighting for their sexual and reproductive health and rights. No matter where one stands on the debate, we need to protect everyone’s right to voice their opinion and also use all legal avenues at their disposal to achieve what they believe in.

Today many activists in Malta choose to push their message through social media rather than protests in the streets, as we did in my youth. Although sometimes we still do see street protests like the one this week advocating for more animal welfare in Valletta.

We must motivate and encourage engagement. Rather than seeing activism as a threat, we must cultivate a critical and opined society. Whatever medium and tools are chosen to put forward thoughts and ideas, they should be made available and known.

From my first days as a Member of the European Parliament, I opened my office for those seeking change. Whatever that change would be, even if it was something I was unsure of or did not believe in. I launched a programme called Walk With A Progressive, where I get to spend a whole week with a young or highly opined progressive person in my office in Brussels or Strasbourg.

They would job shadow me and be included in all I do in the European Parliament, including in the legislative decision making process.

With the high response of people wanting to walk with us on this journey of change, and with each and every person that has already inspired us during their week in our office, I can wholeheartedly say that yes, many of our youth have a dream, are active and want to change the world. Its the world that needs to provide them with tools to achieve results. My office will always remain a tool at their disposal for change.