Kicking the nostalgia habit and showing the way forward

Musing over what happened a decade ago will hardly help to solve the challenges of the future. Malta cannot advance by walking backwards

Musing over what happened a decade ago will hardly help to solve the challenges of the future. Malta cannot advance by walking backwards
Musing over what happened a decade ago will hardly help to solve the challenges of the future. Malta cannot advance by walking backwards

Discussion on Malta’s next decade as an EU member, and the future of Europe is largely absent in the local debate. While the Labour Party is not [unsurprisingly] losing much sleep on this matter, leading members of the PN are still musing over what happened a decade ago, when Labour opposed membership in stark contrast to the PN’s foresight.

The EU membership saga is long dead and buried. Four years after Malta joined the EU, the Nationalist Party limped into government. Two years ago the PN was trashed at the polls by a party led by a staunch anti-EU membership campaigner turned MEP. At the last MEP elections Alfred Sant garnered the highest number of votes. It’s time the PN kicks the habit of musing over what happened a decade ago, and instead takes the lead to chart Malta’s next decade as an EU member.

Times have changed, indeed

Ten years ago, Labour warned that EU membership would pave the way for gay marriages; ten years later it had to be a Labour Prime Minister who introduced [and rightly so] civil unions.

Times have changed, indeed. While the Nationalist Party had the right vision for Malta, it failed to read the signs of the times by opposing divorce and abstaining on the civil unions bill – a mistake for which the PN paid dearly. It seems that for the PN EU membership was more about the economy – it has now learned [I hope], at its expense, that it was about cultural change, too.

The PN must take the lead

I expect the Nationalist Party to take the lead, and reflect on Malta’s future role as an EU member.

The 10 policy fora launched by PN leader Simon Busuttil last month, to discuss new and updated political proposals for the party, need to focus their attention on how Malta can benefit further from EU membership and how our country can help shape Europe’s future – namely: Malta’s possible status as a net contributor; an overhaul of the public sector; illegal immigration; energy supplies; youth unemployment; education and health.

A net contributor

With Malta set to become a net contributor to the EU in the coming years it needs to come up with plans, and negotiate changes to the rules to ensure that we do not pay more than our fair share.

Public sector – a complete overhaul

Our public sector needs a complete overhaul – from top to bottom. It is widely acknowledged that there exists a leadership crisis within the public sector which lacks the necessary mind-set to equip Malta to be better prepared for our second decade in the EU. We need more engagement of the private sector with the government to better match the demands of the future workforce. Investment in Research and Development and innovation is crucial if we want to remain competitive; this requires better public policies and a better educational system.

Europe’s shocking failure on migration

Illegal migration is, most definitely, the top most priority. According to the International Organisation of Migration, 500 migrants set sail from Egypt on Saturday, September 6. Hundreds of them died – many families, including up to 70 children, were among the hundreds of people who perished.

That the EU needs to pull up its socks on illegal migration is an understatement. Despite endless summits and meetings, the EU has failed to identify the appropriate way forward. While Malta’s budgetary allocation within the EU’s 2014-2020 multi-annual financial framework stands at almost €80 million, throwing money at the problem is not a long-term solution.

We continue to bear the brunt of migration flows. Stopping the flows is proving to be an impossible task – therefore the EU should find a way to deal with them in an organised manner. Malta needs to work for an agreement so that voluntary relocation would become obligatory relocation. The adoption of a common adoption policy too is needed – a common adoption policy which includes responsibility sharing.

A system of processing applications for migration to Europe in a safe transit country, or closer to migrants’ countries of origin needs to be considered as well. Enough with costly summits, meetings and endless speeches on illegal migration – it’s high time the EU walks the walk on illegal migration. It cannot keep abandoning migrants to their fate – as much as it cannot allow countries like Malta to continue to bear the brunt of illegal migration, due to their geographical position.

Energy supplies

Short-term ‘solutions’ – such as a huge gas tanker anchored in Delimara is not the way forward if what we are after is a reliable, riskless and cost-effective energy supply.  Malta needs to form part of the EU energy network including having a gas pipeline, for its energy supply.

People first

On a European level, Malta should lead calls to make the European Parliament and the Commission more accountable to the EU citizens. Giving Europe a more social orientation should also be a priority for Malta. We need to help reverse the unfortunate mentality, rife within EU institutions, and among leading EU politicians and technocrats, that the internal market is more important than social affairs.

People, their needs and aspirations should always come first. Tackling youth unemployment in the EU is an urgent priority. Overall EU numbers indicate that more than one in five young people still cannot find a job. The youth guarantee is a very positive initiative to tackle youth unemployment, but it is widely acknowledged that national leaders lack the political will to properly implement it.

Other matters include making a lobbyist register obligatory, an absolute priority if the EU is to function in a more transparent manner.

Spectators, unfortunately

I feel that 10 years after EU membership Malta still acts as a spectator rather than as a participant in shaping the future of Europe, and there is little if any debate on Malta’s next 10 years as an EU member. It saddens me. Musing over what happened a decade ago will hardly help to solve the challenges of the future. Malta cannot advance by walking backwards. 

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