The new President

Thankfully, the country has been saved the useless bickering and ridiculous arguments that would have done more harm to the Opposition than to the President

What is most important is that George Vella’s integrity throughout his long political career was never in doubt by anyone, not even by the most avid PN supporter
What is most important is that George Vella’s integrity throughout his long political career was never in doubt by anyone, not even by the most avid PN supporter

The decision taken by the PN Parliamentary group to support the nomination of Dr George Vella as Malta’s next President should not surprise anyone. Under its previous leadership, the PN also supported the nomination of George Vella’s predecessor, Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca – a decision that was not in line with the style of politics practised by the Opposition at the time.

The PN’s decision not to support the nomination would have been a sorry repeat of the short-sighted mistake that Labour under KMB did when Censu Tabone was nominated President. Thankfully, the country has been saved the useless bickering and ridiculous arguments that would have done more harm to the Opposition than to the President.

As Adrian Delia should have realised by now, being in the Opposition is a very frustrating business. Acting in a hysterical way and opposing all that the government of the day dishes out, however, devalues one’s credentials. This is what happened to Simon Busuttil’s leadership, in spite of all his good intentions.

Keen supporters of the PN, obviously, liked his ‘all out’ negative approach, but just playing their favourite tune is tantamount to preaching to the converted and does not help the Opposition in any way. The PN still has a mountain to climb and the sooner it realistically comprehends the severity of the uphill struggle ahead of it, the better.

More important, moreover, is that the choice of George Vella is a very wise decision. I must confess that I never was a fan of George Vella, mostly because there are some aspects of George Vella’s temperament that grate to the minds of some people like me, but that is completely irrelevant. What is most important is that George Vella’s integrity throughout his long political career was never in doubt by anyone, not even by the most avid PN supporter.

In our current Constitutional set-up – that will take more years to be revised, if ever – the President has very limited powers. But he represents the country as a whole and choosing a man of undisputed integrity as President is very sensible in the circumstances that the country finds itself today.

I need not go once again into the gory details about contracts and deals that have put Joseph Muscat’s administrations to shame. I had no qualms about writing about them and will not shrink away from doing so whenever the spectre of lack of propriety and of malicious lack of transparency raises its head.

What we needed was, in fact, a national assertion that integrity comes before everything else. Choosing George Vella as President goes a long way to assert this important aspect of our national character.

The new contestant

The news was carried in last Sunday’s front pages of this newspaper and the Sunday Times – surely no coincidence. The way the story made it to the two papers concurrently is, to say the least, uncanny.

The reports said that Minister Konrad Mizzi intends to contest the election of Labour Party leader when Joseph Muscat retires – as he has promised to do at the end of this legislature.

Some people thought that this was a joke – and I do not blame them. For the few who think that Konrad Mizzi is just a very clever and capable man, this was ‘manna’ from heaven. Unfortunately there is a negative side to Konrad Mizzi that has been exposed over and over again and this makes his leadership bid a very bleak idea – to the extent that it will extinguish all the positive aura that Joseph Muscat has manged to instil in the ‘forma mentis’ of the entire Labour Party.

Whether this bid originated from the man himself without any external pushing – something he is quite capable of doing – is an intriguing point. It may well be just a move to upset the applecart of one known potential contestant, Chris Fearne, to the benefit of the other known potential contestant, Miriam Dalli.

This is the sort of game that is played in political parties when the card-carrying members have to choose between personalities such as in a leadership contest.

Chris Fearne is a ‘no-nonsense’ man and as Labour leader he will certainly push to clean the party’s Augean stables. That would not please Konrad Mizzi, of course. The issue is even more complicated as Chris Fearne and Konrad Mizzi contest the same electoral district where their competition for votes goes down to the level of the ordinary citizen.

Konrad Mizzi’s bid might be just an exercise in self-preservation – a very bold attempt at political survival après Joseph.

The new Europe

The initiative taken by the French President, Emmanuel Macron, to publish an article on newspapers in all the EU member states last Tuesday, signifies a new approach to European politics.

In the UK it was published by The Guardian under the title: ‘Dear Europe, Brexit is a lesson for all of us: it’s time for renewal’. In Malta, the article was published by The Malta Independent under a more simple title: ‘Renewing Europe.’

The French President laid out his vision for the EU calling for a “European renaissance” and proposing a raft of new policies and institutions to implement them. He also called for a conference to rethink the EU political project, saying even changes to the bloc’s governing treaties should not be taboo.

He explained the reason d’être for his push: “We cannot let nationalists without solutions exploit the people’s anger. We cannot sleepwalk through a diminished Europe. We cannot become ensconced in business as usual and wishful thinking. European humanism demands action.”

Trade is the area where his proposals represent the most radical shift from the status quo. Macron appealed for a ‘European preference’ in public procurement and says the EU should “reshape our trade policy, penalising or banning businesses that compromise our strategic interests and fundamental values.” He also called for penalising businesses that compromise environmental standards in trade.

The French President also touched other areas such as competition, technology, the EU budget, the euro, food and agriculture, environment as well as migration and security.

The EU must reform or die – and Macron has decided to take the bull by the horns.

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