20 years on, the Maltese are positive about membership

Respondents to a MaltaToday survey have rated Malta’s experience in the European Union, 20 years since accession

Respondents to a MaltaToday survey have rated Malta’s experience in the European Union, 20 years since accession, an average 3.2 out of five points, with Labour voters rating it 3.3, a fraction lower than PN voters’ 3.5.

The favourable rating represents an epochal change in attitudes towards the European Union when compared to the divisive referendum of 2003 when Labour campaigned against membership in the political bloc.

20 years ago, 46% had opposed EU membership in a referendum that was followed by a general election which Alfred Sant’s Labour lost with 48% of the national vote. Labour’s alternative for a ‘partnership’ model with the EU, provided a stark contrast from full EU membership promoted by PN prime minister Eddie Fenech Adami, then supported by most civil society organisations and Green party Alternattiva Demokratika.

20 years on, surveys show the cross-party consensus for EU membership, with MaltaToday’s poll showing 88% rating Malta’s experience highly between 3 and 5 (with 1 representing the lowest rating, and 5 the highest).

The 2003 campaign had been marked by Labour’s scaremongering about Malta being flooded by foreign workers from the EU, agriculture being wiped out in the face of cheap European imports, hunting and trapping being severely restricted, and Malta’s neutrality ditched in favour of a common defence policy. On the other hand, the PN’s campaign emphasised EU funding to the tune of some €240 million a year.

And while some of the negative predictions did materialise, membership resulted in major investments in environmental projects like sewage treatment plants and road-building, which contributed to economic stability and growth.

Inside Labour, the surveys suggests euroscepticism is largely dead and buried, with just 10.6% of current Labour voters giving Malta’s experience of EU membership a score of less than 3.

But both major parties harbour a eurosceptic minority, with an equal amount of PN voters (11%) giving EU membership a similar score.

Among Labour voters, 47.9% of respondents rate Malta’s EU experience at 3 out of 5; 33.6% rated it 4, and 7.9% gave it full marks. PN voters are only marginally more positive: 33.5% rated it 3 out of 5, 46.3% gave it a score of 4, and 8.2% the full five points.

But the indication is that euroscepticism is also thriving outside the two main political parties, with non-voters in the forthcoming European elections being the most sceptical about Malta’s performance in the EU. These voters give it an average score of 2.8 points. Moreover, 31.2% of non-voters give membership a score of less than 3.

Curiously, a breakdown by age suggests that older respondents are the most satisfied with membership, with over 65-year-olds giving the membership experience a score of 3.4, in contrast to 3.1 among all other age groups.

A regional breakdown also shows that satisfaction with EU membership is highest in the western region, which includes Attard, Zebbug and Rabat (3.5), and lowest in the southeastern region, which includes Zejtun, Marsaskala, and Birżebbugia (3).

A breakdown by income shows that low-income respondents are slightly less positive about membership than higher-income groups. While those earning less than €1,000 a month give Malta’s membership experience a rating of 3.2, those earning above €3,000 a month give it a rating of 3.6.

Labour MEPs get higher ratings than PN counterparts

Respondents to a MaltaToday Survey have given higher ratings to Labour’s crop of elected MEPs from the last 20 years, in a face-off with their Nationalist counterparts.

Asked to rate them between 0 – meaning they did nothing good for the country – to 5, meaning they did a lot, Labour’s politicians in Brussels were rated 3.1 out of a maximum five, whilst the PN’s were given a 2.7 rating.

While both sets of MEPs passed the halfway mark, the difference is also largely explained by the far more negative rating that Labour-voting respondents gave to Nationalist MEPs. While PN voters give a marginally positive rating of 2.7 to Labour MEPs, Labour voters gave the PN’s MEPs a lower rating of 2.3.

Non-voters also give Labour MEPs a slightly higher rating of 2.6, compared to 2.5 for Nationalist MEPs.

The negative rating given to Nationalist MEPs by Labour voters reflects longstanding criticism by the PL that the Opposition’s MEPs have consistently worked against the national interest by supporting rule of law resolutions which put the Labour government in a bad light, particularly after the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Moreover, Labour voters tend to be more generous in rating their party’s MEPs, than PN voters for their own party MEPs: Labour voters gave their elected MEPs a 3.8 rating, while PN voters gave PN MEPs a 3.5 rating.

Despite these differences, a significant chunk of voters give both Labour and Nationalist MEPs a high rating: 48% of current PL voters rated PN MEPs 3 points or more, and 53% of PN voters gave Labour MEPs a similar rating.

A breakdown by region shows that both sets of MEPs get their best rating in Gozo, where both parties surpass the 3-point mark. Unsurprisingly Nationalist MEPs get the lowest rating (2.6) in the southern harbour region, which includes Cottonera, while Labour MEPs get their lowest rating in the northern region (2.9).

Respondents aged over 65 tend to be more generous in their rating of the work of MEPs for their country than younger respondents. In this category Labour MEPs are given a rating of 3.3 while Nationalist MEPs are given a rating of 2.9.

Both Labour MEPs (2.9) and Nationalist MEPs (2.6) get their lowest rating in the 16-35 years age bracket.

The results also reflect the greater turnover of Labour MEPs. Over the past 20 years the PN has been represented by five MEPs, namely David Casa who was elected in all previous four elections, Roberta Metsola who has served since 2013 and was appointed President of the European Parliament in 2020, Simon Busuttil who served from 2004 and 2013 when he was elected leader of the party, Therese Comodini Cachia who served between 2014 till 2017 when she was elected to the Maltese parliament, and Francis Zammit Dimech who briefly replaced her.

On the other hand, the PL has been represented by 10 MEPs, which included Joseph Muscat before he was elected party leader in 2008, John Attard Montalto who served one term, Louis Grech before being appointed deputy Prime Minister in 2013, Joseph Cuschieri who replaced Muscat in 2008, Edward Scicluna who served between 2009 and 2013 when he was appointed Finance Minister, Marlene Mizzi who replaced Scicluna and was re-elected for another term in 2014, Miriam Dalli before she became Energy Minister in 2020, former Labour leader Alfred Sant who served two full terms, Claudette Abela Baldacchino, Josianne Cutajar and Alex Agius Saliba.


The survey was carried out was carried between 15 April 2024 and 24 April 2024 for which 656 people opted to complete the survey. Stratified random sampling based on region, gender and age was used. A fraction of those who opted to complete the survey chose not to answer some of the questions for which they are treated as missing values. Missing values analysis was then carried to determine the type of technique to replace the values. A combination of logistic and linear regression with predictive mean matching where applicable was used to replace certain missing values completing and enlarging the sample set from which the final results were extracted.

The margin of error for this result 3.84% for a confidence interval of 95%.