[WATCH] Eve Borg Bonello: ‘If people want and elect them, 16-year-olds should be mayors’

Eve Borg Bonello is Malta’s youngest MP in history. She sits down with Online Editor KARL AZZOPARDI to talk about the newly formed Climate Action Authority, 16-year-old mayors and the Nationalist Party’s approach to young voices in politics

Borg Bonello is the youngest MP to ever get elected to parliament and contrary to some voices within her own party, she agrees that 16-year-olds should be eligible for mayors (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Borg Bonello is the youngest MP to ever get elected to parliament and contrary to some voices within her own party, she agrees that 16-year-olds should be eligible for mayors (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

Malta’s youngest MP in history, Eve Borg Bonello, believes youths should have a central role in politics, no matter their age.  

Borg Bonello, who is climate change spokesperson for the Opposition sits down with MaltaToday just days after parliament approved at Second Reading stage the formation of a Climate Action Authority.  

When asked on the newly formed authority, the MP says it was a right decision by government, despite it shooting down a similar proposal by the Opposition back in 2019.  

“But at least now government is onboard with the idea and has decided to move it forward. What I am a bit sceptical about is the timing when it was announced – during the week-long blackouts we had in summer,” she says. 

Questioned on what the Opposition would have done differently, Borg Bonello says it would have carried out more consultation with stakeholders and NGOs, as well as the active participation of experts in the field.  

She also says the Nationalist Party wants qualified people to form part of the board. 

“But that is not enough. That should be the minimal requirement for every government board. What we want is their active contribution of these individuals in the compliance and legislation of every ministry so that climate change considerations are made in the majority of decisions which impact climate change,” she insists.  

Borg Bonello is the youngest MP to ever get elected to parliament and contrary to some voices within her own party, she agrees that 16-year-olds should be eligible for mayors. The legislative change was approved last year and will be applicable from the next round of local elections in June. 

Several figures within the PN, including a few MPs, had come out against the law, citing the immaturity of 16-year-olds in leading the council.  

But Borg Bonello believes that no matter their age, youths have a central role to play in politics. 

“It is the people who decide who their leaders are, and if they decide that they want a 16-year-old mayor why not? They could be 17-years-olds, 18-years-old, if they are able to lead the council, they should be mayor,” she says. “We vote, or at least I hope so, not according to what gender or age the candidate has, but whether they are capable or not.” 

She says despite some people’s perception, the Nationalist Party provides young people with the space they need to voice their views and concerns.  

“We have two youth wings which cater for youths of different ages,” she says. “That I think says a lot about the space given to young voices within the party.” 

The following is an excerpt from the interview. 

The full interview is also availble on Facebook and Spotify. 

The Nationalist Party is often criticised for having a lack of young people within the party’s structures, especially in more important roles. What do you think is pushing them away from the party?  

I don’t think there is something which is holding youths from participating in politics. We have two youth wings. As a party we give youths the space to explore different ideas.  

But one has to look at the wider political participation of youths in politics. The lack of participation is not just a local thing but is happening across Europe. It symptomatic of a more globalised and modern Malta. 

Do you feel a conservative approach to politics adopted by the party, such as the outright opposition to abortion and cannabis legalisation to name a few, is pushing youths away from the party? 

I don’t think all youths are liberal. Yes, the demographic might be closer to the Left, but if we look at the polls, a MaltaToday survey for example showed youths were split down the middle on abortion. I don’t think it’s a question of ideology. I personally don’t get too caught up on ideology. There are issues which require a liberal solution and others a conservative one, and youths have different opinions on different subjects. 

Is the Nationalist Party prepared to take the hard decisions to enact change related to climate change, such as taxing car use and removing free parking? 

It is not a question of taking the hard decisions, we have a duty to take them. The people need to be onboard for the decisions, and you cannot impose. Imposing and not consulting means those decisions will ultimately fail. The social and economic factors should always be taken into consideration.  

The point of departure should be that we incentivise the change, and not punish people for it. We see this in the amendments we proposed on the climate change authority. We had to ensure that the positions we took on the hard decisions had the approval and belief of the people they would affect. 

Would you have done anything differently on the Climate Action Authority?  

It is a step in the right direction, but it is not the destination. We have been calling for a similar authority since 2019. Back then I was still an activist, but when at the time parliament unanimously declared a climate emergency, the government was not onboard with the idea. Now it is, and that is good, but I am bit sceptical because government’s announcement that it would be creating the authority came at the time when we had the power cut crisis last summer.  

This Bill was rushed, and no consultation was carried out with stakeholders and NGOs, and that is why we proposed that on the board there should be the active participation of these groups. We also wanted to ensure that people elected on this board are elected because of their credentials as experts on the subject, and not an authority which is there to give jobs to the boys.  

It is not enough for us to have qualified persons on the board, we want to see that it is the basic standard for persons on these kinds of boards. We want this board to actively contribute to the compliance and legislation pushed by the ministries.