Malta's Roberta Metsola makes it to TIME magazine’s list of next influential leaders

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola considered among world’s upcoming influential leaders in TIME100 Next list for 2023

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola

Maltese politician and President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola has made it to TIME magazine’s list of 100 upcoming influential people.

The short write-up accompanying Metsola’s name was written by none other than European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

TIME100 Next was launched in 2019 by the influential American magazine to showcase what society’s future leaders will look like. The annual franchise recognises rising leaders in health, climate, business, sports, arts and politics among others categories.

Metsola is one of several individuals listed under the Leaders category, alongside several other international politicians, including Italy’s Democratic Party leader Elly Schlein and white, gay South African mayor Chris Pappas, who was elected in a municipality that is three-quarters black.

In the note accompanying Metsola’s name, Von der Leyen lauded her fellow European People’s Party colleague for being close to ordinary citizens wherever she is.

“Whenever she travels to one of the bloc’s 27 member states, whatever the issues on the agenda, she always finds time to meet with local people. And she repeats a powerful message: Get involved. Do not ever give in to cynicism. You can be the engine of change,” Von der Leyen wrote.

She also praised her work in making European institutions “more transparent”, with particular reference to the manner she dealt with the Qatargate scandal.

“She advocated tougher anticorruption rules around lobbying and financial disclosures to uphold the parliament’s credibility. She has made it very clear that politicians have to be role models,” Von der Leyen’s note reads.

Although Metsola did push a reform package in the aftermath of the Qatargate scandal, her efforts have been criticised by some rule of law NGOs for not going far enough. This is a point that Malta’s prime minister Robert Abela picked on last Sunday when he was being questioned about the social benefits scandal that has rocked the country and which Metsola also criticised.

Metsola’s forays into Maltese domestic politics have increased over the past weeks, often overshadowing Opposition leader Bernard Grech, who leads the Maltese Nationalist Party (PN) from which Metsola hails.

Last year, Metsola made history by becoming the youngest-ever president of the European Parliament, a role that has given a larger-than-life persona within Maltese politics. She was also the first EU leader to visit Ukraine and address the country’s parliament following the Russian invasion.

“Roberta’s passion for Europe has led her to the highest seat in the European Parliament: now she is channelling it in the service of all Europeans,” Von der Leyen’s note ends.

For some time Metsola had been touted as the EPP’s spitzenkandidat for next year’s European Parliament election but it appears that Von der Leyen has now decided to give it a second run.

The spitzenkandidat system is designed to put forward the candidate the political party would like to see as president of the European Commission but has no basis at law since the ultimate decision is made by the country leaders meeting in Council.

Metsola will be a candidate for the PN in Malta in next year’s EP election and is expected to poll very strongly.