Seasoned MEPs from all over the Union who regularly navigate the political turf from Brussels to Strasbourg in their pursuit of the European ideal will tell you it has nothing to do with deriding your own country and countrymen. Theirs is a mission that, more often than not, goes against the grain of public perception, but another reality it certainly is.

The much-vaunted debate about the Panama Papers and the Rule of Law in Malta that was held in the European Parliament’s sitting in Strasbourg a mere fortnight ago featured two glaring highlights – Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s resolute and convincing defence of our island and our national institutions, and the absence of the vast majority of MEPs who were little interested in what was a blatant partisan affair instigated by Maltese Opposition elements and a small band of ideological side-kicks.

As the European Union’s highest institution, the European Parliament is well above the pathetic petty politics of some who seem to want to use its corridors for ill-conceived, temporary solace. It is why the original ploy to have the debate in the middle of a fiery Maltese election campaign was quickly rebuffed. It just wasn’t cricket.

In the end, it transpired that the Strasbourg debate was yet another attempt, by local political sources desperately in search of an issue, to undermine Malta’s incredible success in the financial sector, abetted as it no doubt is by an EU-approved tax system and by a government that has achieved, in just four years, a remarkable economic recovery. This success has seen the unemployment rate plunging to record low levels, foreign investment and job creation soaring, and, for the first time in almost four decades, a budgetary surplus. And that is only part of the story!

It is why many MEPs could not understand the attitude of Maltese Opposition representatives in Strasbourg during the debate. However, for most of us it was nothing new. It is probably why this attitude, shown throughout the first Joseph Muscat legislature (2013-2017), cost the Opposition the June 3 general election so heavily – a worse defeat than that of four years previously. A timely lesson the Maltese electorate chose to give it.

It is also not quite clear why certain Maltese persons cannot differentiate between partisan politics and national interest. This was most evident in the many comments, blogs and articles in defence of the German MEP Werner Langen – an EPP member and Chair of the PANA committee. Mr Langen who attended the useless ‘Panama Papers and the rule of law’ debate did not have the basic decency to remain seated to listen to what the Maltese PM had to say in reply to comments and questions made by the few present MEPs, including his own.

It was truly shameful to read the sheer pleasure certain Maltese persons expressed at the fact that this MEP walked out on the Prime Minister of Malta during his reply.

What they seem to have failed to realise is that Langen did not walk out on Joseph Muscat. He walked out on our country’s Prime Minister. If these people had just a little bit of national dignity they would have shown indignation and objection. Instead they basked in this shameful episode not realising that cheap partisan reactions, and at their visceral dislike for Joseph Muscat havenoplaceininternationalforawheretheircountryisunderunjustifiableattack.

Malta is a small, independent country, the smallest member state within the EU. Proud of her history and totally reliant on her industrious people. With no natural resources and extreme territorial and demographic restrictions, Malta has gradually nurtured a buzzing, services-centred economy that is now also providing jobs and a livelihood to thousands of EU and third-country citizens.

For someone to seek to create doubt and to put spokes in the wheels of a government with such a success record is indeed a shameful way of doing 21st Century politics, at both national and European levels. That the attempt actually misfired was a predictable outcome which, to boot, it came on the back of a very successful, highly praised Maltese Presidency of the European Council.

A change of attitude is certainly the order of the day for a Maltese Opposition that has seen its political schemes and level of electoral persuasion come to nought at the polls three weeks ago. The Strasbourg soul that eventually emerged in the so-called Malta debate not only put the records straight, but it also clearly appealed for a better way of treating one’s own country in European and international fora that are meant to instil further success and help obtain better achievements.

The European Vision is that of a fraternity of nations rather than a conglomeration of ideological interests that can cause disruption and division. Debate is certainly a major ingredient but as a unifying factor rather than a divisive one. Thankfully, but not surprisingly, Malta came out unscathed in Strasbourg. The voyage continues, certainly at a faster pace following the people’s verdict on June 3.

The message that “the best is yet to come” has been convincingly driven home via the ballot box and, in spirit and soul, in Strasbourg this very same month.

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