As I bid farewell to the European Parliament after six years of what I hope has been an honest and dedicated commitment on behalf of the thousands of Maltese citizens who trusted me with the job, it indeed makes more sense to look ahead rather than just getting a nostalgic kick out of the whole experience.

Why? Because things within the small Maltese group of MEPs since the general election of 2013 have changed drastically. The whole atmosphere suddenly turned sour as the representatives from the party that, after twenty-five long years in power, had found itself in opposition chose to usher in a period of pathetic petty politics based exclusively on personal and partisan agendas. The national interest sadly had to give way to a systematic, often pathetic crusade during which the Opposition MEPs and some of their colleagues in the EPP group resorted to an anti-Malta smear campaign within and without the European Parliament.

This was in stark contrast to the harmony and unity shown by ALL Maltese MEPs prior to the change of government that occurred six years ago. But do we need to go into details as to why and how it all came to the current impasse, with Government and Opposition Maltese MEPs having to cross swords, in the presence of hundreds of bemused MEPs from the other twenty-seven member states, over trumped-up issues and artificial situations created at local level? Certainly not.

One thing is certain – it cannot go on like this. The EP elections next month will be a great opportunity for all candidates and the parties they represent to start a new chapter, to ensure that the national interest again comes before anything else. No mission impossible. It worked during the years preceding the 2013 general election (followed up by the 2017 general election that confirmed the party in government by an even bigger majority) and it works – as we have witnessed from close quarters every single day – among the rest of the national delegations that represent their citizens at the European Parliament.

This, one hopes, will be the message that the Maltese people will be sending with their vote on May 25th. And the candidates, mostly valid ones from across the political spectrum, seriously need to be the messengers. Only six of them will make it to Brussels and whether they like it or not, the sheer brunt of this burden will be on their shoulders. People do not take too kindly to disunity and the theatrics of the disgruntled. They expect from each and every one of those elected to uphold Malta’s interest at all time, under any circumstances, and with a passion for all that has been achieved and can be achieved in the light of our island’s economic success during the past few years.

It was heartening to hear the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat saying the other day that irrespective of which party wins a majority in the forthcoming EP elections, it is imperative for all the elected MEPs to pull on the same rope to safeguard Malta’s national interest and to help attract investment to the island. Undoubtedly, he was speaking in the right environment – a meeting with members of the Malta Business Bureau for the presentation of its European Parliament elections manifesto entitled “Business for Europe, Europe for Business.

The Prime Minister also rightly referred to the state of things within the European Union itself as an adverse sense of protectionism continues to creep in, stressing that Malta always does better in a free market scenario.

In his reply, the president of the Malta Business Bureau, Simon De Cesare, dwelt on the need to safeguard Malta’s trade with the rest of the European Union market. He hit on the very same theme that, after all, inspires this piece from an MEP bowing out of the scene – Maltese MEPs must safeguard and maximise all the country’s resources in ensuring competitivity and sustainability, both of which feature prominently and understandably in the MBB’s manifesto.

With only a month left of campaigning by candidates from the different parties, the common factor to prevail should hopefully be the resolve to end the great divide that sadly developed within the Maltese group in Brussels during the past six years. This us-and-them attitude, so prevalent, alas, within the restricted confines of Maltese national and local politics, has not worked and can never work in Malta’s interest at a European level. No candidate who seriously wants to carry the flag in Brussels would want to be seen as wanting to further propagate division and gossip.

 Readjusting our image at the European Union’s highest institution and refocussing our priorities would go a long way towards retaining and even upgrading Malta’s strong economic and socio-political rhythm at a time of European and world uncertainty. All of the six Maltese MEPs need to be looked upon as being ready, willing and able to finally recuperate, to reharmonise and to look ahead as one small group among so many bigger ones inside an institution where unity and the novelty of approaching and doing things have to be their parallel aims. I hope that the six representatives will realise that, in a forum like the European Parliament, nothing and nobody is more important than the interest of the country they have been elected to represent. Those who do not accept this concept do not deserve to be elected.

The Malta Independent 25.04.19