The following are the views of Matthias Bartolo, a 16 year old Sixth Form Student attending St Martin’s College. Politics is a passion of his, along with being a football fan.
Whilst the road for full membership was a narrow winding one, with the nation almost equally split in two, 14 years later there is surely a nationwide consensus that the European Union brought huge economic benefits to this small island state. New industries such as Avionics, iGaming and financial services have mushroomed and replaced the traditional manufacturing sector and possibly also dwarfed the once glamorous micro-chip and pharmaceutical industries. At the same time Malta joined the Eurozone, bringing more economic and financial stability to the economy. Eurozone membership meant more fiscal discipline within government spending.
In parallel with this nationwide consensus in favour of EU membership, there is surely an air of disappointment within a section of the electorate who had higher expectations from the EU. In 2003 they voted Yes not solely for the economic benefits but because they believed that Union membership could bring political maturity and higher ethical conduct within our political class. Unfortunately this did not happen. In 2018 Malta is being splashed in the international press not for its ongoing economic miracle and its strive to enhance civil rights to minorities but for the wrong political reasons. The European Parliament is currently questioning the rule of law in Malta and also it’s Individual Investment Programme.
It seems that the European Union has now woken up that among its newest member states there might be air of “Doing it our Way” philosophy which might not always be in line with the European values. Last week when presenting the new EU Budget, Commission President Jean Claude Junker commented that cohesion funds used by member states to fund infrastructural and development projects will only be available if the respective states are in full compliance with the rule of law.
Unfortunately this important development was not reported by our local news portals. Le Monde’s editorial of 2nd May interpreted this development as a strong warning to Poland, Hungary and unfortunately Malta. Le Monde described these three member states “with fundamental rule of law challenges raised by behaviour of politicians in government not in conformity with European standards.”
As a Generation Z Maltese citizen my dream is to truly live in an European member state that is not only milking the economic opportunities that arise through membership, but is also working hard to continuously enforce its democratic, rule of law and good governance systems within its structures.
The Union must ensure that is values are respected by all member state governments so that there are no democratic deficits within the world’s largest political and economic grouping. In the case of Malta this will surely not be an easy task especially when parochialism is still the norm and the philosophy “the end justifies the means” is rampant.