The following reflections have been shared by Dr. Helena Grech, the Head of the Maltese EC Representation for Corporate Dispatch’s special edition of Europe Explained on the occasion of Europe Day.
It has become cliché to say that the first thing Europe recalls is peace. It is so because, to our generation, war seems a remote possibility and few think they can experience them again, even while we read about the unfortunate situations not very far off our own shores.
But to our European precursors war was an inescapable phenomenon while peace was only a fleeting occurrence. From the Stone Age right up to the Industrial Revolution, everyone was aware that, at any moment, neighbours could invade their territory, overcome the army that protects them, massacre their people, and occupy their land.
Throughout the second half of the 20th century this Law of the Jungle was finally broken. And this is thanks to European Union. In our continent, peace became permanent! SO much so that diabetes is today an even greater cause of death than human violence.
As President Juncker said in his State of the Union Address of last September, Europe is now back on track. Employment is at an all-time high while unemployment at a 9-year low. Every economy in our Union is growing in a healthy manner and the projections are positive for all the Member States, with Malta topping the list.
On the same occasion he also unveiled a roadmap – The Road to Sibiu – detailing the main steps towards a more united Union of 27 members; a Union which is stronger; and a Union which is more democratic. The last full year of the current Commission’s mandate, this is a crucial one and marks the beginning of the campaign for the next European Parliament elections in May 2019. It is the last year during which pending legislative proposals can still be adopted and, by this time next year, the European Union will also have lost one of its larger Members.
The roadmap to Sibiu identifies the most pressing issues and challenges facing the European Union today, enabling this project to go forward into the third decade of the second millennium, stronger and more united than ever.
After last year’s White Paper with the five scenarios for the Future of Europe, the European Commission today launched the online consultation on the Future of Europe with a questionnaire drafted by 96 citizens selected randomly from all Member States, including 3 from Malta. These citizens met in a panel last weekend in Brussels to discuss the Europe they would like to see, to give their opinions on this project and to voice their own personal concerns.
One of the biggest challenges our leaders have before them in the coming months is to find an agreement on the next seven-year budget for the European Union. This is always a challenging exercise since it is difficult to convince Member States to contribute more, but at the same time all want to receive better value for their contributions. This budgetary period will be particularly challenging because of the absence of the UK’s withdrawal by the time it enters into force in 2021. And whatever agreement is finally found amongst all the decision-making institutions, will have a strong bearing on the future of the European Union and the direction it will take.
This year, Malta is also celebrating, even if rather quietly, the tenth year of the adoption of the Euro. As nostalgic as we may have been about giving up our Lira in 2008, I am sure that many today agree that this is one of the biggest achievements for our country, especially in view of the astounding economic performance which, I am sure, would have otherwise been considerably different.