A promise to be ‘there’ for you all
Yesterday, I was elected to fill the seat that was vacated by Simon Busuttil in the European Parliament. From now until the elections next year, I am honoured to serve as one of Malta’s six members of the European Parliament.
The trust bestowed upon me by so many of you, combined with the size of the shoes I’m expected to fill, fills me with a sense of duty and with a determination to make sure that I bring to the job all the abilities and experience accrued in various EU roles I have fulfilled to date. From a background role – first at the justice and home affairs unit at Malta’s Permanent Representation to the EU and, subsequently, as legal adviser to the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy – I shall now be moving to the frontline.
Over the past decade, Busuttil has worked tirelessly to be our voice in Europe and I aim to pick up where he left off and build on the work that he has done and the reputation he has built for himself and for our country in the European context. I shall be sitting within the European People’s Party (EPP) grouping, the largest and most influential political grouping of MEPs, to which the Nationalist Party is affiliated.
Keeping the commitments that I made as a candidate as my starting point, I shall hit the ground running, maintaining the highest standards of transparency and accessibility possible. It is my aspiration to represent the people in this key institution whose role is precisely to represent the citizens of the European Union. My immediate priorities are clear.
Today, I am working to ensure appointments to EP committees most relevant for Malta. I shall also soon be opening an office in Malta that will serve as my base to help enable me to be present and to have two-way communication with as many people as possible.
Not only will I strive to keep people updated with what I am doing, but I pledge to also keep myself updated on what the European citizens in Malta have to say and on what needs to be said on their behalf.
Regular meetings, articles, social networks, press briefings, blog posts, e-mails and a dedicated website (www.robertametsola.eu) are all channels that I shall be using to guarantee that I fulfil my obligations to those who have placed their trust in me.
Following the record number of 10 women being elected to the Maltese Parliament, we now also have myself, Claudette Baldacchino and Marlene Mizzi as MEPs, finally erasing the unenviable label of being the only EU member State not to have female representatives in the European Parliament. The discussion on the lack or shortage of female representation now needs to shift and focus on what is needed in order for Malta to have the best representation possible, irrespective of gender. After all, citizens who want their rights enforced or their interests represented do not really care whether it’s a man or a woman who is handling their case as long as the job is being done efficiently and with conviction.
When I first ran for the European Parliament in 2004, I argued that an MEP’s milestones should be those that make a difference to the daily lives of EU citizens. Nine years have passed but this approach is now more relevant than ever.
In the words of Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, the EU is facing a crisis of confidence in politics and in its institutions. This seems to be reflected in the increasingly low Europe-wide turnout at every election to the European Parliament. Also here in Malta the turnout dropped between 2004 and 2009.
This might perhaps be due to other reasons, possibly the lack of awareness of the relevance of the European Parliament, which is sometimes seen as being ‘over there’ in Brussels compared to our daily lives ‘over here’ in Malta.
The general election held in March offers a number of lessons to be learnt for all politicians. Now more than ever, we need to make use of every tool available to us to make sure that we do not allow ourselves to become disconnected from the everyday problems faced by people.
Notwithstanding the constraints that public life sometimes thrusts upon us, we must keep finding the time to keep listening, learning and serving as the magnifier through which the quietest voice can be heard in the widest context. It is therefore a must that MEPs, irrespective of political affiliation, convince people all over the EU that their representatives require the strongest popular backing in order for their decisions to have increased legitimacy and become more relevant to each one of us.
This is more particularly so in Malta, where we must make sure that our six seats are used to the maximum of their potential.
Many matters are currently on the European Parliament’s table and decisions are being taken that could affect job protection, security at the work place, increased investment possibilities, sustainable energy solutions, protection of the environment, ensuring the highest standards in education, continuing the push for other member States to step up to the plate with regard to immigration and to have fair EU legislation and strong enforcement in this regard, ensuring that disabilities do not remain handicaps to leading a normal life.
These are only a few examples of the issues that are being worked upon every day in the European Parliament. It has now become my job to defend the electors’ interests when decisions on such areas are taken.
Working for the Maltese Government and within the European institutions in Brussels these past years has shown me that, in order for Malta to get the very best out of the EU and to keep our credibility and relevance by also giving the very best back to the EU, all our six MEPs must work together. This is not to say we will always agree on every single issue.
We must, however, rise above our political party allegiances and aim to reach consensus in the interests of the whole country. In this regard, I truly look forward to working with David Casa, John Attard Montalto, Joseph Cuschieri and the two new MEPs elected with me yesterday to look European citizens in Malta and Gozo in the eye and say with conviction and honesty that we have done our best to defend their rights in Europe and that we have together succeeded in achieving something for all of us.
On a personal note, a final word of appreciation and gratitude to my husband, my parents and my sisters, whose unwavering support has been invaluable for me to embark upon this new task.
Roberta Metsola is a Nationalist MEP.