Corruption has another cost - Peter Agius
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Corruption has another cost - Peter Agius

On May 25 we will decide who speaks for us at the European Parliament. But there is much more than speaking to be done. To advance the cause of our youth, who should be able to benefit much more from EU opportunities, to advance the cause of Maltese business, which is not reaping enough from the single market and EU funding, we must not limit ourselves to talking. We must act with the strongest weapon an MEP can muster – the pen – by submitting amendments and lobbying for them through the European Parliament’s committees.

An MEP can indeed change things in Europe. And in our case, being an island with many particular characteristics, an MEP with the right skills in Brussels is worth gold for all sectors of society.

Naturally, the skills are just part of the equation. The other big part is representing the cause of the Maltese people by understanding where to act and how. For this, we must listen to them carefully. Together with many other candidates from different parties and independents, this is what we are trying to do.

Since accepting the call from the Nationalist Party in September, I left my duties with President Tajani and went on the campaign trail in workshops, farms, factories, greenhouses, boats, offices and campuses. The picture I built in these seven months is that 15 years down the line from accession we risk taking a wrong turn on EU membership.

While accession delivered the goods to many sectors and to the country in general, it has left many people behind. The Gozitans are not much better off than 15 years ago. The same applies to farmers, fishermen, small craftsmen and some sectors of our SMEs and self-employed.

To advance Malta’s cause we need competent moderates with strong convictions and a sound sense of public good

Unless we address the malaise of these sectors with targeted interventions, we risk big. EU membership is not a lifetime guarantee, it is something we need to work on, and make work for others, day in day out. Many new sectors can benefit from European exposure, starting from our youths, where only one in 20 benefit from EU programmes like Erasmus, to our gaming, fintech and newer sectors of our economy such as AI and robotics, research and innovation.

The above picture shows that in choosing our representatives on May 25 we should really be discussing who can best push forward the Maltese cause in Brussels, to deliver on the EU’s untapped opportunities.

And yet, what is topping the agenda right now in Malta? It’s the life of politicians. Six out of seven political headlines on the front pages in the past weeks have spoken of corruption, bad governance and rule of law. The message coming across to many readers is that politics, the media and public opinion are more interested in politicians’ lives than it is in their own lives and issues.

Beyond the €725 million a year quantified as being the actual price of corruption in Malta, we are losing out in terms of political focus on people’s needs.

Don’t get me wrong. The fight against corruption and the need for good governance should top the agenda of any politician, myself included. I will strive to advance the cause of good governance with more than words. I strive to do it through example.

Our political voyage, however, cannot start and stop at the behaviour of politicians. It has to span much wider than that, to reach all those who need answers to their problems.

This is what we should be doing in the run-up to choosing our representatives in the European Parliament. The next five years will be fundamental for Malta in Europe. Europe itself will be passing through very challenging times. Recent polls show that no two big European parties will command a majority in the new European Parliament.

This opens the way for bridge-builders to take centre-stage. To advance Malta’s cause we need competent moderates with strong convictions and a sound sense of public good.

I will be one of them – on that voting list for the first time but with 16 years of experience in Brussels behind me – should you want to consider me.

Dr Peter Agius is a PN candidate for the European elections, the former head of the European Parliament Office in Malta and cabinet member of the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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