As a leader of the smallest but a proud EU member state, I feel a tremendous responsibility to be here with you to renew the European Union in which, a strong and united future must be guaranteed.
The European Union is a synthesis born out of a variety of crises, World Wars, revolutions, bitter divisions between countries that have cost the lives of millions and brought misery and destitution on the people who were meant to be protected.
But we realize we have not all travelled the whole 60 years of this adventure together. Even though we come from countries with centuries of history, some of our motherlands had not even achieved modern day independence when the Union was born. This makes us different. But it also makes us stronger.
The ceding of part of long sought after sovereignty, initially by the founding mothers and fathers, but then by all of us, was a giant leap into the unknown. Yet, we all had the courage and determination to come together for a higher cause, to secure peace, prosperity and development for Europeans.
For many years, generations have reaped the fruit.
The founding principles of the European Union, the respect for human rights, solidarity between Member States, equality, justice, the rule of law and freedom, underpin core objectives of the Union.
Ceding sovereignty in several areas is often frowned upon as it is interpreted as a loss of national independence. However, this is a flawed analysis as it fails to fully acknowledge the benefits that resulted from this approach.
The creation of the single market is one clear benefit.
Considering the globalized world we live in, hadn’t we embarked on the single market project, Europe would not have become a force of prosperity and development. All our countries would have been poorer and weaker. Instead, despite obvious difficulties, our societies have been more prosperous and stronger. That is not to say that there are not countries which are suffering or sections of our populations who deserve much better. But truth be said, our economic tools have, for the most, served us well.
Most suffering and misery of the last century were the consequences of narrow sightedness and blinded protectionism.
Unfortunately, there are instances where lessons have not been learnt. It is so easy to forget the big problems that plagued our continent when things have been so good for so long. It is easy to take Europe for granted.
We are at a juncture, where every turn, left or right, but most importantly forwards or backwards will have consequences that will resonate for years to come. The solution is not staying put.
Taking the right decisions requires resilience, courage, boldness and above all, mutual trust.
It also requires us to understand that Europe has changed and will continue to change.
Reinventing and rediscovering our values is not about being romantic about a past long gone by. It is about being ambitious for the future, for a better and different Europe.
The future European Union should reflect the inherent realities of each member state, without ignoring the continuous evolvement of our global environment.
As the EU’s biggest deficit is implementation, we should focus on making decision-making simpler, effective, efficient and resilient to withstand any future shocks that may come its way. Put simpler, we must do what we say and say what we do.
As I said, doing nothing is certainly not an option, unless we want to go down in history as the ones who through our inactions have dismantled a sixty-year-old project that has brought forth peace and prosperity across Europe.
The good news is that the EU does deliver tangible results when we get our act together. The results are there to see and to live when we do not even notice we are crossing borders, when most of our consumers compare prices in the same currency, when our students take part of their studies in universities across Europe.
Finally, and crucially, the principle of solidarity is enshrined in the Treaties of the Union, which we all have signed for, on our accession. This is not an a la carte option which you ask for when you need it and refuse when others need it. All of us have needed or will need solidarity. This is our real test. And I am not just referring to migration. It has to do with security, economic, social issues.
As Pope Francis told us yesterday, the Treaties gave birth to a political, economic, cultural, but primarily a human reality, a human union. This is of essence and therein lies our future, in a human union.
The current scepticism of some of our citizens might stem from the fact that such a societal advancement that was experienced in the past may have stalled.
The success of the Union hinges on our ability to implement the Social pillar. It is the crux of a strong European future together. We should give our people the protection they expect, without confounding it with protectionism, which would at the end lead to opposite results.
The implementation of a social dimension should be made in parallel with macro-economic measures that help our European businesses and boost economic growth which delivers better jobs and gives European workers the pay rise they deserve. All this while acknowledging that there are differences amongst member states, and these differences must be respected.
At the basis of all this is the principle of equality amongst all our citizens. I want to single out the need to do more to continue to ensure gender equality and that the LGBTIQ community enjoys full equality.
In charting the way forward, a spirit of unity, companionship and mutual trust between us should prevail. What is more important is that we have a Europe that moves forward, and not one that is stationary in its bubble, thinking that time will not take its toll on it.
Future events can be moulded by our actions.
Source: Government of Malta