The Malta Syndrome within EU Institutions

A number of politicians, mostly including exponents from the Labour Party, hasten to dish out a time-worn excuse when faced with political setbacks frequently emanating from bungled international diplomacy and/or lobbying.

They often refer to the calamity at hand as being the result of a nefarious conspiracy by big countries to smother and overwhelm small nations like Malta due to their egoistical, bullish streak. I confess that sometimes, in my writings of yesteryear, I too fell for such fallacies.

Let us face it, big countries have access to much more resources, clout, wealth and networking than smaller nations, including micro-states such as Malta. But the truth is never that simple. And the consistent need to pin all the negatives onto someone else and projecting oneself as the perennial martyr does not stick when properly analysed.

Attacks on Malta through the machinations of the European Union have been a regular for a number of years now. But merely decrying and bemoaning bullies hailing from countries such as Germany (ex. Manfred Weber, Sven Giegold, Monika Hohlmeier etc), The Netherlands (Sophie in t’Veld) and Portugal (ex. Ana Gomez) without understanding why such a situation has been reached is a disservice to strategy, diplomacy and rational thought.

Let us face it. Local conservative MEPs have always, except for one legislature where they were equal in numbers, been lesser in number than local labour MEPs. But one has to admit that the networking strategies and diplomatic machinations of the former have been perfectly toned and honed to inflict maximum results according to the hymn sheet they believe in. They just do their job better. This by no means justifies what they do or that we, humble Maltese citizens, agree to their strategy. In fact, all elections and polls of these last fifteen years show that the majority of us have consistently and always voted against their EU shenanigans. EU networking does not stop with the actions of elected MEPs. Local activists with their own extensive network of contacts within the EU structures, especially with different political groupings than the ones which the big traditional parties are adhered to, are also a force to contend with. The Green Parties or the Liberal Parties in Malta do not mean much. But in other countries and within the EU institutions, their value is much higher and are as essential for networking purposes as the other two power-blocks, iethe S&D and the EPP.

EU networking does not stop with the actions of elected MEPs.

It is therefore high time that we seriously analyse the power plays being concocted in Brussels and increase and invest in experienced diplomatic and networking solutions in this regard. No one should have a monopoly on the truth about our country, especially a truth which is interpolated according to the political necessities of their political goals, instead of the good of the country.

Instead of demonising and attacking the messengers, one needs to understand why the left in Malta has given the local conservatives such a wide berth when it comes to dictating the daily goings on within our shoreline to an EU audience of politicians who, as fellow human beings, tend to turn the only feedback they get on any country as the gospel truth. Labour MEPs should be aided and assisted by a properly oiled commission, with seasoned diplomats and network gurus at hand for mentoring and guiding reasons. The commission should operate in a holistic approach to this problem. You cannot have four MEPs doing their own bit out there without a proper organisation back home backing them up, analysing all feedback and setting out strategy and filling in the holes in the diplomatic and networking circuits. And holes there are. Including staff on the Maltese government’s payroll who are merely being sponsored to aid and abet the machinations of Tal-Pieta.

The sooner the Labour Party realises and executes a holistic and organised approach to our country’s presence in Brussels, in all levels, the better the image of our island nation will be.

It is not mere small nations like Malta which end up on the losing side of international lobbying and networking efforts. Just this week, Liverpool has been stripped of its World Heritage status after a UN committee found developments threatened the value of the city’s waterfront. The decision was made following a secret ballot by the UNESCO committee at a meeting in China, spearheaded by the unyielding onslaught of the Dutch delegation against their British counterparts.

Liverpool becomes only the third site to lose its World Heritage status since the list began in 1978, the other two being Oman’s Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in 2007 and the Dresden Elbe Valley in Germany in 2009. None of the above are minute micro-states like Malta. Their lobbying efforts did not prevail. Australia – keep in mind that this is not only a huge country but a quasi-continent – is presently in the same lobbying quagmire with regards to its famed Great Barrier Reef.

Imagine if such a situation happened in Malta under the dreaded Labour. What a hue and cry. But analyse the political feedback after what happened to Liverpool. The decision was described as “incomprehensible” by the city’s Labour mayor. She said she would work with the government to examine whether the city could appeal against the decision, which comes “a decade after UNESCO last visited the city to see it with their own eyes”. Liverpool City Region Labour Mayor Steve Rotheram uttered the same thoughts, as did Labour’s Kim Johnson, MP for Liverpool Riverside. Even Liverpool’s Liberal Democrat leader Richard Kemp had much the same to comment. And what was the position of the Conservative government? The government said it was “extremely disappointed” and believes Liverpool still deserves its heritage status “given the significant role the historic docks and the wider city have played throughout history”. All pledged to work together to right this wrong.

That is what working for one’s country should be all about, even though the players are all coming from different political backgrounds and groupings. If this is impossible to attain at the moment with the local conservative setup in Europe, then it is Labour’s duty to ensure that our European presence is as effective as the presence of Busuttil et al for the sake of our country.

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