It has been described as a bloodied silver lining to the cloud. The abrupt resurrection of the European project is an almost miraculous event occurring in a watershed moment in world history. The Union was built on the idea of a pooling of resources that would make the centuries-old internecine warfare among post-Westphalian nations a thing of the past. From a core group of six nations in post-war Europe the Union emerged into a post-Cold War world as a larger and ever closer union of peoples of Europe.
The project based on unity in diversity had begun to falter over the last decade. The ugly rise of nationalism and divergent interests threatened to loosen the ties that bound the states together. Then came Putin. Using a trumped-up excuse, the mad dictator invaded the Ukraine and suddenly we heard the phrase that we had hoped would never again be uttered: “War in Europe”.
Over the last six days we have seen the flame of European unity rekindle. The states of the European continent stood up to be counted. The first reactions were hesitant, as fear of the Russian bear lies deep and the incredulity of facing a new war on the continent had still to be absorbed. Gradually though the steps taken were astonishing and groundbreaking.
Nations like Finland, Sweden and Switzerland took unprecedented steps, from the military to the economic. The core EU states moved swiftly from soft to hard sanctions, while the former Visegrad states turned out to be the most vociferous for concrete action to stand side by side with Ukraine. Poland transformed into a battle drum of support for the cause, opening its borders to refugees and leading calls for integrating Ukraine with the rest of the EU.
Hungary, a friend of Putin’s Russia, was unequivocal in its support for the sanctions and in condemning the invasion. The Baltic states did not need to be asked twice to play their part in this newfound unity. Everything that needed to be done to turn Russia into an isolated pariah state was being done: economic sanctions, the ending of dependence on Russian energy, and a call to double down on the Russian oligarchs that help Putin maintain a strong grip on the nation.
Even the sporting world spluttered into line and, following a bit of hesitation, it cut the Russian reality out of its universe. The project based on unity in diversity had become one united in adversity. Facing the common enemy, we are one.
And what is Malta’s role in all this? The performance of Robert Abela’s government in the face of the unfolding events has been nothing short of appalling. The fact that we are in the middle of an electoral campaign should come as no excuse to the party that leads in the polls by an enormous, almost unassailable gap.
At every step the Labour Party in government has shown its innate inability to understand the workings of the European Union. It remains clear that the only relevance of the EU in the eyes of the Labour Party is as a cash cow to be milked.
It began with the Prime Minister expressing relief that Malta is sufficiently far from the conflict to be cushioned from any direct effects. Abela was completely beyond his depth when it came to understanding the geopolitical consequences of what was happening. Not for the first time in the past seven day, the Maltese government thought it could get away with propaganda.
Addressing the European Parliament on Tuesday just before President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, EP President Roberta Metsola called for, among other things, the abolition of the sale of golden passports and the closing of our ports. Earlier, Parliamentary Secretary Alex Muscat had claimed investment tied to residency was not the same as golden passports. Abela’s government has shown it will always choose cash over principles. There is no concept of solidarity and standing united with the rest of the EU.
The IIP programme was always a sign of Malta’s abuse of trust in the European Union. I have long argued that it should never have been allowed because Malta does not only sell a Maltese passport, but it also sells access to European rights. Labour has never fit in well with the European project, and this is the latest confirmation.
In another twist, the Malta Tourism Authority confirmed it will not waive the €100 fee for any Ukrainians in COVID quarantine should any arrive in Malta. Add this to the MFA’s hesitation on whether or not to honour a match against Russia’s Under 23’s (unlike the Polish, Swedish and Czech senior FA’s who did not have to wait for UEFA’s outright ban before declaring they would never play a Russian side).
Malta’s actions in this moment of truth are worse than equivocal. They are egoistic, and they send a message that our island cannot be counted on when the moment of truth arrives. We risk becoming a pariah state, too. Sadly, these are the actions of our representatives and not of our people. Even more sadly, we are about to confirm them in their position of power notwithstanding their record as a greedy, egocentric elite.
The good thing about democracy is that the people get the government they want. The bad thing about democracy is that sometimes the people get the government they deserve.