On Monday 17th March, the European Documentation Centre in collaboration with the European Parliament Office, organised a debate in which MEP candidates who are also European Studies graduates went head to head to discuss Europe and the European Union’s most hotly debated topics at the moment.
The candidates present were Kevin Cutajar, Miriam Dalli and Cyrus Engerer. Dr. Peter Agius, the head of the European Parliament office in Malta and Arnold Cassola an Alternattiva Demokratika candidate were also present in the audience to give his input.
Malta’s sparse representation in committees in the EU, owing to its minute size, was the first topic to be put up for debate. All candidates stressed that although it is no mean feat for Malta to have full representation in such committees, it does not mean that Malta is inferior. Moreover, all candidates expressed which committees they would like to be a part of since all have varying interests namely employment, human rights and the internal market. Lobbying was also given its due importance. Above all, the concept of European identity is key.
The increase in the number of Euro sceptics MEPs was the next topic of discussion. Once again, all candidates seemed to be in agreement that this development should not be ignored. Also, all were of the opinion that this shows the lack of trust that many citizens have in the EU. Dalli said that although this might be healthy, since Parliament will have different points of views and ideas during discussion, the issue will arise if particular groups will constantly block the initiatives being debated. Cutajar and Engerer stressed that the rise of Eurosceptism reflected in Parliament clearly shows that citizens rely mainly on what other people as well as the media say and they base their perceptions on the latter.
All candidates acknowledged and appealed that more education and information sessions should be made available to the public to enhance the public’s interest and keep the European flame alive. A witty member of the audience pointed out that probably the main reason for the public’s passiveness is due to the exaggerated salary given to such MEPs and even suggested that such salary should be cut down. All candidates stressed that cutting down salary is not the sole driving force for their work but it is the decisions taken in the European Parliament which really have the strongest impact.
The final two topics were Malta’s role in the EU and what the candidates have to offer should they be elected and the new Commission president to replace Barrosso. Engerer said that although the agenda is made by the European institutions, he will do his best to stand up for what he believes is best for Malta and the citizens. Dalli also expressed her desire to push forward the European concept on a macro level and on a micro level, encourage what is best needed for the citizens of the member states particularly Malta. Cutajar continued to say that he will contribute to the EU project and help to tackle issues which he believes are most important both for Europe as well as Malta.
Regarding the new Commission president, all candidates defended the choice made by their respective political groups that is Jean Claude Juncker for the European People’s Party and Martin Schulz for S&D.