Last month, while working from home during the summer break, I made it a point to visit various localities in Malta and Gozo. Included in these visits was Xewkija, where I had the occasion to visit the the Xewkija Windmill. The windmill was re-opened in January of this year , following a refurbishment costing some €500,000 that was co-funded with European Union funds.
Reading the introduction to this article, readers might very well be tempted to dismiss this piece as pro-government and pro-European. Yet this is far from my intention. The intention behind this piece, on the other hand, is to show how European institutions, which are often perceived as being too bureaucratic and out of touch, can in reality influence our everyday life, winning the hearts and minds of citizens in the process. The Xewkija Windmill project is a case in point in this regard. After all, had it not been for EU funds, along with the will of the Labour Government and the cooperation of the family who used to operate this windmill, most probably this project would have never materialized, especially considering the fact that the said windmill had suffered years of disrepair and deterioration for a number of years.
I was pleased to learn when visiting the windmill that as a result of this refurbishment, new machinery has been refitted. I was told that the original machinery was damaged in a fire some 100 years ago. Imagine what those who witnessed the said fire would have thought 100 years ago if they were to be told that the problems caused by the said fire were to be fixed 100 years later thanks to an intergovernmental and supranational organization!
The gist of my argument, at the end of the day, is that even citizens living in rural and peripheral areas can benefit directly from the EU. The European Union does not only exist for the benefit of those living in urban centres, where large projects can come about. On the contrary, the Union exists for everyone.
With that being said, everything has its place and in as much as there needs to be an investment in rural areas, so too is there a need for larger projects which benefit the community at large in central and urban areas. Malta is home to prime examples of such projects too. Needless to say, that the Kappara Junction and the larger Marsa Junction project, have directly benefited commuters who pass through them on a daily basis on their way to work or otherwise. Less time spent on the road means less frustration, more time spent with the family, more leisure time, as well as less pollution. If this is not within itself, directly impactful, then I do not know what is.
However, I would be misleading both myself as well as the readers of this article, if I do not acknowledge that although physical investment is important, it does not get anywhere close to what is really needed for true societal improvement. With that being said, there is another kind of investment that does address the areas of concern in this regard; investment that enables people to move up the social ladder. An example of this kind of investment is the European Social Fund, whereby, for example, training programmes are set up, enabling those who take up such programmes to gain quality education and soft skills. The Youth Guarantee (recently merged into the ESF+), and the Erasmus+ programme are also programmes which greatly benefit all those who participate in them, making sure that they do not fall behind and that they get to experience new cultures and adventures respectively.
Naturally, these are all worthy investments. These investments, however, should not be seen in silos. They should instead be seen as rings in the same chain. For it is likely that one project alone does not in itself lead to great change, but a number of them taken up together result in the betterment of collective livelihoods. The positive characteristics of the Union need to continue showcasing themselves, and such projects are very much positive indeed. As a Maltese Member of the European Parliament I look forward to continue working to ensure better accessibility to EU funding for all. For as the title of this article suggests, such funds are an important means to ensure that the European Union exists for everyone.