For those of us who love left wing politics, last week was an unprecedented one for Malta. Unprecedented, because the Socialists and Democrats Group came to our shores for their group meeting, workshops, and fact-finding missions under the theme of being “United for a More Social Europe.” And what a place they chose to discuss a more social Europe. After all, Malta’s social sector, including housing and social welfare are worth commending. So too is our universal healthcare, a service that has its place amongst the very best when it comes to fighting the pandemic.
Naturally our European partners recognize this. And proof of this is the fact that they gave us a vote of confidence by deciding to hold this in-person conference in Malta after a 2-year break which was also brought about by Covid19. However, what in my view makes the past week truly unprecedented, is the ideas that were discussed in Malta rather than the simple fact that a number of physical events and meetings were held here.
The ideas discussed in Malta will continue making waves in the months and years to come. Personally speaking, one idea that I think will continue making waves was discussed at an event that I organised – ‘Europe come to Gozo’ – that brought together Socialist Members of the European Parliament with a number of local stakeholders in Gozo. This idea promotes rural and remote regions of the periphery as the key to unlocking future success including when to comes to sustainable tourism. “How so?”, one would ask. Well, by adequate consultation and European investment into research and innovation of course.
After all, no one likes the implementation of extraordinary projects to take place without researching and analysing how such projects would work out in the first place. And that is where Malta and Gozo could come in. Gozo especially has tremendous potential to market itself as a destination where new technology, as well as sustainable projects, can be tested out. The ideas that work in Gozo could then be taken up by Malta as a whole, and perhaps even by much larger cities. This in itself would make us pioneers, and it would also send a message to our population, with this message being that yes, even the regions of the periphery can benefit directly from Europe and European investment and be test beds for innovative solutions.
Just as this is true for Malta and Gozo, so too is it true for other peripheral islands and regions that have too much reliance on certain economic sectors. As the pandemic has shown, diversification is the name of the game, and we must make sure that through diversification we gain a newfound resilience to external economic shocks that have the power to wreak havoc.
Diversification, however, should not only be spoken about vis-à-vis different economic sectors. As was done during the past week, we should also talk about intra-sectoral diversification, where we strive to attract different players from within the same sector to invest. Speaking about tourism for example, we would do well to look towards regenerative tourism, which is the kind of tourism that leaves a positive economic, social, and environmental impact on the community.
These environmentally friendly concepts will also come in handy when tackling climate change, even within the auspices of the European Union’s Green Deal. We would do well to remember after all that although we want to fight climate change with optimal force, we must do so without harming the most vulnerable amongst us. If anything, the most vulnerable amongst us are in a prime position to help us in taking this challenge and turning it into an opportunity that could benefit all of us.
Naturally, Europe stands ready to help in this regard, with countless European Union funds ready to be tapped into. It goes without saying therefore that in concluding, I would like to explore tapping into such opportunities. Just as we did last week and in the past months, we stand ready to help in continuing bringing Brussels to Gozo and Malta. Happy Sunday to all!