Do you recall your first experience with politics, and how did that experience develop an interest in what would later become a very important part of your life?
I was a young law student when I became involved in politics, and I did it because I believed that my generation’s place was Europe.
At that moment, I felt a bit frustrated about the decision to freeze Malta’s application to join the European Union, and I thought, “What am I going to do about it?’. I decided to fight for it because I realised that if I really believed in something, then I don’t need to wait for someone else to bring change, I can also do it myself.
Almost 20 years later, I still believe our generation’s place is Europe.
The scenario is of course different, both from a personal and professional side, but working for the EU, and for the future of my generation and now also the one of my sons, remains one of my top priorities.
You started in politics at a very young age, and as part of your youth political journey you were a member of EDS, can you explain to us your transition from youth politics into the senior level?
My time in EDS was crucial to my political journey; as a student I understood the perspective of my peers and the reality they face. It is something I have always carried with me throughout the years.
As President of the European Parliament, I regularly meet with all kinds of people, but I must say I do especially like to meet, listen and exchange with young people, and in particular with young students. The present and the future of our Union is in their hands, and yet I feel a strong sense of responsibility from generations like mine, to help make it that little bit easier for them to succeed.
Of course professional life, just like personal life, is a continuous learning process. But my experience in EDS has been one of the foundations of my professional career. I will never forget that.
Whenever I walk past the big committee room next to the hemicycle, I don’t think of all European Parliament files I’ve worked on, or the trilogies I’ve attended or even the countless speeches I’ve heard and given.
What I think about is my time as a student activist when we would stay up late into the night discussing resolutions; sometimes we would spend ages debating on the insertion or deletion of a single word. It was important to me then. And it is still important to me now that young people do that. Because future politicians, leaders in so many different spheres of society are molded right there – in student and youth organizations. I would like you to remember that.
How have your political views changed at a personal level and changed depending on the people you are representing?
In life we continuously learn and evolve. But my values as a person and as a politician have remained constant. My aim is to achieve a more inclusive, safer, freer EU, with more opportunities for all. In short, a better EU.
Every day I talk to many people from different countries, institutions, collectives, backgrounds, people who may have different objectives. But I believe that we all agree on this, to work for a better EU, and this is what I devote all my work and efforts to every day.
I got into politics because I believe in Europe and that together we can deliver more for all of us.
This has not changed over the years.
Culture and information bubbles exist everywhere. How do you keep yourself “grounded” as a politician with an ear to what the people truly care about?
For a politician it is essential not to lose touch with reality. We work in offices, in institutions, and with other politicians, to make decisions. But to take the right decisions we must also be in the street, in companies, in schools, in every place where the citizens are. We must acknowledge their needs, wants and concerns.
This is something I have always tried to do and especially as President of the European Parliament. I try to meet with all sectors, and when I travel to any city or town in Europe, I meet not only with politicians but also with citizens from different areas so that I understand their daily realities. Of course, young people always have a special place in my agenda.
Having in mind that the European elections are coming up in just about a year time, what basis will the EPP run on in the election to motivate young voters to give their vote to the EPP, but more importantly become active in creating a better European future?
I think that we are facing a generation that is honest about Europe’s achievements and failures, and that brings answers to the table. This generation believes in Europe, and knows that it can provide answers to address the uncertainty they are facing. This is why, the role of the youth will be essential in shaping our common future, and this future is starting today and will have an important moment in the European elections to be held in 2024.
This is why, every time I speak with young people, I always try to convey the same messages: make your voice heard, be active by leading on the issues that matter most to you, and finally, hold your elected leaders accountable.
I also tell them my story that I got involved in politics as a student myself, hoping that this will resonate with them, that this will encourage a few to run as candidates in the next elections, whether at the European or national level.
In the meantime, it is of course essential that we do our part. All European institutions must deliver on the promises made, and show that Europe is hope. We must continue to represent each and every citizen, and ensure that their voices are heard. Only then we can bring citizens and the leaders of tomorrow closer to Europe.