Felix Busuttil is a born and bred in Gozitan. He not so jokingly claims that he started dancing in his mother’s womb. This undying passion for dance resulted in a sequence of events which formed The YADA Dance Company, three dance institutions, a brand and huge theatrical representations.
During the last 30 years, Felix has achieved many local merits and choreographed for opera, dance shows and festivals in Malta and overseas namely in Denmark, Switzerland, France, Turkey, India, Italy, Germany, Brussels, Spain and San Francisco. He has danced and choreographed twice in the presence of H.R.H. Queen Elizabeth II and other 52
Commonwealth Head of States. In London he obtained a diploma in Performing Arts and recently graduated in his master’s degree at the University of Malta in Dance Studies. He will be receiving major recognition for his dance career in an Italian event called Premio Eccellenza della Danza to be held in November 2018.
Felix is appreciated by Malta’s top institutional organizations as a true portent of professionalism in dance in Malta and abroad. He is presently giving artistic services to Festivals Malta at the Arts Council Malta and has been a member on the Mediterranean Conference Centre Board of Directors for over 9 years.
He strongly believes in the power of positive thinking, endless determination and perseverance and the beauty of dance in all our lives. He is proficient in political knowledge and speaks six languages. He advocates the importance of culture within our children’s education and the power of music, theatre and dance that bring nations together. He believes in the undeniable rights in the pursuit of personal happiness, in equal love rights for all, in his fight for the underdog and a voice for those who do not have – animals and the environment. These aspirations have pushed Felix towards the national political platforms and have recently catapulted him to become associated deeply and fondly with the Malta Labour Party and the movement created by Malta’s present Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. He is now contesting the next 2019 Member of the European Parliament elections under the umbrella of the Malta Labour Party.
As an artist you have had a successful career which spans more than 30 years… what prompted such a move into politics?
I had left Gozo to pursue a religious vocation which later translated into an artistic one. God must also have given me the gift of the tongue and I was ready to use it for the underdog, for the bullied, for the victim, for social injustice – through my choreographic creations, through my social media platform, through my speeches.
Everything in politics as in dance, fell in the right place – somehow there was some splendid, invisible force that whether I like or not was placing all in the right place, in the right direction; and I do not believe in coincidence. Just before the elections of 2013, Joseph Muscat called me in his office at the Labour Party Headquarters. He must have heard that I had been always writing about the LGBTIQ injustices on the island, about the need that all in the face of love should be treated equally. He had heard about the love I have for arts and culture and our children’s education, and my undying passion for animals and nature. I was surprised to get this call, and I diligently went to meet Joseph. Joseph became Prime Minister and kept his word, which made me a stronger follower of his deeds. Love reigned supreme and I got married to my 18-year relationship partner, Daron in I kept close to the Government and aided where needed in artistic ventures, and to his ways and means on how to transmit messages to the general public. In the last elections I was called to be a testimonial to the Prime Minister and his wife that probably without me knowing, carved my name in politics. I spoke at a Naxxar Mass Meeting – I spoke from the heart. After the speech, many of those who had heard me were asking me whether I was contesting any elections – they were a lot. This was the eureka moment.
I called on the PM at Castille asking him to guide me and be my mentor in the world of politics. He had a lot to tell me. First, he asked me whether my love, Daron, would agree as this is priority. He asked whether I was ready to take the brunt of brutal Maltese politics. And whether my heart lies in the spirit of empathy and giving. Many of my answers were positive but deep within my soul I had a lot of uncertainties and doubts. He asked me to return to Castille some three weeks after with my doubts, my questions and my decisions. Those three weeks were sleepless – there was no mention of the European Parliament elections. I was thinking of the local ones in three years’ time.
I love, and I repeat, love debate and love speaking in public. I love to learn languages (can speak six) and adore books and documentaries. But mostly I wish to fight as I did all my life for the voiceless – the minorities. The peripheral society. The poor and the under-represented ones. The animals. Nature and our beautiful planet and immensely believe in the European ideals and vision. The artist in me moulded into politics. The attraction was there. It needed materialising.
I returned to Castille, sat down and spoke with Joseph like a friend speaking to another. I outpoured all my doubts. Spoke to him about my visions – my love for respectful politics, the pursuit of happiness and the need for non-partisan politics. He asked me “Why don’t you pursue contesting the European Parliament elections?” My reply was “That would be rather presumptuous”. He replied with the Joseph Muscat smile, “Aren’t we all politicians presumptuous. What keeps me sane is the fact that this office is only borrowed. Temporary. Not permanent”. He had convinced me, and here I am. I am an approved candidate in the first group with the Labour Party.
Unfortunately, as humans we judge those we do not know and those who know us so well do not judge us. It is the persistent irony. Many who do not know me would think I am doing all this for the wrong reasons. Probably for some financial gain. Those who know me know money is not very important to me; neither are material things. I do not shop for clothes or vases – all I have, I use to produce art, to buy experiences, to travel, and I usually share all with others. I lived in palaces and lived in hamster-homes. I had money to buy a barrel of beer but not enough money to buy myself a soft drink. I worked all my life for my schools and my dance company – which I still love and work for. Having to give up my dance would perhaps mean eating up most of my soul but perhaps the sharing of my ideals would then replenish all. I do not need applause – I have had enough standing ovations. My mission is to carry on fighting for the underdog. The voiceless. In the spirit of my love for Malta and Gozo in a European dimension.
I believe that we Maltese carry a particular set of genes – the negative ones could relate to an island-mentality where partisan politics, sport and religious adversaries could deviate us from issues that really matter, and debate could be lost in the cacophony of insults, lies and useless tit-for-tat.
What are your views on today’s European Union?
I am a European Union aficionado. Always believed in the European Union ideals – the wayit was formed. This is why it must be defended at all costs. We cannot discuss the present of the Union without looking at its past, and its past lie in roots enforced in peace-making, in the abolition of the horrid inhumane world of wars. Europe had been for years ravaged by war – the spilling of blood of our innocents, our children, our heroes. As a nation, as part of this European family, we cannot not look at the ravages of its history. For centuries, one nation took to war against its neighbour, born from territorial dispute, economic chaos, injustices, lack of tolerance for one another, diverse views, diverse religions, diverse dogmas and worst of all, the ugly monster that is ultra-nationalism. Thus, brought to Europe and to the world unspoken atrocities. Cities bombed to dust. Babies thrown out of windows. Soldiers killed on European beaches. Children starved to death. Refugees without a home, without a soul and millions gassed to their death.
This is why the European Union was created. We must give credit to visionary leaders suchas Winston Churchill and De Gasperi who inspired the creation of the European Union we live in today. Without their energy and motivation, we would not be living in the climate of peace and stability that we take for granted nowadays. The European Union is set up with the aim of ending the frequent and bloody wars between neighbours, which culminated in the Second World War. As of 1950, the European Coal and Steel Community begin to unite European countries economically and politically to secure lasting peace. The six founding countries are Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The 1950s are dominated by a cold war between east and west. Protests in Hungary against the Communist regime are put down by Soviet tanks in 1956. In 1957, the Treaty of Rome creates the European Economic Community (EEC), or ‘Common Market’.
Many other changes were created within the European institution such as the first enlargement in the seventies, and Europe witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dismantling of its borders. Those same borders that in the past brought so much misery, so much bloodshed, so many wars. It kept at bay forces of ultra-nationalism that every so often, a monster lurking out of its filthy den would ravage people and nations – bringing division and bringing violence once again. Perhaps sometimes we forget the Europe that was and the Europe that is. We must not!
The Treaty of Lisbon is ratified by all EU countries before entering into force in 2009. It provides the EU with modern institutions and more efficient working methods. Europe now stands further thanks to its already-rich past for unity, for solidarity, for love and respect towards each other. For world peace and mostly for the ratification (by all member states) of fundamental and equal rights for all – genders, sexual orientation, religions, beliefs and race. Malta became a part of the bloc in the second and most dramatic expansion, and like all families, Europe is and will be facing challenges that although might look disheartening and hard to combat, in the togetherness that is the Union (and I repeat, the word togetherness) will all be made aware and fought hard.
In which areas do you believe that the EU is most lacking?
The European Union’s major rationale was always efficiency (and undoubtingly the EU institution is an efficient machine) and needs to become a citizen’s participating machine if it needs to strengthen its cores. Its case must rest on loyalty, trust and affection rather than just competence and progress. All nations must have the same values of empathy, equality, solidarity and an open unlimited approach to dialogue and compromise. It is impossible to have one nation do all it can to aid in immigration challenges and others simply close their borders. No compromise can be made between ones who believe in fundamental and human rights and others who lack these values.
Some countries are too small and weak to cope with global commercial, migratory or security pressures, and when solidarity persisted, the European Union was able to accomplish things no individual state could do on its own. This must be applauded and supported. If the European Union loses this main deep-rooted ideal, the Union will suffer and suffer immensely.
True, European decision-making was always complex, slow, and hostage to the lowest common denominator, but this has not prevented the EU from flexing its muscle within and outside its borders. Consider the skilful way of stabilizing Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of the Soviet system through the policy of enlargement under strict conditions; or think about the European Commission and the European Court of Justice’s impressive capacity to enforce application of the acquis communautaire comprising some 20,000 European laws, decisions, and regulations. However, today the European institutions feel paralysed and unable to make progress on the most pressing issues. Individual member states practice cherry-picking in complying with European norms and laws, while the EU Neighbourhood Policy amounts to empty declarations.
After three successive bailouts and numerous EU summits, hardly anybody believes that Greece will ever pay its debts. Nor is it credible to claim that several EU summits devoted to economic migrants and political refugees have found a durable, let alone ethical, solution for coping with them. Russia is not going to leave Crimea, despite the EU sanctions. The EU is not even able to steer global trade and environmental negotiations, something that used to be the EU’s speciality. The Euro was meant to help integrate Europe, but it achieved the opposite; it exacerbated the gaps and conflicts between the surplus and deficit countries, the importers and exporters, and the north and south. In all this, balance is the issue.
Then there is the knowing rise of populism which might have led to Brexit. The fear of territorial ‘invasion’ – not necessarily immigrants but also the invasion of ulterior cultures, which is used indiscriminately as a tool to light up the fire of ultra-nationalism, xenophobia, homophobia, violent anti-institution protests and the rise of fear itself which stalls integration, tolerance and unity. This is why the need of one uniting policy which safeguards the safety of minorities, the just sharing of economic aims and true freedom in the pursuit of happiness and growth… for all.
This would stem for the abolishing of barriers to the movement of capital, goods, services and people within its borders. The undeniable need for equal rights for all – in justice, the rule of law, status and personal being. One cannot cherry-pick. You either accept all and be part of this ideal – or you are out. Not necessarily an enemy but simply a country that does not hold the ideals of a solid, cohesive, united market with the same high values of dignity for all its citizens. The laws to uphold values exist but are difficult to implement and implement efficiently.
I believe in equality for all. All genders. All races. All religions. Gay and straight and the in- betweens. I believe in social justice and the beauty of embracing diversity.
Locally we have seen over the past few years huge advancement regarding civil rights… do you believe we are on a par with the European Union?
We are more than on par – we are way ahead of all. This is what makes me proud to be Maltese. The fact that as a nation we have understood (thanks to a statesman by the name of Joseph Muscat) that for a country to progress and grow economically, in values and perhaps even spiritually is that nobody must be left behind. All of us are citizens class A – equal in all that makes us human. This includes the development of families and the right to love depending on our genetic structure. The present government has been in the forefront to make all aware of the needs of a small (maybe not so small) portion of the Maltese population who was made invisible.
Then through approaching, dialogue and an ear to listen created a pathway, a series of serious law-changing events to make this possible. Not only in respect to the LGBTIQ community but also in the powerful want of couples to create families through the amending of the IVF laws and also through the decision to create affordable housing for those who cannot make ends meet because of high rent which came along with fast economic growths. We as a nation shine like a beacon of hope to many Italians and Romanians and Croatians who still do not consider homosexual love as equal as heterosexual love, and love is love.
Malta has shot up to a historic first place in the International Lesbian-Gay Association’s ‘Rainbow Europe’ league for LGBTIQ rights, overtaking the United Kingdom and Belgium. According to the global statistics table, Malta grants 94% of the total rights due to LGBTIQ people, ahead of the UK (85.55%) and Belgium (82.3%). Minister for European Affairs and Equality, Dr Helena Dalli hailed the results as proof of Malta’s progression in civil rights since Labour’s election to government in 2013.
A small island nation in the heart of the Mediterranean ranks first in the equal rights for all to love – isn’t this great? Doesn’t this make us all proud irrelevant of our political beliefs?
Any pressing issues you believe the EU should tackle in this regard?
The European Union is (meant to be) the true example in the fight for discrimination. It is committed to promoting human rights, democratization and development. The fight against racism and discrimination lies in the heart of that commitment – some of the main instruments available to the European Community (EC) in promoting respect for human rights are the cooperation and partnerships agreements with third countries, covering different regions. The European Union believes that the promotion and protection of human rights around the world is a legitimate concern of the international community. It is bound by its Treaty to promote human rights, democratization and development.
The European Union’s policy is based on internationally agreed frameworks and standards, reflecting the belief that human rights and democracy are not “Western” values but universal values to which all UN members subscribe. The EU must work towards the universal ratification and implementation of all major international human rights instruments.
In this regard, do equal rights to love and protection for the LGBTIQ communities also constitute an integral faction of human rights? Wouldn’t the fact that some European countries do not recognize equality in sexual orientation; people born gay are not given the same rights to love, to be protected by law considered discriminatory? Wouldn’t this also be considered as double European standards? We would understand that all countries have varied cultures but many are still rooted in national and religious connotations that are still creating a rift between one citizen and another – born under the same sun, loved by the same ‘God’, paying the same taxes, all searching for the personal and ultimate “pursuit of happiness”.
What other immediate challenges do you believe the EU is facing?
It is very difficult to establish when things started to get tough within the European Union. It could be related to slow-down of the continent’s economic growth. The dramatic enlargement. Germany becoming larger but also more powerful, and new neighbours have generated instability and migration. The failure of the establishing a unified European Constitution as a result of negative referenda in the Netherlands and in France. Major reforms of the EU have been difficult if not impossible since.
It seems that some of the European Member States have a definite agenda whilst some the complete opposite and this tug-of-war is placing a lot of stress and strain on the unity and solidarity that was once crucial in the actual formation and development. There are varied issues and challenges that the EU is facing, mainly the rise of populism and scepticism flared in most part by the immigration crisis – the euro crisis that might be on the mend – the hard-line stance of East European countries and their distancing themselves from the true values of free speech and democracy and of course, Brexit.
Other challenges are the further of real education towards the way we treat animals and the valued protection of our lands, skies and seas. Terrorist attacks have also made Europe a target and the public needs to be reassured that their lives, their security, their livelihood cannot be under attack.
Europe after Brexit is also a challenge – how will the EU move forward now? It would perhaps be a mistake to respond to the British decision with a headstrong “now we’re going to move to a European Federation faster than ever”, because it would further divide the EU and fuel the populist revolt even further. It is time to discuss constitutional issues, but rather the time for concrete European projects that strengthen the bond between all Europeans: combating youth unemployment, moving towards sustainable energy and ecological modernization, an active EU-policy of neighbourhood, digitalization and civil rights for all, investing more in education and in science, in the arts and the strengthening of European culture and values and a greater domestic safety by way of European cooperation. Apart from real education towards the way we treat animals and the protection of our land, nature and oceans and seas.
Support of the arts could assist in intercultural dialogue bringing us closer together – sing together, dance together, play music together. Art, as history tells us, could transform policies and the pen is always far mightier than the sword.
Culture and the arts are spheres which are obviously close to your heart – in what way do you believe that the European cultural identity can be enhanced?
Each and every country in Europe unlike the United States of America has a deep-rooted history rich in culture, tradition artistic legacy. This diversity is what makes the European continent tick – sometimes explosively, sometimes harmoniously. The sharing in the diversity of these multi-diverse cultures is what makes the European continent a rich encyclopaedia of beauty carved in years of hardship, creative ambitions and materialization of these ambitions that have added glory of each and every nation.
Literature, architecture, sculpture, dance, music, drama, song, traditions are the essential breath of every nation. Arts and culture are the soul of each and every one of us – and we take it all for granted. Unfortunately, when the wind starts to bite, it is culture and the arts that suffer the first brunt – whereas I believe they should be the last. Imagine a world without music? Without Beethoven, Haydn and Mozart? Without Rubens, Picasso and Gaudí? Without Plato, Keats and Prouts? Without Piaf, Callas and Calleja? Without Baryshnikov, Nureyev and Fracci? In having pride in the priceless collection of past, modern and contemporary artists, continental pride will grow – our children will appreciate all that is art around us and start truly protecting what is alive, what is human, what is divine. Theatres and museums, the temples of our nations, must be maintained, supported – new ones built and destroyed ones rebuilt.
Support of the arts could assist in intercultural dialogue bringing us closer together – sing together, dance together, play music together. Art, as history tells us, could transform policies and the pen is always far mightier than the sword. Art gives hope and a purpose to live and the sharing of cultural values could help us listen, discuss and be aware of other people’s problems and needs – maybe it is time we will have many more artists, much more heart, in our political institutions.
It is time that the heart wins over.
How do you believe Malta can contribute to the wellbeing of the European bloc and its populations?
I believe that we Maltese carry a particular set of genes – the negative ones could relate to an island-mentality where partisan politics, sport and religious adversaries could deviate us from matters that really matter, and debate could be lost in the cacophony of insults, lies and useless tit-for-tat. On the other hand, and this is power, the Maltese have the generosity, the hospitality and the charming gene. On the international stage we impersonate the little Chihuahua barking to the massive Pitbull and many times it works.
It worked for us historically – many powers underestimated our determination, our faith, our perseverance and we won (with the help of others) huge armadas, powers that were truly mighty. Intellectually, the Maltese have an insatiable yearning to learn – a drive that has made this small country (with the right opportunities) one of the top to retire in, one of the top to visit, one of the top to invest in and one to admire. We are excellent mediators and great thinkers. Our sense of family, of well-being is a sunshine to many and this could place us on the football ground. Generally speaking we are positive people and we certainly need a lot of positivity driving away the forces of scepticism, negativity and futile phobias that make us ignorant, intolerant and unproductive.
Malta, through its geographical placement, its language, its culture could be an attractive mediator between Europe and Africa and I believe this is not used to its fullest – dialogue, summits, networking, synergies and approach can be developed to bring around the table leaders from the two continents. On regular, well-timed schedules.
What are the future benefits and obviously the challenges for Malta as part of the EU?
Immigration – challenge and benefit. Everyone agrees that the immigration crisis is top of the list and the EU needs to urgently overhaul its asylum and immigration rules. In the past and at present, Italy and Greece and also, Malta had taken most of its strain because of their geographical position and the fact that, under EU law, asylum seekers must lodge their applications in the first country they enter. However, no one can agree how to do it: some countries are pushing for tougher external border controls, others for fairer distribution of new arrivals. Any solution will have to somehow balance the concerns of the “frontline” southern states with those of the wealthier northern “destination” states, but also deal with the flat refusal of hard-line central and eastern European governments such as Hungary and Poland to be pushed into accepting any migrants at all.
Solidarity, unity and compromise must prevail. Malta could become not the fighter but the mediator. Not the victim but the hero. Bringing countries together to not just talk but act. Dialogue is never futile – nevertheless at the end of dialogue there must be decisions, strong decisions based on compromise and support to one another. It is after all called a Union. Our challenge lies in the solving of the crisis – our benefit lies in becoming an integral part for solving the crisis. There must be unilateral solidarity – without it, all will fail.
On the other hand, with the increase and acceptance of new migrants, anti-immigration sentiment increases, thus increasing xenophobia and populism and worst of all violent racism and ultra-nationalism. Stronger far right-wing parties are on the increase and these create bigger strains on European ideals which have always been based on altruism, peace and support to the needy. The Maltese islands and their people must never give the impression of a racist country – with our limitations and the obeying of international laws and EU objectives we must always paint a picture of rationalism, truths, no use of fear and a sense of altruism.
This is Malta. Malta has always been ‘heart’ and heart is muscle too.
How do you see Malta within the EU in future?
We, in our standing, could be a beacon for civil rights throughout the entire world and must advertise this. We have become a nation that truly and veritably upholds an open society in all its diversity and protects all. We could do that by pushing the boundaries and become first in protecting bio-diversity, the development and implementation of sustainable energy.
In our micro-cosmos we could become pioneers in engineering and re-structuring to provide clean air and clean waters for all – thus enhancing and empowering the fight against climate change. We can do this; we just need the courage, the tools and the right people to make this happen. We can become first in the world in animal rights and environment protection and rebuilding. As a nation, we would make Europe proud – a nation that can become an example for those within Europe and those outside. Let us study what other countries are doing such as Iceland in their schools for gender equality and Scandinavian countries for clean air and waters and Singapore for discipline and cleanliness. Let us learn from others and make it better. Make it happen.
Malta, albeit its small representation, through working together and alongside other parties who share the same values becomes a lighthouse, a point of reference and an example of true European identity, blessed with the virtues of reciprocation, perseverance, tolerance and altruism.
As a prospective candidate, which primary issues do you believe should take first priority?
I believe in education and where it doesn’t exist, educate!
I believe in our children and our youths – they are the immediate future. Invest.
I believe in life and the protection of animals through laws that are in place and are enforced. Protect and love.
I believe in the air that we breathe. The trees, the shrubs, the grass, our lungs. Make grow and let grow.
I believe in family. In the beauty of diverse families and traditional ones – the ones that are not selfish but have been created because they truly want to give, including their own lives to see that their children are cared for, educated and loved unconditionally.
I believe in equality for all. All genders. All races. All religions. Gay and straight and the in- betweens. I believe in social justice and the beauty of embracing diversity.
I believe in the arts and culture – the strong pen, the powerful dance and the magical song. It will bring us so close together.
I believe in God. I believe in a supreme being – I believe in prayer and in solidarity. I believe in faith. And have respect for all faiths, creeds and ideologies as long as they are life-loving.
I believe in positivity, honesty, leadership, bowing our heads when we do wrong as we are all human – I believe there is space for all of this in politics. I believe in a supreme being – I believe in prayer and in solidarity. I believe in faith.
I believe in positivity, honesty, leadership, bowing our heads when we do wrong as we are all human – I believe there is space for all of this in politics. It is what makes a statesman – not a politician.
I believe in us Maltese and Gozitans – in our place in Europe. Our place on the world stage.
Our place within the vast universe. Making us insignificant but amazingly significant.
My beliefs are my mission.
And your message to the electorate?
Many friends who care fear that the Felix they once knew would be carried like a floating log down the rapids of brutal politics and thus Felix becomes a different Felix. This is certainly not my want or my wish. My wish is that the Felix I know, the artist, the one who sits on the studios next to young, little aspiring dancers, the one who empathises and feels for the abandoned dog, will not be lost. I sincerely believe we need much more respect, much more ear and less mouth – we need much more dialogue and debate. Just because someone is standing on the other side of the river, this does not mean that the other person is corrupt or is less intelligent than me or I treat differently.
I believe in honest and clear politics – the kind of politics that are not simply based on mathematics and statistics but also on breaking down barriers, appreciate all that makes us Maltese and have meaningful and efficient re-structuring of contemporary lives that do not undermine anyone’s “pursuit of happiness”. We must assimilate and integrate and not disintegrate and through competition, lose our own values of integrity and dignity for others. Our objectives must be as clear as crystal – not necessarily popular but necessarily just. We must protect our children without closing ourselves in.
We must transform our culture, one that is founded in our spiritual values. To love and respect one another. To love and be at awe at the beauty of our planet and all that lives and worship it. To be heartful and not heartless to every living thing and to be proud of our nation, our beloved country – not to tarnish its name with others and through quiet dialogue truly understand the fragility of reputation and expectation. To love our families, our children, our environment. Let us make the invisible in all that is positive, visible.
My message is clear – fight for the underdog, protect life and educate infinitely.
For the love of ourselves. For the love of Malta and Gozo. For the love of Europe.