Dr Josianne Cutajar is a 29-year-old advocate specialising in EU, currently working at the office of the Prime Minister. She is also an activist in the field of gender equality and domestic violence. Dr Cutajar is the youngest PL MEP candidate, and minority leader at the Nadur Local Council for the past 7 years.
– What prompted your decision to submit your candidature?
A public invitation by the Prime Minister was what set the ball rolling. The Prime Minister is a political role model and colleague, so his trust in me was not only heartening but also very encouraging to take a resolute decision to offer my candidature to work in the best interest of the country.
There is our national interest and reputation to protect, and that is exactly what I intend to do if elected. It has become commonplace in the past years for some representatives of our islands to take domestic political disagreements onto European platforms hoping to score cheap political points. As an active citizen, this frustrates me greatly and this is a major reason why I am contesting these elections.
If elected, my work in the European Parliament will focus on furthering social causes and civil liberties, but also on reverting the unnecessary damage caused to the reputation of Malta as an idyllic destination for talent and investment in order to protect the jobs of fellow Maltese and Gozitans. I also want to further Malta’s efforts towards greater connectivity with the rest of the continent.
– As a young woman, do you believe that the younger generations are fully aware of the implications, the pros and cons of being part of such a huge bloc?
I believe the younger generations are better informed about the benefits of forming part of a wider union of nation states – the freedom to move from one country to another without restrictions, the opportunities posed by an extended job market, healthcare entitlement across member states, higher standards in the air we breathe and the food we consume, to mention just a few EU benefits.
The Brexit vote highlighted the fact that support to the Union is strong among the younger generations. Younger generations have become accustomed to living in a country whose decisions ought to largely conform to the wider direction adopted by the rest of the bloc. Older generations have the privilege of hindsight – they lived in a fragmented Europe whose potential was limited by small scale politics.
– Do you believe young people have faith in the institution of the European Union as it stands today?
The greatest quality of modern society is the efficiency of its tools and its systems, when applied to solve shortcomings. The loss of faith in the European project is a result of a number of recurring issues in several countries across Europe, which we haven’t yet managed to neutralise.
Young people do appreciate the freedom of movement enjoyed by Europeans; the competitive prices due to our partaking in a market of 500 million people; enhanced services we use every day. Now they need to start seeing results in other areas where the political class across Europe has failed to act for so many years such as migration. I am sure that positive results on such important issues to so many people, added to the experience of the UK withdrawing from the European Union, will reassure a lot of sceptics that a stable future lies within the Union, not outside of it.
– Which issues do you believe should be given top priority in the EU parliament today?
Work life balance is essential to the sustainable development of our society. Reasonable leaders invest in the structure of the family if they are truly interested in the wellbeing of society as a whole. Family should be understood in its widest sense and not only be limited to couples with children.
The European Parliament should do the same, and focus its energy on pushing for policies, measures and laws that provide all the tools and opportunities to young individuals and couples, to progress in their careers whilst balancing their responsibilities within the family. That will give equal opportunities to any gender to grow individually, but also to create a healthy social environment for the respective family to grow.
Despite its beginnings as an economic union, the social aspect and the principle of solidarity between all the members are pillars which evolved the European Union we form part of today. I criticise the European Union in this sense, for along the way it might have lost the social impetus. In the European Parliament, I will work to ensure that it makes its way back among the top priorities of the Union.
– What is your personal view of the European Union?
It is the best arrangement Europeans were able to settle for during the past decades. Can it be better? Can its democratic credentials improve? Can effective decisions be made more expediently? Can small member states feel less on the fringes than others? Definitely – and if elected I will work toward furthering such aims.
But we should all appreciate that this arrangement has ensured peace, freedom and prosperity to a continent that had only known war before.
– Do you believe it is fulfilling its original scope?
The EU initially formed to share materials and keep the peace in a war-torn continent. That goal is still satisfied successfully. 60 years later, the Union has grown into a strong political force whose policy touches directly the day to day lives of its citizens. I consider that a positive development. The economic aim is being fulfilled, I wish to see the strengthening of the social aspect.
– Do you believe that the wellbeing of Europeans is wholly being taken into account through the European Parliament’s legislation, or do you believe that certain issues are being consistently ignored?
European legislation is so vast and widespread in scope. Ongoing legislative work stretches from measures relating to employees to increased protection on medical products, safety in road infrastructure, to induced consumer protection and regulations on nuclear installations. Given the massive spectrum of its subject matter I am sure that the wellbeing of citizens is being taken into account, though not to the fullest extent.
There are important issues, like asylum policy, where the EU has stagnated due to meagre political will. With the Union at a crossroad, I sincerely hope that the next election will be cataclysmic and will induce a sense of urgency on a number of recurring matters, including migration, and environmental policy and legislation, among others.
– How can this be tackled?
By making sure our representatives in Parliament have our interests at heart, and dedicate their time and experience to actively push for the needs of the everyday citizen. Collectively, we are much stronger than the powers that be which are trying to keep certain issues out of the European agenda. I am positive that we can change this with a team effort and the right people in Parliament.
– A wave of populism is plaguing the EU… what do you believe has led to this dangerous state of affairs?
I think there is a deficit of communication between the bureaucratic class in Brussels and the regions, cities and villages across Europe. Who is to blame for this? Whilst democracy needs to take time to listen and compromise, I think the decision-making processes within the Union tend to be too complex and it takes very long for a proposal to turn into effective law for the citizen.
Way too much time for populist politicians who ride on global problems and simplify them, to convince with their short-sighted narrow solutions. The latter’s mastery in the use of media especially modern social media and their influence on the general public cannot be underestimated.
European politicians share in the blame for failing to heavily promote the European project, for failing to explain the process and the small but important changes that European policies have on the daily life of the ordinary citizen.
– What are the future benefits and obviously the challenges for Malta as part of the EU? And from a Gozitan’s perspective?
Investment is essential for our growth as a country. Repairing the reputation tarnished by systemic attacks on our national institutions, financial services, law enforcement and the judicial system, will therefore prove to be an important task.
The protection of our right to decide on matters of taxation remains crucial to safeguard our competitive edge within a fierce European and global market, especially after Brexit will take away one of our greatest allies on the matter.
Given Malta’s robust rhythm of economic growth, it will be challenging but it remains imperative to convince European institutions that Malta still requires to tap into European funds for development to be able to sustain its growth in certain sectors.
This is very important for our country and also for the island of Gozo which currently benefits from 10% of the EU structural funds voted for the country. It’s also important to incentivise Gozo and its beneficiaries to tap into other available EU funds.
A main challenge is surely to effectively convince the EU to adopt rules and regulations which justly and seriously take into account Gozo’s peculiarities; peculiarities of small islands suffering from double insularity deserve particular effort and attention.
What is your personal vision for Malta within the EU?
Some people have called it far-fetched, but I truly believe in the Prime Minister’s vision of having Malta leading the Union in terms of its political agenda.
We have come so far on so many issues – in the civil liberties sector, for instance, most states are already following our example and copying our laws. I am positive we can do the same in other sectors.
– If elected, which priorities do you believe should take precedence?
For me politics is a means to attaining social justice. Therefore the issues heading my agenda are social issues including education, employees’ rights, civil rights and liberties and addressing poverty and inequality. Malta is already working hard on these issues by channeling its economic success to these sectors. These are issues which I believe the EU could do considerably more on, and if elected I will definitely push such issues in Parliament.
– With the upcoming MEP elections, what is your message to the electorate, especially young people who will be voting for the first time?
The problems engulfing our Europe today are mainly borne out of passivity. Fight it; change it. Do not be afraid to question everything. Do not be spectators but make sure you make yourself heard by voicing your concerns and voicing your ideas. The upcoming European elections are very exciting. The involvement of more young people will make it a celebration of democracy. I think it will be a great opportunity to rejuvenate the whole concept of Europe and what it means for each and every citizen-voter.
We must think of our future too. We need representatives who prioritise the best interest of our country and who take decisions to safeguard our jobs and wellbeing.
Get to know more about Dr Josianne Cutajar by clicking on the following link:https://www.facebook.com/pg/joscutajar/videos/?ref=page_internal