“This time I’m voting” is the motto of the Creating Your Own Europe, a campaign aimed at all EU citizens to vote for their MEPs in the next election and get involved in both national and European politics. The meeting that happened in Gozo regarding the campaign, supported by the Kunsill Nazzjonali Zaghzagh, had a similar message but more specific and centered around Gozo.
Various themes and subjects were discussed but they all mostly revolved around the future of Gozo and Gozitan youth on both islands. The panel guests were MEPs Dr Alfred Sant and Dr Roberta Metsola, alongside the president of the Gozo Business Chamber, Joe Grech. On behalf of KNZ there was Dr. William Vella and the panel was moderated by another KNZ member; Eman Borg.
A good number of Gozitans were also present for the meeting and all raised various points of awareness. One that really impacted the MEPs and floor alike was the point regarding how the MEPs can be held accountable for their promises since really and truly the people have power mostly only when it comes to voting. Another point that went hand in hand with the latter had to do with how the citizens keep contact with the MEPs thus making sure that they are being held accountable and checked upon by the citizens themselves. Dr Metsola emphasised the fact that our own social networks can be great for putting pressure on various issues such as transport, for example, since one can hear from the person who is suffering rather than some minister addressing the issue.
The point that was quite pushed forward throughout the discussion was that young people need to vote more. This as a result of looking at the facts and numbers indicating that only 40% of the young people in Malta and Gozo voted in the last general election. Another valid point that was brought to the table by Dr Metsola is that every Gozitan, when voting, needs to believe that Gozo will also benefit, not just Malta.
Joe Grech brought up the issue of physical connection between the Malta and Gozo, or the lack of it. He added that the mobility issue between the islands has deterred various investors from starting up a company and investing time and money on the sister island. Grech also insisted on guaranteeing a future in education and job opportunities in Gozo, and therefore it is the young Gozitans who need to fix Gozo, not the foreigners and that is why he insisted on their voting. Party leaders do not consider the future of Gozo in 20 years but only the votes they will gain, Grech states. Joe Grech also mentioned that through EU funds, Gozo will be generating activity and jobs only if Gozitans work hard enough. Yet, the fact that Gozo is not even recognised as a region in the European Union was not beneficial either since it suffers from double insularity that eventually leads to lower pay rates for Gozitan workers as well as lack of funds.
Dr. Vella emphasised that just by funding projects one won’t really help Gozo enough, but there needs to be a common vision. He also pressed on the issue that Gozitans should learn to ask themselves ‘What do we need’? Rather than ‘What will I gain from this?’ An issue that was also mentioned briefly was the issue of the Institution of Tourism Studies in Malta planning to move various full-time courses to their institute in Gozo where Maltese students could also join and integrate with the Gozitan Student. This would be a difficult idea to implement in theory since Maltese people are quite accustomed to staying and studying in Malta.
Insite Malta later pressed Dr. William Vella, the organiser of the discussion, about the discussion and what motivated him. “The fact that I want Gozo to increase awareness and evolve more in EU matters such as funding and opportunity”, Dr. Vella replied. Insite Malta also asked him about the aim of such a discussion and what will be the next step of this discussion will be. He replied that the aims were “Gozitan unity” as well as “a common vision”. Dr. Vella also replied that the next hopeful step will be “a continuation of such discussions to continue an awareness and informative campaign about the relationship between Gozo and the EU.”