A fair, free and sustainable Europe is possible – Joseph Muscat
A fair free and sustainable Europe is possible, said Prime Minister Joseph Muscat during the Party of European Socialists 2018 Congress.
Addressing the event, he spoke about work and the second industrial revolution, which stems from Artificial Intelligence. “The great successes from our movement came from when we broke with the past. If we were the music industry, we would not hope that people would go back to using a Walkman. We have to be the Spotify of politics, not the Walkman. We are models, and there are models even in politics – in progressive politics – that work, especially if we understand the historic moment we are in, working with those who want Europe to move forward, who want unity.”
The Prime Minister highlighted the fact that, in the past, some of the Party of European Socialist politicians were too self-absorbed in debates, which meant little to families struggling to make ends meet. “We were talking to the mirror while real people were asking different questions.
“Others were giving the answers – wrong ones and over-simplistic ones, but most of the time they were the only answers around. People’s lives cannot wait for politicians to get their act together.” Referring to the past, he said that the industrial revolution had made work more accessible to people. “People organised themselves into trade unions and there was social mobility. It was the best boost for the social middle class.
“Over time, this created middle Europe. Inversely, we must acknowledge that the new industrial revolution was spearheaded by AI risks, depriving the middle class of what it had achieved. The instinct is to resist or oppose change,” he said, adding that “during the dawn of the industrial revolution, there was a small group of workers who went to factories to smash machinery they believed was taking jobs, but their victories were short-lived. We progressives were always for change and not against it. Instead of ignoring or postponing it, we must embrace and harness it. We must seek answers to issues that define the next generation.”
Muscat said that a politics of progressive disruption is one where we challenge, surprise and provoke. “We should not fear to do so in all areas outside our comfort zone. When a Conservative steals one of our good ideas, he or she is called smart. But when one us takes a sensible policy from elsewhere we call them a traitor. If we want to succeed, we must go where we think we cannot go. We must not be afraid to venture on economic governance. We must speak about human rights, about crime and security. If people speak to us about Europe, it does not mean we love our country less. We want it to be stronger and working with others and not going it alone makes us stronger.
“As the smallest EU state, we are making the case for progressive politics,” said the Prime Minister, “and our progressive politics and economic model works for our citizens. The smallest EU state is the one that has registered the highest rate of economic growth: 7.5 per cent in a single quarter. We have the best performing economy in Europe, which is run by progressives, and we have the second lowest unemployment rate.
“And all this as we are closing the third consecutive year with a fiscal surplus, and we have increased pensions and the minimum wage. We have done this by believing in business as an important engine of the economy. We should not fear talking about businesses, and we should empower individuals who fall behind by making it easier for them to work and earn a living.
“Women used to stay at home because childcare costs were the single biggest barrier to their entry into the labour market,” said Muscat. “We introduced free child care for parents who work. All schooling and school transport is now free, which has led to an increase in the number of women in the labour market.
“Their independence makes it easier for women in abusive relationships to leave,” he said. “We introduced the world’s most progressive legislation on gender identity and introduced the x marker in documents. Equality became a mainstay in all laws and Malta ranks first in the Rainbow Europe index.
“We took our politics on LGBTIQ rights to Europe, and 18 countries joined Malta’s initiative pushing the EU commission to give more rights to LGBTIQ persons across Europe,” he said. “This is the kind of progressive politics that Europe needs. Let us stand together to fight the barriers in politics, with politics of unity and hope. A fair, free and sustainable Europe is possible.”
While he received applaud from sections of the crowd during his speech, S&D MEP Ana Gomes could be heard yelling out 'corruption'and 'shame' when he originally took the stage.