Na session with young people on civic and electoral participation, Roberta Metsola was asked by a participant to speak out about the “genocide in Palestine”, with the Maltese politician, in response, maintaining that the position of the European Union (EU) is clear.
“The way Israel reacts to this atrocious and abominable attack [do movimento islamita palestiniano] it matters. And when we, as Europe, talk today about what needs to be done, when we talk about releasing all the hostages, at the same time we say that innocent civilians everywhere must be protected,” he said in the session held at the end of the day by the Francisco Manuel dos Santos Foundation at the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT), in Lisbon.
The EP president recalled that she was in the region five days after the Hamas attacks in southern Israel, which left, according to Israeli authorities, 1,200 people dead, in addition to more than 200 people kidnapped by the Palestinian group, and which she herself saw at the scene the cruelty of the massacre carried out that day and which he said he will never forget.
For Metsola, those events and Israel’s military response in the Gaza Strip – which has already caused around 15,000 deaths, most of them civilians, according to authorities in the territory controlled by Hamas – require “a heart big enough to protect everyone” and minds clearly enough to explain it.
In many Member States, he noted, the war between Israel and Hamas led to “an entrenchment of positions and the rekindling of intolerance in some places”, including hatred, giving examples of manifestations of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
The EP president stated that there is a call from countries in the region for the EU to take an active role in this conflict and in a lasting peace, which is of interest not only to Israel and Palestine, but also to neighboring countries.
This means that “Israelis live in security and Palestinians are free”, which implies the “eradication of Hamas” and negotiation with a legitimate Palestinian leadership towards a two-state solution, he argued, highlighting that the EP called for from the first moment a ceasefire, despite all its political spectrum.
“Was it easy? No. Were there people who wanted us not to do it? Of course. But, we did it because it is in the fog that clarity is needed to see all of this”, maintained the 44-year-old politician before the audience of dozens of young people.
In the session, part of the videocast of the Francisco Manuel dos Santos FFMS Foundation “This is not that simple”, Roberta Metsola was challenged to choose the change she would like to see carried out and addressed the division of society, which she noted is more notorious today than when he began his political career two decades ago.
“I would like our society to be less divided. Intolerance is not the order of the day and disagreeing with someone does not mean hate. We see this much more now. It is much harsher, much more hostile”, he considered, adding that, in comparison to his First elections, the picture is now broader and the message can quickly go viral, where misinformation easily circulates before it can be corrected or countered.
Seven months before the European elections, Roberta Metsola, who in 2022 was the youngest politician to assume the presidency of the EP and the third woman in the position, also left a warning about the risk of polarization in society and very affirmative positions, in an allusion to political extremism.
“It’s much easier to be on a panel with six or eight other candidates and be black and white. Much harder is to be gray […]but the world is gray”, he commented, justifying that it is equally “easier to give easy answers to difficult questions than adequate answers”.
Maltese politics stressed the importance of voting and choice, lest those elected do not reflect the interests of each person, leading to “a feeling of complacency that has led to the fragmentation of politics across the European Union” and the EP appearing to be a distant place, which is also the responsibility of politicians who know that they will end up being chosen without needing to listen to the electorate or change their actions.
It is in this sense that he questions a supposed departure from traditional parties when they were the ones who found a way out of the Covid-19 pandemic with “a unity in Europe never seen before”.
“We perhaps need to change our thinking about what we understand by traditional parties and say that these are the parties that can guarantee the economy and stability, without fear of adapting or changing”, defended the policy of the European People’s Party group (centre right), adding that “this needs to be done by parties that are solid, stable, but that demand change with social progress, which has not happened everywhere.”
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