Thursday, 31 October 2013

Independent: Maltese values within the EU
Thursday, 31 October 2013, 08:00 , by Therese Comodini Cachia

In the midst of a debate on a Civil Union Bill, let’s be clear from the outset on what role the EU plays in issues of social matters. The mantra that EU membership obliges the Maltese to depart from their values and social norms is incorrect.The EU does not have competence to oblige Malta to legalise abortion, to legislate in favour of same sex marriage, to legislate in favour of joint adoption by same sex couples, or to legislate in favour of euthanasia. These are only a few issues the decision for which falls squarely within our lap.

But today’s society is all about trying to strike a balance between legislative recognition of social and human situations and enshrined values. As citizens we are facing this reality and we need a strong representation on issues that affect social norms and values within the European Parliament. It is important that an MEP would first and foremost be aware of the jurisdiction that the EU has on these sensitive issues and secondly be able to suss out those proposals that may have an effect on the core values which are intrinsically interwoven in our Maltese social fabric.

While national politicians have to seek convergence amongst conflicting ideas within its own society,(which is never that easy), European politicians have to seek convergence between conflicting ideas within a number of European societies. There are times when rather than seek convergence a politician must show leadership and lead the way towards a workable compromise which suits us best. It is not a question of identifying with conservatism, traditionalism, or liberalism. It often is a case of peeling off the petals to finally arrive at the pollen.

The presentation of the Civil Unions Bill in parliament has fired up another debate focused on social norms and values. While both parties agree on a legal recognition of civil unions, the debate is unfortunately tarnished with prejudices, stereotypes and a confusion of what is a fundamental right as opposed to a civil right. To top it all up you often find exponents of opposite sides in this debate who are emotional about the issue. While stimulating debate, these positions do not always provoke the type of debate one would expect when we are determining whether besides the marital regime, Maltese law will also establish the regime of civil unions and how to do so.

The EU does not impose a position in this regard. It does not tell us we have to establish a legal regime so that couples, whether man and woman or same sex, can contract a civil union rather than marriage. It’s only competence in relation to sexual orientation is that of ensuring that there is no discrimination in the employment sector as well as in the provision of goods and services and in their access. Indeed neither is there agreement between the Member States as to the type of legal recognition one is to provide to same sex couples.

We retain full control on deciding whether to establish this institute in civil law as well as determining the type of recognition. It is up to us even if through our elected representatives to decide how couples whose relationship is based on mutual respect, understanding, support and all those other elements we casually or emotionally call lovewill be legally recognised. A legal regime of civil union will in practice mean for example that a partner can stand by the bed of his/her partner when the latter is sick without having to be thrown out by the nurse merely because their relationship is not recognised. It is a legislative recognition of a stable relationship and of the human expectations between partners in that stable relationship.

In these issues the role of an MEP is to retain the core values of respect, human dignity and compassion and while deriving principles from these values, takes stock of the reality and seeks to address such reality.An MEP carries a huge responsibility since these situations are all about you, the people, about what you believe in and about safeguarding your core values based on principles which make you and your family Maltese, but nonetheless as European as a German, French or Danish.

Dr Therese Comodini Cachia is a Nationalist Party European Parliament election candidate

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