In recent years, many political systems throughout Europe have been facing similar challenges of right-wing populism. On 23 June 2012, GEF organised, with support of the Maltese Ceratonia Foundation, a highly successful seminar on this topic. The general conclusion of the seminar was that although far-right movements do not have significant electoral strength in Malta, right-wing populist ideology still is a feature of the political system of the country, and may have an impact on Europe as a whole.
Keynote speaker was Dr. Dick Pels, sociologist and director of the Dutch Green Foundation De Helling. He provided a general framework for the discussion on right-wing populism and illustrated recent and current trends in Europe. Afterwards, Maltese speakers actively participated in this discussion and presented their academic contributions in the field.
Professor Mark-Anthony Falzon, anthropologist and head of the Sociology Department at the University of Malta, focused on the popularity gained by far-right groups in Malta in the 1990s and their European networks. Maria Pisani, co-founder of the Maltese Integra Foundation, delivered a presentation on immigrants, their rights and lack of rights in Malta and how these policy developments link to right-wing populism in Malta. The last contribution was from Aleks Farrugia, historian and editor of it-Torca, Malta’s bestselling newspaper in the Maltese language. Farrugia presented a paper illustrating the re-invention of history through myths. The seminar was chaired by James Debono, journalist of MaltaToday.
At the end of the seminar it was concluded that although far-right movements do not have significant electoral strength in Malta, right-wing populist ideology still influences the political system and has an impact on the established political parties of the country. An illustration of this is the discourse on immigration, minorities and the supposed homogeneity of Maltese society. These conclusions are also pronounced by Michael Briguglio, chairman of the Maltese Green party Alternattiva Demokratia (AD), which was taken up by two Maltese newspapers, Malta Independent and Times of Malta, who covered this GEF event.
Dr. Dick Pels, lastly, highlighted the significance of Malta and its political system in a wider European context by pointing at the country’s bridging potential in Europe on account of, among other things, its bilingualism and its closeness to southern Mediterranean shores – from which many African immigrants, often referred to as “boat people”, have been trying to reach Malta/Europe, for example.
Populism in political discourse was an event in the GEF series of debates on the issue of right-wing populism following the book publication Populism in Europe.