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Becoming Miriam Dalli: How A Young Safi Woman Went From Journalist, To MEP, To Malta’s New ‘Eco-Warrior’ Minister

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Even if you don’t care about politics at all, there are some names that you would have heard of before. In Malta, one of those names is Miriam Dalli.

But what’s the story behind the young woman from Ħal Safi who many would love to see become the island’s first female prime minister?

Miriam Dalli was born on 19th May 1976. If you had to believe in astrology, that puts her squarely on the Taurus-Gemini Cusp, also known as the Cusp of Energy. But while zodiac signs have always been dubious at best, Dalli’s energy has been undeniable since Day One. And it just so happens that, as far as her successful trajectory is concerned, there’s something magically timed about birthdays.

Always intent on doing as much as possible, Dalli graduated from university after studying law and communications. Within the next five years, she would also add a Masters in Business Administration and European Studies under her belt. That last one would come in very handy in 11 years… but before that happened, she still had a long way to go and many other milestones to hit.

 

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While studying, Dalli kicked off a career in journalism… one which would steadily see her rise through the ranks throughout a decade and a half.

Many people growing up in the early 00s will remember Dalli as a journalist and news presenter on Super One, now ONE TV.

In those years, a still very young Dalli presented and even produced a number of current-affairs programmes, including TRIP, TEAM and TX.

At only 29 years old, Dalli became the News Editor for ONE TV and ONE Radio, becoming Malta’s female TV news editor.

“It’s definitely a challenge,” she had admitted in an interview following her appointment. “When I was first approached I was in two minds since this meant that I had to choose between two opportunities that cropped up exactly at the same time. This October I was supposed to go and study in the UK, as I had been awarded a Chevening scholarship in Sheffield. It took me some time to decide, but at the end of the day I’m sure I took the right decision. You have to grab certain opportunities as they arise when you know you have the right qualifications for the job.”

Two years later, Dalli was awarded Best News Presenter at the 2007 Television Awards… where her TRIP won Best Current Affairs Programme and One took home the Station Of The Year award.

Dalli’s stint as editor would come to an end in 2009… but much bigger pastures were just around the corner.

 

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On 29th June 2010, Miriam Dalli tied the knot with John Vella, a man of political pedigree.

While not really involved in politics himself, John is the son of Karmenu Vella, one of the longest-serving Maltese Parliamentarians within the Labour Party. Karmenu was nominated as Minister four times; Public Works (1981-4), Industry (1984-7), and Tourism twice (1996-8 and 2013).

In 2014, Karmenu became the European Commissioner in charge of Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries… a role he kept until just last year, 30th November 2019.

In 2013, Malta’s Labour Party brought down a 25-year-long PN reign mere weeks before Miriam Dalli’s 37th birthday. But from both personal and professional aspects, the young powerhouse’s milestones were just getting started.

On 24th July, Miriam and John welcomed their first son, Jack. Three years later, they welcomed another son, Kane.

Jack is now seven years old. Kane is four.

 

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Beyond all the milestones in her personal life, though, 2013 would also see Miriam Dalli step up her political CV… starting with a certain Konrad Mizzi.

Between 2013 and 2014, Dalli served as Communications Advisor to Konrad Mizzi, who back then was Malta’s Energy Minister.

In that year, Dalli served as consultant to Mizzi for stakeholder management and communications, on a contract worth “around €40,000” per year.

Seven years later, this appointment would come back to haunt Dalli when Mizzi, along with former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, became the subject of daily, explosive revelations in the investigation into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination.

When questioned about it this time last year, Dalli said it was Mizzi himself who had originally called her in to offer her the job.

When pushed about whether she felt people like Konrad Mizzi and former OPM Chief of Staff Keith Schembri (who both eventually resigned and were called in for police questioning a couple of times) were corrupt, Dalli’s answer was short and straight to the point.

“Ask them. I will not defend anyone. I defend what’s good. I cannot defend what is wrong. I stay away from what is wrong. Do you think I would have been involved if I knew of these things? Come on. I stand for different things. I never did anything I thought was wrong.”

 

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With bigger plans on her mind (and after some convincing from newly-elected Prime Minister Joseph Muscat), Dalli contested the European Parliament elections in 2014. What followed were five years full of massive political achievements.

In what was her maiden MEP election just six days after her 38th birthday, Dalli won 37,533 votes, becoming Malta’s third MEP to be elected that year, after Labour’s Alfred Sant (48,739) and PN’s Roberta Metsola (38,442).

Four months after being elected as MEP, Dalli declared she wouldn’t participate in the questioning of her father-in-law, Maltese EU Commissioner-designate Karmenu Vella. “I will be present but will not participate because it will be unethical for me to do so,” she had told Times of Malta.

As MEP, Dalli would find herself being heavily involved with a number of important international issues.

Campaigning on the mantra of Priorita’ Malta, Dalli focused on irregular migration, EU funding, youths and – very prominently – affordable energy and pollution.

In Parliament, she sat as a member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) and the Committee on Petitions (PETI). Following the now-notorious Volkswagen emissions scandal, Dalli was also chosen to serve on the Committee of Inquiry into Emission Measurements in the Automative Sector.

 

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But that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Dalli ended up being part of the parliament’s delegation for relations with the Maghreb countries, a substitute member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE)…. and Delegation to the EU-Armenia, EU-Azerbaijan and EU-Georgia Parliamentary Cooperation.

By October 2016, she was chosen as the Co-ordinator of the ENVI Committee she had previously joined, on behalf of the EP’s Socialists and Democrats. In January 2017, she was re-elected as the co-ordinator of what is easily regarded as one of the most powerful committees of the Parliament.

By February 2017, about halfway into her tenure as MEP, Dalli was instrumental in Malta being voted the national group which gained the most influence in the entire European Union.

In an analysis listing down the “winners and losers of the European Parliament’s reshuffle”, Malta came out on top with a meteoric +166% increase in influence… and Dalli was among those showered with praise and trusted with immense responsibility.

“She will have the hard task of defining the position of her group in the committee where EPP and S&D clash the most,” Votewatch.eu wrote of the reappointment, which happened to coincide with the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Dalli’s 2014-2019 legislature ended up being a very decorated one, with her being honoured as one of the Politico 40, a list of the most important MEPs during that run.

Dalli received a number of other awards, including a glowing analysis predicting she would be one of 28 people set to influence politics in the years to come.

And to top it all off, 2019 also saw Dalli being reconfirmed as not only the most influential Maltese MEP, but also one of the top 100 MEPs from the 28 Member States.

By the end of her legislature, Dalli was being hailed as Europe’s “Eco-Warrior”.

 

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At the 2019 MEP Elections, Miriam was back… and this time, she completely dominated.

Many expected the incumbent MEP would perform very well considering her great five-year run, but when it came to counting the votes, it was something else.

Dalli had the absolute strongest showing, being elected at the first count with 63,438 votes and instantly becoming the most popular Maltese MEP ever. Meanwhile, Roberta Metsola followed with 38,206. By the end of the first count, Dalli had won 34.6% of all the votes cast for the six elected MEPs.

And yet again, it all went down six days after her birthday.

Within a month of her return to the European Parliament, Miriam Dalli was appointed the Vice President of the Socialists & Democrats.

The first Maltese person to occupy this position, Dalli promised to push even further in the fields she had proved to be the most passionate about.

“I want to give a strong push to the green economy, attract new types of investment, sustain new economies, safeguard and incentivise our workers and prepare our students for the careers of the future,” she vowed. “I have promised to work on these aspects and I’m committed to seeing them through.”

Within months, she was leading the EU’s charge to declare a climate emergency, telling the European Parliament “we have had enough of empty rhetoric from those who say that they believe that climate change has to be addressed as a matter of urgency but then duck out when push comes to shove.”

 

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But towards the end of 2019, a political storm hit Malta which would see Miriam eventually heading back home a little earlier than expected…

Christmastime 2020 might be characterised by closed bars and quiet streets, but in 2019, angry protestors filled the squares outside Malta’s Parliament and Castille on many a cold and rainy evening.

As arrests and constant revelations in the Caruana Galizia investigation implicated everyone from Yorgen Fenech to then-Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, Malta’s restless political climate only had one consolation in sight; resignations.

And with Joseph Muscat’s eight-year-long undefeated run coming to an abrupt end, many wondered who could ever fill those shoes and lead Malta’s Labour Party. Lo and behold, for many people out there – Labour and PN alike – one name rang clear: Miriam.

On 1st December, one day after she had said she felt angry and betrayed in light of the latest developments, Dalli was spotted driving into the Prime Minister’s official residence of Girgenti along with other MPs who had convened to discuss Muscat’s departure.

By the end of the year, with Muscat on his way out and rumours running wild, Dalli officially announced her refusal to contest Labour’s leadership election.

“I would like to thank all those who have shown their support and encouraged me to go for this role,” Dalli wrote on Facebook. “I will continue working hard in the European Parliament to reciprocate the trust that the Maltese citizens have placed in me.”

 

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Dalli’s work in the European Parliament, however, would come to a rather abrupt end just 10 months later.

It’s crazy to think it’s been a full year of whatever 2020 has been.

With COVID-19 affecting every single aspect of life in Malta as of March and the Caruana Galizia murder investigation still going on three whole years later, the island’s social and political divides have only intensified in the last months.

As a reaction to all this, everything changed in 2020.

Malta got a new Prime Minister, Robert Abela.

Malta also got a new PN and Opposition Leader, Bernard Grech.

And by the end of the year, Malta even got a new set and combination of ministers. Twice.

January 2020 kicked off with a newly-appointed Robert Abela announcing his new Cabinet on the 15th. There were some notable changes – Chris Cardona and Konrad Mizzi both missed out on a post, and Justyne Caruana ended up having the shortest stint in Malta’s history, resigning from Gozo Minister just five days after getting the post.

Nine months later, with Etienne Grech and Joseph Muscat both resigning from Parliament, new vacuums were created in the House of Representatives, and people yet again wondered who could fill them.

And yet again, a familiar name was uttered: Miriam.

In mid-October 2020, along with OPM Chief of Staff Clyde Caruana, Miriam Dalli was co-opted into Parliament. Two weeks later, frontrunner Cyrus Engerer, who himself had inherited over 2,000 votes from Dalli at the 2019 MEP elections, won a casual election to replace her in the European Parliament.

On 21st November, Prime Minister Robert Abela released the full details of his new(er) Cabinet.

More changes arrived.

Justyne Caruana had returned, this time as Minister for Education.

Owen Bonnici had moved again, this time to the newly-created Ministry for Research, Innovation and the Coordination of the Post-COVID-19 Strategy.

And Miriam Dalli was there… as Malta’s new Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Sustainable Development.

 

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So what is Miriam Dalli expected to be doing in her new role?

Even before she was officially handed the ministry, Dalli had made her new objectives clear in an interview with Xarabank’s Peppi Azzopardi, her first as MP.

“We should be a leader in the field not just for our children, but for ourselves too, the effects on our health would be immediate,” she said.

Asked specifically on this year’s budget, Dalli said she would have liked to see more concrete measures in reducing pollution on the island.

“It is a primary issue for our health and environment, we now need concrete proposals,” she said. Dalli did praise an initiative for green bonds but said it does not go far enough and would like to see greater investment to give more power to the green economy.

Revealing that Robert Abela had personally called her to ask if she would be willing to come back to the country, Dalli said it was time to start helping out over here.

But as always, there will always be people who will be thinking one step ahead… and it seems like for someone like Miriam Dalli, there only really is one step after this.

 

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How do you think Miriam Dalli will perform as Minister? Let us know in the comments section

READ NEXT: 76 Questions Konrad Mizzi Refused To Answer After Swearing To Tell The Truth

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