If someone had told Roberta Metsola in May 2009 that in 13 years’ time she would be sitting at the pinnacle of the European Parliament, she would probably have asked what on earth you were smoking.
Back then, Metsola was in a state of utter devastation.
After failing to get elected five years earlier, Metsola decided to re-contest the election with a sense of purpose.
She campaigned as though her life depended on it, going so far as to take paid leave from her job and move in with her mother, allowing herself as much time as possible to campaign.
However, it wasn’t enough and the electorate returned Simon Busuttil and David Casa as the Nationalist Party’s two MEPs.
Her husband Ukko Metsola, who had contested that same EP election in Finland, suffered a similar fate, leaving both Metsolas out in the cold to suffer the burden of political rejection.
“I remember him and I with tears falling down both our eyes; we tried so hard but we didn’t manage,” Metsola recounted in the Lovin Malta documentary ‘The First Vice’.
“There was a sense of realisation of how much of our personal money we had spent [on the campaign] and it took some months to recover.”
Metsola only got elected to the Parliament after Busuttil stepped down to become deputy leader, and eventually leader, of the Nationalist Party, and she made sure to seize the moment with both hands.
History won’t remember her electoral failures though.
It will remember how Metsola did manage, not only to eventually get elected as MEP, but to rise through the ranks until she finally landed the biggest job of all, on her birthday of all days.
It will remember how she became the first-ever Maltese politician to take charge of one of the EU’s institutions and, at least for now, it will remember how she became its youngest-ever president.
Metsola’s triumph is a victory for the EU, whose parliament is now led by a passionately committed Europhile with a gift of the gab and a natural talent for politics and diplomacy. She could be a shot in the arm for the union as it seeks to carve a better future for itself following the bleak years of Brexit and COVID-19.
The fact that she has been backed by the three largest European political groups – EPP, S&D and Renew – means she has the credibility to lead cross-party diplomatic efforts for the benefit of European citizens.
Her triumph is undoubtedly a victory for Malta, a huge wake-up call that even the smallest stone makes a ripple in the water. It could be a catalyst for Maltese people to escape the island mentality, to refuse to satisfy themselves with mediocrity, and to realise that reaching for the stars can be more than just a teenage dream.
But Metsola’s victory is also a victory for people who refuse to give up.
It is a victory for those who let human emotions of bitter disappointment and regret take over their senses for a while but who then fight back with a sense of purpose and determination.
It is a victory for those who don’t take their eyes off the greater prize, even when their own political party is down in the dumps and when they are personally denounced as a traitor on the ruling party’s TV channel and by current Ministers.
Metsola’s path to European success wasn’t straightforward or handed to her on a silver platter.
It was carved out, slowly but surely, by the person herself after she overcame the obstacles that life threw in her way.
As Metsola herself said in an inspirational letter to students of a Ħamrun church school: “Never give up. Aim high. The geographical size of our country should never be an obstacle to your hopes and dreams. Life is full of ups and downs and there will be times when you will face higher hurdles than others. But there is nothing that cannot be overcome.”
And that’s a message we shouldn’t forget in a hurry.
Are you glad that Roberta Metsola has become European Parliament President?