Now that the European Parliament elections are over, our elected MEPs need to look and plan ahead in view of the upcoming legislature. Over the past two decades, Malta has carefully used EU membership to establish itself as an attractive jurisdiction for trade, industry and commerce within the Mediterranean and beyond. However, 20 years on, there is a clear need to refine Malta’s outlook to EU policy and legislative instruments, and adapt our approach to ensure maximum benefit. We need nimble and forward-looking thinking.

The EU implements approximately 200 laws annually with 80 per cent directly affecting local enterprises and residents.  It is important that our elected MEPs stay close to home – this is the only way that they can ensure Malta’s interests are adequately represented at the European level. It is when we participate in a coordinated and knowledgeable way that our opinions are acknowledged more fully. Even with all our recent successes, we still need to improve our level of coordination. Malta’s lobbying operations need to address internal gaps and inefficiencies.

We need to better coordinate our efforts as a nation at the EU level – we would like to see all MEPs engage more with us and with all the other social partners, we would like to see all MEPs engage more with the Maltese working in various EU fora, we would like to see all MEPs engaging more with the employees working on policy in the EU institutions, as well as with government. Over the years, we have obtained various derogations and we have also managed to successfully maintain some of these positions. The upcoming legislature should be no exception. Our limited resources cannot be seen as an excuse to let down our guard. If anything, we should punch above our weight. We must seek to achieve better alignment and more effective mobilization of all our resources.

Our MEPs must keep pushing for concrete acknowledgement of our remoteness to ensure a level playing field among all member states – this is not about privilege, it is about principle. Ultimately it all depends on our ability to negotiate. The Single Market is vital for the EU’s competitiveness. However, 30 years on, the EU needs to reevaluate how it interprets and applies its laws in order to close the disparity and provide an equitable environment for all member states in terms of growth prospects. With respect to Malta, a real Single Market ought to tackle the problem of air and sea transport links in order to maintain a level playing field by lowering geographical and logistical barriers.

Our MEPs need to focus on streamlining policy and addressing double reporting. We need better and less regulation if we truly want to drive our competitiveness, both if we look at it from a national perspective and even if one looks it as a whole European block. Europe needs to delve deeper into the practicality of putting ambitious instruments into practice, a case in point being the European Green Deal and the Fit-For-55 Package. The European Union’s regulatory and administrative frameworks need to be designed in a way that are more responsive to business needs and which tangibly aim at success in driving Europe’s competitiveness, avoiding policies and frameworks that simply end up missing in action. While it is highly commendable that the European Union is on a mission to decarbonize, digitize and reindustrialize, there is the growing concern as to whether Europe is managing to stay competitive in the face of world-wide competition. Europe need to look at increasing its competitiveness, particularly given the strong determination and ambition of the other big economic blocks. Europe always was a catalyst for free trade and fair competition, but at the same time it needs to ensure that it remains competitive versus the other economic powers. Decisive measures are needed to raise Europe’s competitiveness in order to support higher levels of productivity, employment and prosperity.

We also require our MEPs to insist for the one-in-one-out principle to be put into practice in a way which removes red tape and minimizes bureaucratic burden. What is the one-in-one-out principle? It is an offsetting principle whereby when introducing new regulation with new burdens, an equivalent burden is withdrawn from other EU legislation in the same policy area.

Also, our MEPs should advocate for Impact Analyses and Territorial Proofing to be conducted on all new directives and regulations at both the Commission proposal and European Parliament stages to ensure competitiveness across all member States.

Energy is another aspect which merits attention. The European Union has to increasingly support its members in pushing for diversified and renewable resources as well as robust supply routes to provide secure, affordable and clean energy for EU citizens and businesses. There is also the urgent need to address education, skilling research and innovation, to meet the requirements and demands of the economy and society more broadly.

Through our 20 years of EU membership we have benefitted from the free movement of goods, the free movement of services, the free movement of capital and the free movement of persons. Being part of the Eurozone and the Schengen area resulted in trade, investment and tourism potential. Being in the Single Market gave Maltese businesses unhindered access to a market of over four hundred and forty million people and increased Malta’s economic opportunities globally and with third countries also through the ‘EU’ brand.  The funds that Malta has been allocated were primarily invested in capital projects and social initiatives which, in their majority, contributed positively towards trying to attain a well-being economy. We saw infrastructural investments in education, health, culture, innovation and renewable energy, amongst others. Investments were also made in maritime and road infrastructure. Malta benefitted as well from funds allocated to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic. We also saw our businesses raising their bar and introducing standards which meant better consumer satisfaction and more opportunities to internationalize. Accession to the European Union also served to attract foreign direct investment to Malta.

On top of all this, there are the clear political benefits of belonging to a family of values based on the observance of rule of law and democracy.

It is correct to look at our past, but more importantly we need to look ahead and think about what needs to be done. We need to aim high in order to celebrate our future.

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