15 years of EU membership… in what ways have we benefited

Article written by Duncan Barry – Media and Information Executive
Published on The Malta Independent – 07.05.19

On May 1, Malta, together with nine other countries, marked 15 years since joining the EU.

But what has EU membership brought about for Malta ever since we joined? Some may say over regulation in some areas while the majority tend to agree that membership got Malta several benefits, as many past surveys have indicated.

Besides the fact that Malta, the smallest Member State, has more of a stronger voice in the EU, there are tonnes of benefits that we citizens take for granted but are actually in place to improve our quality of life and that of our families.

MEUSAC has acted as a bridge between Malta and the EU, even during pre-accession stage. It has strived to bring the citizen closer to the EU and has helped umpteenth local councils, NGOs and other organisations benefit from EU funding opportunities. MEUSAC has helped citizens and business people in Malta maintain a say in the shaping of EU rules and policies through the various consultations it organises each time the European Commission issues proposed policy or legislation which can impact us in various ways and means.

To cite an example, MEUSAC, in conjunction with the Environment Ministry, recently organised a series of consultations in relation to Green Public Procurement tied to road transport, road markings, paints and varnishes and other goods and services that may have an impact on our health. So why is this being done? First and foremost, to safeguard public health and the environment. Since we all know that paint, for instance, has chemicals that may be hazardous to the people using it and to our environment, the paint used for road markings can have substances that wash onto our agricultural land when it rains. Therefore, the EU imposes restrictions on the substances used.  This is one example of the many EU efforts to safeguard our health and the environment.

But some may say what is in for me? The list is endless, so in this article I’ll be sticking to the major changes Malta has and is set to continue witnessing as a result of EU membership.

Free movement
For starters, the free movement of persons, capital, goods and services is a major factor in itself, which has witnessed the abolition of internal border controls, including the fact that all citizens need to do is show their ID card to enter the Schengen area. Here we are speaking of an area covering some 4,312,099 square kilometres.

Single Market
Access to the EU Single Market has brought about more jobs as it helped Malta attract investment from the EU. There’s no need for paperwork for exports throughout the Single Market either.

Consumer rights
EU competition laws protect us consumers by combating monopolistic business practices and ensure that labelling of products is done as it should be, also protecting our kids by displaying CE marks on toys. The CE mark certifies that a product is safe. The EU protects consumers through various effective control systems to ensure that our food is safe as can be and the quality is of a high standard while also limiting the use of pesticides.

Human rights
Citizens are protected under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights which brings together the fundamental rights of everyone living in the EU. It was introduced to bring consistency and clarity to the rights established at different times and in different ways in individual Member States. What’s more important than having our rights protected at all times?

European elections
Citizens have the right to vote in local and European Parliamentary (EP) elections if resident in any Member State, same as we will be doing come the next European elections, on May 25 in Malta’s case. Those elected as Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will serve as Malta’s voice in the EP.

Healthcare
One of the major advantages the EU has brought about is the right to receive emergency healthcare in any Member State, through the use of the European Health Insurance card (EHIC). So when travelling to any other Member State, this card gives you peace of mind. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) also helps in monitoring the quality and safety of medicines..

Better drinking water
EU standards on the quality of drinking water are in place. In addition, Malta will be benefiting from quality drinking water through EU funding in the coming months.

Cleaner environment
The EU has set a number of targets in many areas, pertaining to the environment. It has set targets to reduce vehicle emissions by introducing stricter rules for cars, buses and trucks, and other emissions that are a hazard to our health, and has also set a timeframe for Member States to recycle tonnes of waste. Euro 4 vehicles, for instance, won’t be purchased by national governments any longer after 2021 in a bid to help reduce emissions. In Malta’s case, when it comes to organic waste separation, we are doing much better than planned. Lighting is also being controlled to reduce light pollution.

Equality
By being part of the EU, workers have the right to minimum paid annual leave and time off work, the right to work no more than 48 hours a week without being paid overtime, minimum guaranteed maternity leave of 14 weeks for pregnant women and men are set to get paternity leave, and last but not least there are EU anti-discrimination laws governing age, religion and sexual orientation, in place.

Travel
Cheaper air travel due to EU competition laws and common EU air passenger rights are some of the pros that came along as a result of membership. If your flight is delayed, passengers have the right to claim compensation. This is only one of the rights of air passenger rights. And now owners of pets can get their pet an EU passport. This is made available as long as the document contains details of a valid anti-rabies vaccination. And who can forget that the EU also witnessed the abolition of mobile phone roaming charges.

€U funds
Throughout the various programming periods, millions of euros were invested in key areas of the Maltese economy with the aim of substantially improving the quality of life of Maltese citizens. If it’s about infrastructural or road projects, the renovation of historical buildings and the rejuvenation of public spaces, most of these projects have had the backing of EU funding. And so have youth exchanges and town-twinning projects.

The EU is now discussing the next funding period of 2021-2027. MEUSAC is there, like it has been over the past years, to support you seeking the right EU funding opportunities and in the funding application process. There’s no Member State like Malta that benefits from an organisation such as MEUSAC that gives free support to those seeking EU funding opportunities. So why not drop us a line on info.meusac@gov.mt or alternatively you can give us a call on 2200 3300.

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