During the MEUSAC Core Group meeting, held in the presence of Minister for European Affairs, Helena Dalli and Parliamentary Secretary for European Funds, Aaron Farrugia, social partners discussed the benefits and challenges of Malta’s 15 years as an EU member.
MEUSAC Head Mandy Falzon started off by presenting MEUSAC’s annual report for 2018 to those present.
Dr Farrugia said that Malta should act as an interlocutor when drafting the future of the EU. He said that Europe had two sides, those who are pushing for a federal Europe and the populists who are doubting whether they should keep respecting the basic European principles.
He said that the European project can be saved if we manage to find a solution. He added that the solution to this is to stop speaking about a federal Europe and have Member States agree on the fundamental freedoms, and the single market. If this happens, then the next step is voluntary bilateral relations between Member States in sensitive issues such as on migration, defence and security, among others.
On the European budget negotiations, Dr Farrugia said that the Maltese government is doing its best to secure a fair package for Malta. He said Malta will be one of the first of the Member States that joined the EU 15 years ago, which will have specialised workers focusing on the absorption of EU funds.
Dr Farrugia lauded MEUSAC’s work in bringing the EU citizen closer to the EU and for assisting various organisations in applying for EU funds.
Dr Dalli meanwhile said that Europe can never be closer to the citizen if Member States are not capable of agreeing on certain issues and each and every Member State carries its weight.
She also said that European elections will determine the new European Parliament formation but away from all this, families are interested in the quality of life and how the EU is affecting them daily.
At this point she highlighted European funded projects that are making a real difference in people’s lives, like the recently inaugurated road project known as Tac-Cawsli.
Dr Dalli went on to mention the fact that Malta was giving Europe something back, in the area of equality, as Malta is serving as a model for other Member States with the standards it is adopting, as was confirmed for the fourth consecutive time that Malta is the best in Europe in terms of equality and human rights.
MEUSAC Executive James Azzopardi delivered a talk outlining the benefits and challenges of Malta’s accession in the EU. During his presentation, Mr Azzopardi illustrated the amount of structural and direct funds Malta benefitted from, since joining the EU. While highlighting their importance, he also acknowledged that participation in various policies addressing diverse sectors such as employment, health and youths have also impacted Malta in a positive way.
Mr Azzopardi also talked about challenges which both Malta and the EU are facing, such as issues concerning the Common European Asylum System, the completion of the Banking Union, the International Procurement Instrument and the importance of maintaining a sustainable, diversified economy. Mr Azzopardi also stated that, while Malta needs to make full use of EU funds, the country has to show that is becoming less dependable on them. This, he added, would further highlight the important progress Malta has been making since joining the EU.
During the discussion, Core Group members shared their views on the global theme, highlighting that that the continued communication and consultation between the Government and Civil Society Representatives needs to be strengthened in this regard. Members agreed that the benefits of EU membership were myriad, adding that new roles within their organisations have been developed because of this fact. However, they stated that there are a number of challenges and loopholes which need to be addressed. According to Core Group members, most of these challenges lie within retail, trade, competition laws and geo-blocking.
Before the end of the session, MEUSAC Head Mandy Falzon and MEUSAC Executive James Azzopardi invited Core Group members to submit their opinions in writing. These opinions will form the basis of a policy paper, which will be presented to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat during June’s Core Group meeting.