Malta’s EU representatives allowed an EU shipping tax to pass “under their noses”, Chamber of SMEs president Paul Abela told Times of Malta at a media event, adding that small businesses in Malta often feel unheard by the European Union.

Chamber CEO Abigail Agius Mamo said “a one-size-fits-all” model for the EU does not work, citing the shipping tax (ETS) as an example. 

The EU’s Emissions Trading System is a new EU-wide environmental shipping tax in which carriers are obliged to purchase ‘allowances’ to offset their carbon emissions when travelling to EU ports. 

Abela said the new tax is diverting shipping from the Malta Freeport to ports outside the EU. This not only led to a loss of business but also logistical problems for importers. “Feeder vessels now need to go from Egypt to Malta,” he said.  

Even though ETS negatively affected Maltese businesses, the government and Malta’s MEPs supported it, he said.  

ETS was part of a wider EU package, ‘Fit for 55’, that makes reaching the EU’s climate goal of reducing EU emissions by at least 55% by 2030 a legal obligation.  

Malta’s MEPs voted in favour when the European Parliament was asked for its final approval of the package. Labour’s four MEPs had at first opposed the deal because of ETS.  

The Maltese government in the EU’s Council of Ministers also supported the package but asked the European Commission, alongside other Mediterranean member states, for remedial action over the adverse effects of ETS. 

Agius Mamo pointed to data gathered in the business lobby’s barometer, which shows that three-quarters of businesses believe that their views and needs are not well represented at the EU level. 

She pointed out several possible reasons why Malta sometimes gets bad deals with the EU. 

“Either we do not do our homework well when defending our country’s interests, or we do not cooperate (in the European Parliament) as one national delegation, or the EU’s structures are too rigid to accommodate Malta’s particularities,” she said. 

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