Nationalist MEPs Simon Busuttil and David Casa will vote against a proposal by the European Commission on market access to port services, commonly known as the Port Services Directive.

They said a vote will be taken next week at the plenary session of the European Parliament meeting in Strasbourg.

Having considered the text of the proposal in detail and having heard different views on the matter, Dr Busuttil and Mr Casa said they had reached the conclusion that, on balance, the entire text should be rejected as it did not provide much added value to the ports industry in Malta.

Over the past months, the MEPs received the positions of and had exchanges on the matter with various Maltese port workers as well as with trade unions, including the General Workers' Union, and employers' associations.

They also consulted the Competitiveness Minister and the Malta Maritime Authority.

"Following our consultation on the matter, we have decided to vote against this proposal. We shall vote against because it tries to do too much in too short a time. And it is over-prescriptive in a sector that is already too regulated.

"Although we support some aspects of the proposal, it is difficult to seek to save the good parts only as we would risk ending up with a directive that also contains a number of undesired provisions.

"It would therefore be prudent to vote against the entire proposal," Dr Busuttil and Mr Casa said.

The main sticking point of the proposal relates to the liberalisation of handling services, which would allow ships entering different EU ports to use their own manpower rather than the local labour. This is known as "self-handling".

"We are against self-handling and we welcome the fact that there appears to be a majority against introducing it," the two Maltese MEPs said.

The proposal was also of concern to other sectors within the ports industry and the MEPs were therefore worried that, on balance, the negative impact of the proposal would outweigh its positives.

"We would prefer a more holistic approach towards a more comprehensive European port policy," Dr Busuttil and Mr Casa concluded.

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