The Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD) recently convened a meeting to discuss the challenges of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) on the maritime sector.

This scheme aims to regulate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and will significantly affect the maritime sector, especially in southern EU Mediterranean countries.

The MCESD underlined the potential repercussions for the Malta Freeport and its effects on various economic sectors, including manufacturing and logistics. It reiterated that it will continue to monitor the situation and collaborate with the government and relevant authorities to minimise the impact.

Furthermore, as highlighted by The Sunday Times of Malta (November 5) the Malta Freeport warned that the introduction of this new EU environmental tax on shipping as from January is expected to lead to more costly imports and higher export costs.

The EU is not known for its speedy decision-making and law enactment but why do we seem to have been caught somewhat off guard?

Another situation is the proposed Late Payment Regulation (currently a directive) which is now up for approval by both the European Parliament and Council. This regulation will see the introduction of a single maximum payment term of 30 days for the majority of commercial transactions.

Nonetheless, despite its broad reaching implications, this has not yet really filtered across the local commercial radar.

These are just two examples which highlight how reactive approach needs to be urgently fixed. A more guarded approach and subsequent need to counter and flag any impacting EU rules right from the beginning is critical.

Just as we had effectively got together as a country in our run-up to EU accession through the Malta EU Steering and Action Committee (MEUSAC) in the screening preparations and subsequent negotiations, it is opportune to review our post-EU accession positioning.

In the build-up to our EU accession, we had prepared a National Programme for the Adoption of the Acquis (NPAA). This programme defined Malta’s development and strategic objectives along with the policies and measures needed for these objectives. It incorporated the progress made in adopting the EU body of laws and in establishing the necessary administrative capacity, while giving a precise timetable for the required new laws and the implementation of the reforms in our economy.

We cannot have MEPs who make their presence only felt when an election is looming- Norman Aquilina

As we had adopted both the structure and strategy through MEUSAC and our NPAA to ensure our proper integration within the EU, we badly need a more coordinated and active strategy which ensures we are constantly informed and well-placed to fully engage on matters of interest right from the start, and not simply adopt a reactive approach. Our timeliness is critical, along with ensuring effective communication among all stakeholders both at European and local levels.

We cannot have MEPs who make their presence only felt when an election is looming, an MCESD which convenes urgent meetings in reaction to alarm bells,  our permanent representation in Brussels which does not seem to be adequately connected with our business representative organisations, and vice versa, or an agency such as Servizzi Ewropej f’Malta  (SEM) which is only intended to serve as a gateway to EU funds along with hosting an EU-information centre.

Recognising our limited resources underlines the importance of optimising on all the synergies we can benefit from. Consequently, there is merit in putting together an umbrella organisation which connects all the necessary dotted lines encompassing not only our political and technical dimensions, but also our entrepreneurial one.

The objective is to ensure we proactively monitor developments and discussions, along with coordinating our engagement and communicating any needed early warnings on an ongoing basis.

The holding of an annual ‘State of Malta in the Union’, which could serve as a monitor on the progress, shortfalls and corrective measures needed in relation to our EU institutional representation, along with our level of participation is worth some consideration.

Our successful build-up leading to EU membership was in essence the culmination of a new beginning. Since EU accession, we have come a long way, and by now we should have not only recognised the importance, but also mastered a more coordinated, well-represented, and strategic approach. Even if we may consider this as work in progress, what is certain is that a more guarded approach is needed.

Norman AquilinaNorman Aquilina

As we shortly reach 20 years as an EU member state, it is high time for us to review our positioning and level of participation to ensure we are better placed by means of a more resourceful, synergised focus and active engagement in the direction, lobbying and formulation of EU rules.

Norman Aquilina is chief executive at Farsons Group.

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