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frank_psaila
Frank Psaila

Is Malta really in sync with the EU?

President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker gave his anticipated annual State of the Union Address last week, presenting his vision for Europe in the immediate future

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Frank Psaila
27 September 2017, 7:20am
Last week EC president Jean-Claude Juncker gave his much anticipated annual 'State of the Union Address'
Last week EC president Jean-Claude Juncker gave his much anticipated annual 'State of the Union Address'
Last week at the European Parliament Plenary Session in Strasbourg, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, gave his much anticipated annual ‘State of the Union Address’. Juncker presented his vision for Europe in the immediate future, and listed the actions the European Commission intends to take by means of legislation and other initiatives over the coming months.

As Brexit looms over the European Union, Juncker’s speech was a good occasion to show how the European Union will operate as it develops into a club of 27 from one of 28. Throughout his speech, Juncker repeatedly referred to three core values that are central to the European project: freedom, equality and the rule of law in order to meet global challenges and respond to the expectations of its citizens. 

Malta and the EU

Whilst being a speech that targets the union as a whole, there were several elements within it where parallels could be drawn with the smallest Member State, Malta, and which we would be wise to follow in the same way as the Commission is proposing.

Economic matters

"Delia's decision to address the fair distribution of wealth augers well for the party and his leadership"
Throughout the State of the Union address, President Juncker made reference to the improving socio-economic climate within the Union, as investments gradually grow and unemployment figures decrease, thus being vindicated for the numerous unpopular measures that were implemented in the wake of the economic crisis that struck the international markets a few years ago. Within this context, President Juncker insisted that work in this regard should continue so as to limit Europe’s exposure to such a market failure in future and also to ensure that the European continent will be best placed to reap the benefits once the business climate is fully recovered. 

This, President Juncker said, will also be supported through strengthening the EU’s trade agenda, which includes proposals to open free-trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand and to screen foreign investment in strategic EU sectors. 

At the Granaries

Delivering his first major speech this week, at the party’s Independence Day celebrations, Adrian Delia who, as was widely expected, won the Nationalist Party leadership election, emphasized his party’s commitment for the fair distribution of wealth. First speeches give a clear indication of things to come. From a policy aspect, Delia’s decision to address this very pertinent matter augurs well for the party and his leadership. 

Transparency

The Commission President also promised to ensure increased transparency in these negotiations arguing that MEPs and members of national and regional parliaments must be kept fully informed and stating that the Commission will publish in full all draft negotiating mandates. He went on to say that “citizens have the right to know what the Commission is proposing. Gone are the days of no transparency… If a foreign, state-owned, company wants to purchase a European harbour, part of our energy infrastructure or a defence technology firm, this should only happen in transparency, with scrutiny and debate. 

In our backyard

"We are lagging behind our partners in the provision of core principles upon which the EU project is built"
It is a political responsibility to know what is going on in our own backyard so that we can protect our collective security if needed”. Once again, this couldn’t be further from the reality we are experiencing in Malta whereby the government enters into significant contracts with third parties in full secrecy despite claiming otherwise.

Beyond reproach

Jean-Claude Juncker also made it a point to explain the importance he attaches to having a Commission that is beyond reproach. In this regard a reform of the Commissioners’ code of conduct was also presented on the day. Amongst other matters, this reform defines what constitutes a conflict of interest, applies stricter rules to the financial interests of Commissioners and extends the cooling-off period for former Commissioners. We all recall that a Labour government implemented a new code of ethics for ministers in 2015, however much remains to be desired with regard to our ministers’ adherence toward it. 

Core principles

It has become rather common for our government spokespersons to repeat the rhetoric that Malta is constantly outperforming its European partners in certain sectors, however welcome as robust economic performances are, it is also clear that we are lagging behind the same partners in the provision of certain core principles upon which the European project is built and are indispensable for a modern democracy to function. 

 

Frank Psaila presents Iswed Fuq Abjad on Net TV

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Frank Psaila, a lawyer by profession, anchors Iswed fuq l-Abjad on Net TV. He was formerly...
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