Business leaders launch manifesto for Europe

Leading business organisations launch process towards a joint manifesto of the expectations of Maltese businesses in the forthcoming MEP elections.

Reduction of regulatory burdens, 'one size fits all', access to finance, EU funding, public procurement and employment conditions were among the themes discussed by leading business organisations as they kicked off a process to draw up a joint manifesto for the forthcoming European elections.

This morning representatives of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, the General Retailers and Traders Union (GRTU), the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA), the Malta Employers' Association (MEA), and the Malta Business Bureau (MBB) exchanged views with prospective MEPs on their expectations of the EU in the coming mandate of the European Parliament.

The discussion started with a presentation on the stakes for businesses in the forthcoming European Parliament legislature by the Head of the European Parliament Information Office, Peter Agius, who described the work of the European Parliament committees as the battleground where proposals and ideas are promoted or axed to finally end up as European laws affecting all businesses.

The business organisations then intervened to highlight their perspectives from the upcoming elections and outstanding issues on the EU agenda.

Anton Borg for the Chamber pointed out that Maltese businesses cannot thrive on a 'one size fits all' approach from Brussels.

''An SME in Germany in a totally different situation than that of an SME in Malta. You cannot expect that both will react to harmonisation in the same way''.

MHRA representative Andrew Agius Muscat pointed out the importance of the tourism industry for Europe while emphasising that more effort has to be done to highlight the interests of the industry in the different policy areas which invariably affect the industry directly anyway.

''We count on the MEPs in the Tourism task force in the EP to monitor developments and represent the industry'' he said.

Philip Fenech from the GRTU remarked ''We need more entrepreneurially minded people to run the European institutions'' while pointing out that GRTU insists that MEPs need to touch base with business organisations to ensure that these are part and parcel of the design of future European legislation.

Employers' chief  Joe Farrugia pointed out that while the EU has out employment at the top of the agenda, little emphasis is made on stimulating the employment market through the employers themselves. ''We need to concentrate on measures to stimulate demand for employment. Reducing the regulatory burden is certainly one of these measures.'' 

George Vella for MBB said that ''Over the past years, we had to dedicate more energy to fend off Europe in areas where we had a good market like gambling and financial services than on areas where we can grow in Europe''. Vella points out also that the business sector needs to be the main actor in tapping EU funding rather than public authorities which at present are the main beneficiaries. 

Participating in the discussion were also MEP candidates Carmel Cacopardo for Alternattiva Demokratika, Helga Ellul and Jonathan Shaw for the PN and Ivan Grixti and Alfred Sant for Labour.

Carmel Cacopardo pointed out that businesses need to play an enhanced role in promoting environmental sustainability. ''In projects like the water initiative promoted in Malta with hotels and industry you have a clear example that environmental sustainability makes business sense'' he declared.

Ellul pointed out that Europe needs to promote a mentality change, ''If you fail a business in the US it is considered part of the learning curve, if you fail a business in Europe it's a tragedy which will condition you with the banks and beyond that''. She pointed out her belief that Malta's size can be an advantage on the European market.

Labour candidate Ivan Grixti pointed out that Malta can cash in on its comparative advantages such as less bureaucracy in the business sector. He also referred to the EU accounting directive while pointing out that ''we need to ask the question: who needs the business accounts? And proceed to regulate the nature of accounts required by companies accordingly.''

Former Prime Minister Alfred Sant said that as a politician he has to put the interventions of the organisations in a political strategy. ''Several developments of European integration can be coming to our prejudice. The European model right now is rational... for Germany, Italy and other big countries, but is it good for us? My first interest will be to defend Malta, and hence your interests for Maltese businesses.''

Nationalist MEP hopeful Jonathan Shaw pointed out that as a businessman he understands the toils and stands of Maltese businesses. ''We need to think Europe in terms of possible solutions while acting locally to ensure their adapted and effective implementation. Moreover we need to instil the beauty of doing business with the younger generations.''

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