Scicluna calls for fair and balanced application of EU fiscal and state aid rules

Scicluna points out ‘thin line’ between unravelling state aid rules and encouraging euroscepticism

From right to left: Edward Scicluna together with Italian and Dutch counterparts Pier Carlo Padoan and Jeroen Dijsselbloem
From right to left: Edward Scicluna together with Italian and Dutch counterparts Pier Carlo Padoan and Jeroen Dijsselbloem

Finance minister Edward Scicluna has called for a fair and balanced approach to the application of EU rules governing public finances, in order to ensure that they work in the interest of citizens.

Scicluna was speaking to the press on the sidelines of a meeting of euro area finance ministers (Eurogroup) in Brussels, held yesterday, 11 July 2016.

“There is a very thin line between unravelling the rules, [thus] making them ineffective, and being draconian [and encouraging] euro-scepticism,” the minister said, pointing out that a balanced approach does not imply that the rules are ignored altogether. “Definitely there must be a middle way, but we [also] cannot just bend the rules for the sake of bending them.”

Scicluna also said that there is enough flexibility built into the rules to ensure that responsible fiscal policies do not rely exclusively, for their compliance, on draconian sanctions which could cause more harm than good to national economic reform programmes, at the cost of the livelihood of citizens. The same applies to state aid rules, which should be applied fairly.

The Eurogroup meeting, which focused its discussions on the budgetary situations in Portugal and Spain, as well as the euro area’s general fiscal stance, was followed today, 12 July 2016, by a meeting of all EU finance ministers, known as the ECOFIN Council.

The meeting discussed an anti-money laundering proposal which will make it more difficult to finance terrorist activities through illicit means. Other issues which were discussed included the implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact, the fight against tax evasion and tax avoidance, and a proposal for a European Depositor Insurance Scheme. This scheme is expected to strengthen the guarantee given to citizens that they would not lose their savings should their banks collapse.

Scicluna alos held several other meetings, including those regarding preparations for Malta’s Presidency of the Council of the EU in the first semester of 2017. These included a meeting with the European Parliament’s Budgets and Economic and Monetary Affairs Committees, and a meeting with the current Slovak Presidency, the UK which is – to date – scheduled to hold the Presidency following Malta, together with the European Commission and the European Parliament.