Sant: Malta should show full solidarity on EU’s coronavirus rescue package

Labour MEP says Malta Business Bureau may not be proactive enough to warn MEPs of problematic EU rules such as those on trucking

Labour MEP Alfred Sant
Labour MEP Alfred Sant

Labour MEP Alfred Sant echoed a strong position in favour of the EU recovery plan, almost warning against cautious positioning from frugal EU member states.

“We must participate fully in ensuring that the European economy does not collapse,” he said after a presentation on the different stances between northern and southern member states’ position on the coronavirus package. “We already got burnt in 2008-9. This is much worse a crisis than that. We should do our calculations later.”

With finance minister Edward Scicluna calling the coronavirus package a ‘prickly pear’, due to the fact that Malta may have to raise its own resources to finance its share of the package, Sant said there was no other alternative for Malta. “We have to work on the basis of full solidarity. Now that we are full eurozone members, we must bear this cross… even at the cost of a few pricks.”

Sant also said that the Maltese private sector’s lobby in Brussels should be more proactive in flagging European developments that could hamper the island’s competitiveness.

His criticism came after being asked by MaltaToday over the failure of Maltese MEPs to have a raft of amendments passed at committee stage, to soften the blow of EU cabotage rules on Maltese logistics and trucking firms.

Maltese company leaders fear a hike in consumer prices for the Maltese due to increased costs borne of more frequent worker-rest periods.

“The fact we’re a small country means we cannot cover all committee, and in the last legislature we had nobody covering the transport committee,” Sant said. “So effectively you had a package of laws which, in this case, is the subject of differences between east and west – a fight over social conditions in the east making cheaper the demand for goods from the west.”

But Sant said it should have been the Malta Business Bureau in Brussels that should have also been presenting its position on the law to MEPs.

“As far as I can tell, the MBB has never communicated its issues on this matter. I did ask some informal questions… nothing came back to me. So this could be a critical problem for Malta.”

Labour MEP Josianne Cutajar, who is a substitute member on the TRAN committee, said she had met Maltese stakeholders on their concerns and that she had coordinated with all MEPs from Malta to be united in their position on the mobility package.

However, none of the influential MEPs in the TRAN committee supported the amendments. Yet more amendments could be presented to the final text presented to the plenary. “This has always been an uphill struggle when a one-size-fits-all package of rules is supported by a majority of countries.”

Sant described the overlong compilation of evidence against Yorgen Fenech as a “soap opera”, taking to task Maltese judicial processes that “took too long” and that should have been “completed earlier on”.

He warned against misrepresenting Maltese problems as being unique. “Accusations towards various EU member states are commonplace. Let’s not magnify our problems onto the European landscape... we would be cutting our nose to spite our face. Many member states – Poland, Hungary… even former French president Nicolas Sarkozy… face accusations from different quarters of the EU.”

In a question on abortion, Sant called for a “wide berth of acceptance and tolerance for those who feel strongly” about the subject.

“The majority of European countries recognise abortion as a civil right, and is recognised by the EU as such as a matter of custom. I felt it unfair that this civil right has been interrupted by the COVID crisis. But I don’t think it’s a cut and dried issue. I’m neither against those who are against abortion… nor against those in favour.”

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