EU funds minister: Malta’s Blockchain platform puts it in good stead to tap €2.5bn AI fund

EU funds parliamentary secretary Aaron Farrugia takes issue with PN candidate’s misgivings on AI funds

EU funds parliamentary secretary Aaron Farrugia
EU funds parliamentary secretary Aaron Farrugia

A €9 billion programme for digital Europe will be led by the European Commission and will not be funds directly granted to Malta, the parliamentary secretary for EU funds Aaron Farrugia has told MaltaToday.  

Farrugia was replying to concerns raised by Nationalist candidate for MEP Peter Agius, who said Malta was not doing its utmost to tap some €2.5 billion from the digital Europe funds specifically reserved for Artificial Intelligence projects and research and development.  

“The next EU budget components and their costings have not yet been agreed on by member states at council level, nor between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers,” he said. 

“Member states will be competing for these funds at a European level. Agius should know that in the majority, these are funds that go directly to the private sector. Indeed this is where Agius is mistaken: the Maltese government is actually providing the building blocks necessary for the private sector in Malta to tap these funds with a strong platform that is also attracting big international players on Blockchain and AI.”  

Moreover, Farrugia said that Malta will not be losing an EU funds in this regard, contrary to what Agius is implying, as these are funds which will be available after 2021 at the earliest. 

On Wednesday the European Parliament in Strasbourg voted on its position for an EU Budget for 2021-2027, which will also include a new €9.2 billion fund for the digital transition.  

€2.5 billion is planned to help spread AI across the European economy and society. 

“Government is still stuck with the old idea of EU funds being primarily cohesion funds,” PN candidate Peter Agius told MaltaToday earlier this week, warning that cohesion money will suffer a 7% decrease in the coming budget. “The EU budget already invested heavily in Malta’s infrastructure. So it will be difficult to argue for the same levels of EU funding we got for 2004-2020. We should match Malta’s ambition with this EU trend and put our mouth where the money is: digitialisation, Artificial Intelligence and Cybersecurity.” 

Agius said that while the Maltese government was using Blockchain as its calling card all over Europe, it had not yet tapped into the big EU money that could take the island forward on technology.  “We’ve seen robots pondering Maltese citizenship and the Prime Minister addressing Jack Ma in China on the future of AI. The PR side of things is important. But we must go further: if the movers and shakers of AI are looking for a friendly jurisdiction, they will need a place where public money and capital availability abounds for concept development and market deployment. For that, Malta needs to tap into EU funds.”