Green Deal aviation tax should be financed by private jet flyers, Cassola tells Chamber

MEP candidates speak on effects of Green Deal rules on island nations like Malta

Candidates Arnold Cassola, Thomas Bajada, and Peter Agius
Candidates Arnold Cassola, Thomas Bajada, and Peter Agius

Three candidates for the European elections told a Chamber of Commerce audience that MEPs must unite in a bid to prevent the negative effects of Green Deal laws that can raise the cost of travel and transport for islands like Malta.

But independent candidate Arnold Cassola said that avaiation taxes intended to finance climate mitigation measures, should be paid by high-spending private jet users.

New rules emanating from the European Green Deal could potentially lead to an increase in prices of flights from Malta by up to €60 each way, according to one study by the Royal Dutch Aeronautical Institute.

“I say ‘yes to the Green Deal’, and I am proud of the EU’s lead on climate change, but the price we pay for it must be proportionate,” said PN candidate Peter Agius. “I’m not ready to pay twice what Germans or Italians are paying for the Green Deal. So the question is: at what price for the Maltese?”

Agius said that with the Green Deal now a permanent feature of the EU’s agenda, it was up to Maltese MEPs to defend the economy from any adverse effects of the upcoming rules yet to be legislated in the European Parliament.

“The upcoming Commission will need to garner support across various political factions… we need to adapt laws to suit Malta’s unique circumstances. European Commission initiatives should not impose disproportionate burdens on the country,” Agius said.

The Labour candidate Thomas Bajada, an employee of Malta’s permanent representation to the EU, said he had experienced the vacuum on various parliamentary committees from the inability of Malta’s six MEPs to cover the gamut of parliamentary issues. “In that way we used the branch of the Council, as Malta, to tackle these very issues at a higher level,” he said, praising the role of the government in achieving derogations from various EU laws. “We can’t just complain about being a small country: our weapon is creating important alliances with MEPs and other countries in the Council to make our voice heard, such as other Mediterranean member states.”

On the other hand, independent candidate Arnold Cassola, addressing the question directly from Chamber of Commerce moderator Rachel Attard, said clearly that with the Green Deal an irrefutable part of the EU’s lawmaking process, Malta had to look forward towards the bigger picture.

“We must suffer the initial small pain, for the big gain further on in future. My concrete proposal is that, while the basis of the aviation fuel tax is just and we must reduce emissions, the tax should be applied on private airplanes leaving and arriving in Malta, in the case of our country. Yes, whoever uses private jets should be paying this tax… while Maltese commercial flying and cargo transport should be exempt from this tax,” Cassola said.

Malta’s cargo flights would already be exempt from the proposed law, thanks to derogations negotiated by the Maltese government.

Agius also said that other island-regions have been exempt from aviation fuel taxes, owing to the efforts of their government for special exemptions. “The EPP’s manifesto includes the proposal for a territorial impact assessment, that would include peripherical concessions for countries like Malta.”

Bajada said Malta was not yet considered a peripherical region under EU laws, because such a concession had not been negotiated by the Nationalist government back in 2003. “Now is not the time to blame past decisions, but we need to pull the same rope on various issues that affect our competitiveness.”

Cassola railed against calls for mass tourism influxes that could touch the 5 million mark, addressing the Chamber’s audience by saying such an idea went counter to all notions of sustainability.

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This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The action was co-financed by the European Union in the frame of the European Parliament's grant programme in the field of communication. The European Parliament was not involved in its preparation and is, in no case, responsible for or bound by the information or opinions expressed in the context of this action. In accordance with applicable law, the authors, interviewed people, publishers or programme broadcasters are solely responsible. The European Parliament can also not be held liable for direct or indirect damage that may result from the implementation of the action.

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