Deputy prime minister Louis Grech says the EU is at 'a crossroads'

Government to launch a €65 million lending scheme for SMEs in the coming months.

Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech
Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech

Discussing the challenges that the European Union is currently facing, including terrorism, migration, the Greek crisis and the UK’s referendum on EU membership, Deputy Prime minister Louis Grech said that the EU was currently facing a “crossroads”.

At the penultimate public consultation meeting entitled ‘Gvern li Jisma’ Deputy PM Louis Grech said that it was important to look at the wider European context in the consideration of all local issues.

Grech said that following the economic crisis, the EU was now facing a situation where the EU needed to reintegrate with the people it represents.

Stressing his disagreement with the reworking of negotiations like the treaty of Lisbon, Grech emphasized the need to focus on realistic and tangible issues the public could relate to.

Referring to the UK-EU referendum, Grech said that Malta was prepared to do everything to keep the country within the union, but that the red line for the country was the idea of a harmonised taxation system.

“Our independent taxation system was at the basis of our membership in the EU,” he added.

Also addressing the event, Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds Ian Borg said that the government had worked towards better management of any EU related affairs including the distribution of EU funds and the planning of agendas of Malta’s Presidency of the European council in 2017, where he said Malta would still be facing some of the current issues.

Grech explained that the coming weeks would see the launch of a €65 million lending scheme that would benefit SME’s which he called “a sector of burgeoning growth and importance.”

Borg further clarified that the scheme would be based on a guarantee system and that the government would soon be signing an agreement with a local bank for the lending scheme.

 “Addressing the economy of the country has meant that we can also address and influence a better social justice,” Grech said.

Listing some of the achievements in the last six months, including the rise in employment rates, drops in inflation, he explained that pulling Malta out of the excessive deficit procedure had also ensured that foreign investors would be less wary about investing in projects in the country.

 “The government managed to absorb 78% of the EU 2007-2014 budget in the last two years,” Borg said referring to figures that showed that many negative figures had been overturned to place Malta amongst the best European countries economically.

Borg also said that Malta had seen a 4% rise in economic growth and he listed various infrastructural projects as the root of such growth.

Referring to an observation made by a member of the audience, into the seemingly increasing numbers of disputes at parliament, Grech said that both sides of the chamber needed to assess and better control their reactions and attitudes. He added that the government would begin work on a change in the way MPs were remunerated regardless of their attendance to parliamentary sessions, in the coming months.

Grech added that the government had already achieved on over half of its electoral manifesto, with some 492 proposals already in force, just two and a half years into the legislature.