Malta against new conditions being imposed on EU funds’ implementation

EU funds parliamentary secretary Aaron Farrugia says that, due to its geographical vulnerabilities, Malta needs flexibility in implementing cohesion funds

EU funds parliamentary secretary Aaron Farrugia was speaking during a General Affairs Council on Cohesion Policy this week
EU funds parliamentary secretary Aaron Farrugia was speaking during a General Affairs Council on Cohesion Policy this week

Malta has criticised a European Commission recommendation of subjecting European Union funding to new sets of conditions, saying this could end up hindering member states’ economic growth.

At a General Affairs Council (GAC) on Cohesion Policy this week, EU funds parliamentary secretary Aaron Farrugia told his European counterparts that Malta does not support the approach of attaching new conditionalities for EU funds.

Farrugia said that such an approach would result in increasing the administrative burden in the management of funds and stifle the present economic expansion being registered amongst a number of EU countries.

In comments to MaltaToday, Farrugia highlighted that Malta already had to follow a number of “Ex Ante” conditionalities when it came to receiving EU funds, such as those requiring that procurement be done following certain procedures, and that a national long-term plan on water use, energy and transport be devised. Other macroeconomic conditionalities also had to be observed, he said.

However, the imposition of new conditionalities - such as the push by France to include the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights as a conditionality - were not agreed to by Malta, Farrugia said, in light of the fact that the country need a certain degree of flexibility because of the vulnerabilities it faces.

“Malta needs flexibility due to its geographical vulnerabilities,” he said.

The parliamentary secretary underscored that most member states understood the Malta’s position, and were in support of it.

Speaking at the GAC meeting in Luxembourg, Farrugia said that member states could not risk moving further away from the treaties and main objectives of Cohesion Policy.

“The aim behind enabling conditions is to ensure that the right framework is in place at the national level to enable the effective implementation of funds—and certainly not to create increased obligations that may actually not be linked to the objectives of the funds, or that may result in increasing the administrative burden in the implementation of the funds,” Farrugia said.

“Conditionalities have been with us even before EU membership, first through the implementation of the acquis communitaire, then the Maastricht and Copenhagen criteria, later by strengthening the Stability and Growth Pact with the Six Pack and the Two Pack, and most recently with the Ex Ante and macroeconomic conditionalities.”

The objective of the GAC meeting was to take stock of the state of play concerning the Legislative Package for Cohesion Policy 2021-2027 and to steer a policy debate on the future challenges in the programming of funds.

Farrugia noted that Malta is in favour of the speedy adoption of new funding regulations in order to ensure that implementation of future funding can start as early as possible, as delays would have a ripple effect which ultimately affect citizens

Commission recommendations for new budgetary period should match needs on the ground

The parliamentary secretary also spoke about the challenges envisaged for the 2021-2027 programming exercise, in light of the Commission’s 2019 country-specific recommendations, saying that it was important that what the Commission recommended for the exercise actually matched the needs on the ground.

“As for the challenges that may occur during the mid-term review exercise in 2025, we consider it important that there will not be disruptions in the programming of the funds and we should avoid making the system too complex that will lead to excessive administrative burden,” he said.

With regard to how economic governance and the convergence objective will be reconciled, he acknowledged that the link is necessary, but also that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. Even here, tailored solutions are required to ensure effective convergence on the ground, he added.

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