In his State of the Union address to the European Parliament on 13th September, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker outlined the five priority areas which the Commission will be focusing on until the end of its mandate in 2019.
Of these, the more significant initiatives will be the Completion of the Banking Union, the adoption of the proposal for the Pillar of Social Rights and the discussions on the Future of EU Finances in view of the UK's exit from the Union.
As a net contributor to the EU budget, the UK's exit will mean an approximate shortfall of 15 per cent in the EU's coffers for the period starting 2021. The remaining 27 Member States will need to agree on the measures to take either to plug this gap or to do less.
One area which will certainly be affected by this cut in the EU's budget is the allocation of Structural funds, and Malta can expect to receive a much smaller allocation in the 2021-2027 period. Many projects have benefited so far, included the soon-to-be-completed Kappara flyover.
As EU Capital of Culture in 2018, Valletta will certainly be in the limelight and, given that 2018 will also be the year of Cultural Heritage, this will be a perfect opportunity to showcase all that Malta has to offer. The successful six months at the helm of the EU Council have served as a very good advert for Malta, and the events of 2018 will allow for the possibility to continue building on this.
EU popularity in Malta is very strong and citizens largely feel very positively the effects of EU membership. As EC Representation in Malta we strive to inform the public of the initiatives being taken in Brussels and the significance thereof – only through such knowledge can citizens better appreciate the values of the European Union.
Malta's economy has stood to gain considerably from the opportunities offered by Union membership and successive Governments have been very capable in this regard. Malta's small size is both its biggest strength and vulnerability. It is therefore important for the country to have the necessary shock-absorbers in order to be able to deflate or deflect any possibly harmful blows to its economic structures.
A version of this interview appeared in the latest edition of Business Agenda