While many would like the European status quo to remain, others are eager to rock the boat – and change may be afoot when it comes to the new parties and individuals being elected in the upcoming European Parliament Members (MEPs) elections taking place next week.
“In the shadow of Brexit and the various challenges we are facing (such as international protectionism, climate change, digital transformation and lack of labour supply and skills) a stronger populist and Eurosceptic wing is expected in the EP,” explains Malta Business Bureau CEO Joe Tanti. “With diminished centrist pro-European parties elected, this could have repercussions on the ability of the Parliament to negotiate future EU legislation."
“Polls so far indicate that the two biggest parties – the European Peoples’ Party and the Socialist and Democrats – will not be able to broker a majority alone, as was the case in the current legislature. For EU legislation to pass, they will require the support of the Liberal and Green parties, which shall consequently require tougher negotiations to find compromises. This, in itself, is not a bad thing, as a wider compromise means a larger representation of different political ideologies and positions of interest groups. Nevertheless, it may delay the progress of much-needed reforms. At a time when EU trust among citizens is faltering, this does not bode well for the implementation of EU political priorities, particularly with respect to a good and efficient functioning European single market.”
Regardless of the specific outcome, change is afoot. And already preparations are being put in place, locally and internationally, to deal with that. “In light of the elections and new EU legislature, we at the MBB published a business manifesto that reflects on current political trends, analyses legislative outcomes from the last legislature, and communicates the expectations of the Maltese business community from the EU in the next five years,” Mr Tanti continues. “This MBB manifesto proposes a set of guiding principles to MEPs, backed by policy recommendations that we believe should guide their work during the next EU mandate.
“Thus, in the face of challenges that there will undoubtedly be in the coming years, the MBB will continue to ensure that the decisions taken by the legislators reflect the aspirations of businesses and citizens at the local level. The MBB will continue to support the elected MEPs in their work in Brussels and Strasbourg, by providing them with feedback on the impact that legislation would have on sustainability and competitiveness of Maltese businesses.”
Finally, Mr Borg stresses that the business community has a strong responsibility to speak up, and to explain why the EU is so important for our people’s future. “We must ensure that things are going in the right direction,” he says. “Businesses are the backbone of Europe’s economic stability and people’s prosperity. Entrepreneurs invest, create jobs and make the economy grow. The private sector in Malta and in the rest of Europe is responsible for the creation of jobs, investment and prosperity. Business is committed to transforming the economic, social, technological and environmental challenges we are facing into opportunities, and to promote and continue to improve our European way of life.
“Though it seems remote, we must remain vigilant against extreme and populist notions. No country is immune to it, as is evident from the repercussions of political irresponsibility affecting a number of our European partners. Several well-documented examples of populist-driven campaigns have, in fact, presented the Union with unprecedented challenges landing the Union in completely uncharted territory.”
“We continue to appeal to both our politicians and electorate to act responsibly. Our politicians must endeavour to ensure that they maintain a mature quality of debate that brings the very best of our country’s values and nothing else,” he adds.
This interview is part of a feature that appeared in The Commercial Courier