With the EP elections just around the corner, what would you consider your primary achievements to have been during this legislature, in relation to business?
The top priority in everything I did during my mandate as an MEP was to be the voice of the citizens, and to represent the interest of my country. This is amply demonstrated by the important dossiers which I have been given, which include the legislation on the Single Digital Gateway and the abolition of data roaming charges. Other dossiers include Standards for the 21st Century, which addressed the importance of including all stakeholders when setting standards, dossiers dealing with the importance of investing in culture and education, as well as dossiers addressing animal welfare. The fact that I won MEP of the Year for my contribution within IMCO is also very satisfying.
What do you feel are the main challenges and opportunities faced by local business within the current climate? What can be done, on a political level, to help businesses overcome them?
In a competitive scenario which the EU offers, the biggest challenge is running a sustainable profitable business with healthy growth prospects. The EU is a market of 500 million consumers and the opportunities are enormous for those who can up their game to beyond our shores. Politicians and the EU need to understand that businesses, big and small, are the backbone of the economy, and so they must ensure economic and political stability. Politicians must also understand that as legislators they control the speed of the economy of their countries, while being influenced by global trends and events, and therefore they must ensure that their finger is consistently on the pulse of the nation. Only then can they adjust their policies to fit current scenarios.
Politicians must also appreciate the value of the workers and ensure that fair conditions prevail. Labour laws must be fair for the employees, but must also be fair on employers, without imposing unnecessary burdens on them. They must ensure that the educational system is producing the right qualifications in order to populate the labour market with the right skills, and ensure a robust financial services system which attracts the trust of investors and encourages growth and investment.
What do you consider to be the primary effects of the Maltese Presidency on your work within the EP?
Even though Malta’s Presidency came at a challenging time for Europe, Malta set an ambitious to-do list and succeeded in implementing many important reforms. Being part of the negotiating team to end tariffs on roaming, I was particularly satisfied that the Maltese Presidency kept the EP’s promise and managed to close the file which abolished the unfair roaming charges. I urge the new Presidency to improve the overall investment and ecosystem for small and medium-sized enterprises in Europe. More than ever, we need to create the right environment for SMEs and entrepreneurs through the elimination of barriers and through the adoption of proper incentives, such as access to affordable financing and to appropriate skills and expertise.
How do you see the upcoming election unfolding?
The upcoming election will see the electorate voting for candidates who will have their country’s interest at heart. The electorate is no fool and knows who worked in their interest and in the interest of our country. They also know who sacrificed the interest of and humiliated their country and its citizens to gain political kudos. Malta is far from perfect. No country is. But it is nowhere near how it has been portrayed in the EP and in the international fora, and for that, a price will be paid in the coming MEP elections.
What should Malta’s political and legislative priorities be for the upcoming EP term?
The main priorities should be migration, the digital single market, education, the creation of jobs and safeguarding our financial services sector. Malta must keep on working to be a leader of innovation in various fields, as it has done in respect to the digital single market and blockchain, having been the first state to regulate crypto-currency through national legislation. On the other hand, we must keep up our fight to ensure that tax regulation remains the competence of a member state, where a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. Apart from these legislative priorities, Malta must work hard to bring its reputation back. Malta and its representatives will start with an undeserved reputational deficit next term, and climbing back to where we in truth should be, is going to be the biggest challenge of them all.
This interview was originally published in Business Agenda