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?
I kept a focus on the EP’s role in strengthening the eurozone, not least in pushing towards a Banking Union and a Capital Markets Union – which have a great influence on business affairs in Malta as well as the rest of Europe. I also tried to generate a greater awareness in Malta about the impact of economic and social decisions at EU level on the local economy, such as financial services, gaming, tourism, Gozo affairs and reputational threats.
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?
The main challenge is how to maximise the positive effects of the current unprecedented rates of economic growth in Malta while preparing to be in a good position to counter the adverse conditions that the inevitable downturn will bring with it. This applies equally to firms which operate mainly in the local market and those which are export-oriented. Much of what needs to be done has to come from the companies themselves, with Government watching out to keep the environment business-friendly, providing support to start-ups and new investment, while jointly with the private sector keeping up with changes in EU rules and policies that could affect our position significantly.
What do you consider to be the primary effects of the Maltese Presidency on your work within the EP? What do you hope to see from the new Presidency?
When work on the Presidency was at full flood, there was general acceptance in the EP that Malta was doing a very good job. That however got upstaged by the Egrant controversy and the election campaign that followed. What I believe any Presidency should provide are a clear and realistic setting of the agenda; swift and sensitive management of a number of priorities that have been identified, fitted to doable targets; and one or two themes that are of particular interest to the Presidency, so it can use them to set its own stamp on its period in the chair.
How do you see the upcoming election unfolding?
The extreme right and the populists will make breakthroughs, though perhaps less than what is being imagined, because their voters too will quite likely not vote in significant numbers. The socialists will not do so well, the EPP also but to a lesser degree. Some are assuming that French President Macron could act as a game changer; which is possible but I’m not so sure it will happen.
The likelihood is of a further splintering of the European Parliament into groups of deputies, tied together by ad hoc arrangements – this would make coalitions more necessary but equally, more difficult to achieve.
What should Malta’s political and legislative priorities be for the upcoming EP term?
To get the maximum funds possible for Malta-based projects from the MFF perspective covering the years 2020-2027. To ensure that eurozone reform, though much needed, does not apply one-size-fits-all solutions that restrict the operating modes of Maltese banks and financial institutions. To work towards an equitable and effective EU-wide immigration policy. To adhere to and apply EU rules on the environment, while taking care that Maltese enterprises are able to implement set guidelines without getting hurt in the process. To establish ‘alliances’ with likeminded states in the Union, given that with the departure of the UK, we will have lost a player whose interests on many points coincided quite closely with ours.
This interview was originally published in Business Agenda