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?
During this legislature, I have focused on many aspects related to business, but in particular as the EPP Coordinator in the Employment and Social (EMPL) Committee, I helped steer most of the legislative process towards a more social market economy, which not only helps foster economic growth, but focuses particularly on its workforce. I believe that SMEs and microenterprises are the backbone of our EU economy and are all the more important to Malta. In all the legislation that I have been involved in I have consistently ensured that unnecessary burdens on SMEs are removed. Such legislation ranges from Omnibus, the simplification of EU Funds, the revision of the Posting of Workers, Youth Employment Initiative and the European Pillar of Social Rights.
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?
One of the main issues I see affecting business is bureaucracy, which is something that must be minimised. From an opportunity perspective, I am currently working on the Work-Life Balance Directive which would drastically improve the rights of employees who are raising their children or are the primary caregivers. At the same time, some businesses are better placed than others to introduce these measures, and the right safeguards must be put in place to prevent placing a disproportionate strain on business. I am working to ensure that the right balance is reached.
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?
It is unfortunate that Government opted not to utilise the full potential it could have garnered through my role as EPP Coordinator of the biggest political party in Parliament within the EMPL Committee and as Head of the PN Delegation. Unfortunately, the Maltese Presidency of the EU Council was also undermined by the widespread corruption in Malta. The role of the upcoming Presidency will be difficult in that it will most likely scamper to close as much legislation as possible before the end of this legislature. It could be frustrating as once election mode sets in, national and political agenda priorities will make it more difficult to achieve a good compromise, but it might also work in favour of the Presidency and be easier to close certain legislative files, particularly those which are politically rewarding.
How do you see the upcoming election unfolding?
The upcoming MEP elections are an important stepping stone to choose who we want representing the Maltese islands where it matters. What we have earned over decades of hard work must not unravel due to the actions, and often inactions, of those who should be setting an example. Should I be trusted to once more carry out my mandate, I vow to relentlessly fight institutionalised corruption and ensure the provision of all necessary means of protection and basic freedoms for journalists, among many others.
What should Malta’s political and legislative priorities be for the upcoming EP term?
The upcoming term, as well as the election preceding that, will be a struggle between populist and responsible politics. The former has made an unfortunate resurgence over the past few years and threatens to dismantle a lot of what we have worked for. The protection of journalists is also an extreme priority. It is unacceptable that over the past year, three investigate journalists exposing government corruption have been assassinated in Europe. This is unheard of in a democratic, functioning, free Union, and we must unite to ensure that our values and moral direction are calibrated.
This interview was originally published in Business Agenda