In the past, the need for peace brought the peoples of Europe together. European integration is the greatest achievement in the history of our continent. It not only brought peace, freedom and stability, but also a period of economic security. Malta has no longer reason to be constantly preoccupied by security issues and foreign threats; security is a concept which today has evolved. The current crisis on the financial markets and a severe worldwide recession, the fight against climate change, our ageing societies, as well as terrorism and organised crime, nowadays require both close cooperation on European level and a strong Europe in the world.
Europe together with its global partners should be in a position to pursue European interests in the world, take responsibilities and embrace the changes of the 21st century. The Maltese should in turn look at the EU as an amplifier of their interests at the global level.
The creation of work and new jobs, with the drive of Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, is within the Nationalist team placed as the core priority. Only if we manage to reach a high level of employment across the EU amongst our citizens and bring more orders to our businessmen will we be able to safeguard a good standard of living for everyone.
Throughout history the EPP has been the European political family. This role is being amply fulfilled locally by the Nationalist Party as the only national party with a clear vision for Europe. We know what we want and we know our limits. We believe the State should not be responsible for every question in people’s lives, and the EU should not deal with issues that can be better and more efficiently dealt with on a national, regional or local level. We stand for a European Union that sets clear priorities – but stays out of issues that should be handled on a lower level, closer to the citizens themselves.
MEPs are an important instrument we need to have trust in and use wisely. We cannot send people we cannot trust and who do not have any experience or drive to work with the Government Malta chose. I have a strategy of what I want to do, for you, as your MEP.
1. Strengthen our families by ensuring high quality work that yields more and strengthens the income of our families
Work Life Balance. Persons are not merely individuals, but human beings belonging to families and communities. For parents, especially women, finding a balance between high qualification, success on the labour market and their wish to raise a family is difficult to achieve. Family friendly policies that improve flexibility for working parents have to be introduced. Our educational systems and work patterns have to be more flexible in order to support them.
Support must be given towards more flexibility with respect to working time, new ways in the carrier planning of workers, especially of female workers, and guarantee sufficient child care facilities within the working place.
Education. Higher levels of education are associated with significantly higher employment rates and wages. Education is the primary investment in tomorrow’s future, particularly in the case of Malta whereby the human resource is our principal resource. We need to facilitate training and learning of computer knowledge for people of all ages. Life-long learning is especially important in order to cope with the challenges posed by technological change.
Health care, social security and pensions. The social and economic implications of population aging are manifold and its impact on the social security systems in the EU cannot be underestimated. The interests of the aging population have nonetheless to be safeguarded.
Flexible retirement must be encouraged and those who are still fit and willing to work should be able to do so. Public employment services should also assist those elderly workers who want to re-enter the workplace. As far as health policies are concerned, a wider ‘healthy aging’ strategy which focuses on promoting healthier life styles through life should be developed.
2. Using all opportunities to bring more investment, orders, tourists and work to safeguard Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, the backbone of our economy
Business and SMEs need a strong voice not only in Malta but also in Europe. It is important for one of Malta’s MEPs to be able to play a leading role in defending SMEs and to be well versed in economic policy and in how the EU can help small economies.
With the European Small Business Act (SBA), the European Institutions have finally recognised the dominant role crafts and SMEs play in Europe’s Economy. The SBA must be seen as a major step forward and it is now on the next European Parliament and Commission, the incoming Presidencies as well as the national governments to demonstrate that they have understood what SMEs in Europe really need.
Crafts and SMEs can only use their full potential for growth and job creation if unnecessary administrative burdens are avoided and the remaining barriers to markets are removed. Better Regulation requires a cultural shift, a change of mindset amongst civil servants, public authorities and the legislature in general. SMEs need concrete measures to be taken at all levels to improve the business environment and to give SMEs enough space to breath.
Legislation and programme planning at all levels must respect the ‘Think Small First’ principle if they have any effect on small enterprises. Rules must respect the majority of those who will use them. This includes independent impact assessments, systematic consultation of representative bodies, the ‘only once’ principle and the introduction of common commencement dates. The needs and particularities of SMEs have to be taken compulsorily into account in all relevant polices and legislation.
3. Working for a better environment so that the citizen can live a better and healthier life and gain from the opportunities it has to offer
The current financial and economic crisis should not be taken as an excuse to do nothing but as a wake-up call to modernize our economies and create new, sustainable jobs. Action on climate change will create significant business opportunities, as new markets are created in low-carbon energy technologies and other low-carbon goods and services. Business and Industry must no longer be regarded as the problem but the solution.
While providing a level playing field for companies operating in the single market, one has to recognize that EU Environmental Policy is not only beneficial to business but also on a wider scale and may include improved human health, greater biodiversity and so on. The point is that a better environment is good, even though this comes at a cost. In a small country like Malta improving our environment is less of a question than in most other areas of the world. The place we work and we live in are the same, there is no distinction, an environmental problem will hit all of us and not an area. This is a very serious issue for us, a challenge we confront daily.
I believe that taxation policy can be effective in changing attitudes, influencing behaviour and shaping expenditure decisions. However, climate change must not be a cover to generate more revenue and increase the tax burden. It must be part of a re-structuring of the taxation system which re-balances taxes to ensure the polluter pays whilst rewarding those who make changes that protect our environment.
4. Sounding our priorities outside our shores, our problem is Europe’s problem
I believe that while respecting traditions and religious beliefs of ethnic minorities, we should nevertheless be “intolerant of intolerance” of our own value system and beliefs. We have a right to be proud of them and to have them respected.
The pressure of illegal immigration on Member States in the Mediterranean such as Malta has reached an unprecedented high, posing a treat to national security and standard of living. Uncontrolled illegal immigration brings about tensions in the host country and inevitably leaves illegal immigrants in difficulties, pushing them into organised crime and human trafficking.
Combating illegal immigration and preventing human drama should be understood as key elements of a European response. Fighting illegal immigration at the EU-level must start from the needs, the capacity and some priorities set up by each Member States. Whenever it is possible, the Member States shall negotiate with the countries of origin. The protection of the coasts of the EU is also vital since the majority of the illegal immigrants are entering the EU boarders through sea. National agencies responsible for home affairs and security will require better funding and coordination at EU level.
Vince Farrugia is GRTU director-general and PN candidate for MEP