By Joe Tanti, Chief Executive Officer of the Malta Business Bureau
This article appeared in the Times of Malta on 13/03/2014
The 2014 European Elections are around the corner. Come May, European Citizens will vote and elect their representatives to sit on the 751-strong legislative body. These Members of the European Parliament (or MEPs) will voice their electorate’s opinions on various issues of a cross border nature.
Much of these issues directly or indirectly affect the European business community at large. In order to ensure that the end product of such issues is of a satisfactory nature to the affected parties, lobbying is done at all stages of the legislative procedure. However, one must ask how effective lobbying procedures are, particularly for small businesses from micro states such as Malta. More often than not, the hard work and lobbying efforts of both the Maltese MEPs and the Maltese business community gets lost in translation in the vast dynamic forum that is the European Parliament.
We need to find ways in which we can be more influential in the European Parliament’s proceedings. Clearly, much remains to be done from MEPs, but we, as business representatives, also have more to do, even before we start lobbying our MEPs. Too often now, we have seen social dialogue in Malta to be a fragmented mess of pride hiding behind turf wars of differing opinions. How can our politicians lobby a strong, consolidated view, when we do not even give them one, despite that being our job?
We need to organize ourselves better. In the start of the campaign, we have seen how business organizations came together with one voice to bring issues to the MEP candidates’ attention. This was probably the first consolidated effort of its kind, and we commend the European Parliament Information Office in Malta for such an initiative. It would be extremely beneficial if such dialogue was also sustained after the election. We need this to consolidate our views and the elected MEPs need this in order to ensure that they have the strongest position possible. Let us sort out these pseudo territorial battles from our end before we move on to getting more out of the politicians representing us Brussels.
Currently, there is significant room for improvement in the way that elected Maltese MEPs can engage with the local social partners. MEPs must stay in constant contact with business organizations in order to ensure that there is a mutual exchange of up to date information and views in order to formulate a stronger position in the European parliament. This can be achieved with the formalization of working relationships between the teams of MEPs and the teams of business organisations.
MEPs can also streamline their participation within the European Parliament’s committees and inter-groups. One must appreciate how hard it is for 6 MEPs to ensure adequate participation in the relevant fora to business. For this reason, elected Maltese MEPs should strive to attend the most important committees for economic growth. Naturally, business understands that other committees are also relevant to the national interest. So where attendance to growth-related committees is not possible, MEPs should create concrete links with other influential MEPs sitting on such committees in order to channel their participation through them.
There can also be a better synergy between the European Parliament and National Parliaments. MEPs should pursue better inter-parliamentary collaboration between the European Parliament and the shadow committees tasked with the equivalent scope of activities within the National House of Representatives. This would allow for a framework whereby the House of Representatives tasks elected MEPs with debriefings on various issues currently on the agenda, a model already put to excellent use in the UK. However this would require the national House of Representatives to increase its internal capacity in order to meet the requirements for such duties.
Let us use this election as an opportunity to turn over a new leaf in the way we consult and are consulted. We are here to listen, but we are also here to speak up. Let us use each other so that together we may succeed in projecting a stronger voice in the European Parliament.