George Vella, President Malta Business Bureau
Preparations for Malta’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union are well underway. In 2017, Malta will lead the Council for a six month period, drawing up the Council’s agenda in accordance with an official pre-set work programme. The success of this work programme would be determined on its achievements in various areas of EU legislation. Malta will soon be in a key position to ensure that competitiveness remains on top of the work programme, and that the position of business in the EU is strengthened.
Bearing this in mind, the preparations for Malta’s Presidency, should be viewed as the pathway towards continuing the safeguarding and improving of European competitiveness. For this to happen, it must be ensured that an SME-friendly approach is adequately and consistently adopted throughout the EU legislative process during Malta’s 6 month tenure.
The past three presidencies, held by Cyprus, Ireland and Lithuania, have focused strongly on improving cross border business within the single market. Legislation pushed by these presidencies has been widely considered to be beneficial to the EU business community, particularly when considering the current challenging economic climate, when competitiveness and growth is of utmost importance. Their work towards an improved EU business environment has earned them praise from various social partners, notably BusinessEurope – one of the largest pan-European employer organizations.
From a business perspective, these three presidencies have stood out for two main reasons. The first is their collaboration with each other. Each Presidency built on the excellent work done by the preceding Presidency. This prepared a path for the next Presidency to continue building on its own work. Equally important, it was particularly encouraging to see how the Cypriot, Irish, and Lithuanian Presidencies involved the private sector in the drawing up of their respective work programmes. These states involved their respective private sectors heavily in consultation to gauge what should be included in their respective agendas from an economic growth perspective. In future, such practices should be considered standard operating procedure by governments for successfully steering an EU Presidency.
The current Greek Presidency is proving that in addition to an advisory role, Business can also prove a valuable asset in organizing logistics. A presidency involves the setting up of hundreds of meetings. Greece has introduced a novel concept of outsourcing certain organizational duties to private companies. These meetings are expensive; and due to their financial situation, Greece has also proved innovative in that it has launched a sponsorship scheme to help cover logistical expenses.
Business has a role to play when Malta’s turn arrives in 2017. However, the road to 2017 starts now, in 2014. Business and civil society can pool efforts to assist Government in setting the agenda for this crucial six month period. Business can also provide a service to Government in alleviating a portion of the burden associated with the administration and logistics of the Presidency. For both Government and the private sector this opportunity can be politically and economically highly rewarding. This is an opportunity not to be missed. The Malta Business Bureau is committed to help make a success story out of Malta’s EU Presidency.
George Vella is the President of the Malta Business Bureau and Heads the Advisory Services at Grant Thornton. The MBB is the EU-business advisory office for the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise & Industry, and the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association.