At a business seminar on ‘The Future EU Budget’ co-organised by the Malta Business Bureau and the European Commission Representation in Malta, stakeholders spoke of the private sector’s need to increase tapping into direct EU funds, so as to address challenges in the areas of innovation, environment and labour market, amongst others.
In her opening remarks, the Head of the European Commission Representation in Malta, Dr Elena Grech, emphasised that an early agreement on the budget before the next European Parliament elections in May 2019 is essential in order to ensure the smooth continuation of operations. She further underlined that the next EU Budget will be crucial to shape the Future of Europe that we want for our Union of 27.
In his address, MBB President, Mr Simon De Cesare, declared that, in the next programming period, the EU budget needs to be used as a tool to take decisive steps and ensure that our economies are strengthened. Mr De Cesare said, “The budget will need to speed-up important transformations, namely an increased focus on areas with clear EU added value, such as a greater role for innovation, facilitating the leverage of more private investment, and contributing to more convergence among EU regions.”
During an exchange of views on EU funds for Malta post-2020, Hon. Dr Aaron Farrugia, Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds and Social Dialogue highlighted the important role of EU funds for Malta especially since Malta still faces a number of challenges despite the economic growth. He said, “EU funds are still needed to consolidate and sustain, not halt or hinder, the economic growth which Malta has experienced in recent years. In this regard, government is undertaking the necessary processes with a view to be in a position to negotiate the best possible package for Malta.”
Participating in a panel discussion, Mr Stefano Mallia (Vice-President, EESC Employers Group), Mr Jonathan Vassallo (Director General, PPCD), and Mr Andre Fenech (Head of Policy, Malta Chamber of Commerce) underlined the need for a flexible EU budget, one that has a tailor-made approach in line with national circumstances rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. Whilst all agreed that the proposed EU budget priorities are right, the EU budget needs to ensure that it takes into consideration each individual Member State’s capacity.
Furthermore, focus was also put on financial instruments as key alternatives to grants, as well as the need to simplify EU funding procedures and reduce bureaucracy, thus making it easier for businesses to tap into.
The high-level debate, moderated by MBB Head of Brussels Operations, Mr Daniel Debono, also saw the participation of Ms Simeona Manova, Policy Analyst for the Multiannual Financial Framework at DG Budget European Commission. Ms Manova gave an overview of the proposed EU budget post-2020 as well as the process involved.
More images of the event may be found here.