The Malta Independent 16 December 2018, Sunday

Driving the narrative back home

Aaron Farrugia Tuesday, 25 September 2018, 16:15 Last update: about 4 months ago

The Europe of today is a European Union made up of 27 member states, all of which have views which are more different than ever before, and specific needs which cannot be considered in isolation nor as a whole.

This reality has required us to be less romantic about the EU and become more pragmatic. We should stop being nostalgic about the plans of its founding fathers - Spinelli, De Gasperi and Schuman, as were living in the European Union of eurosceptics such as Salvini of Italy, Kurz of Austria and Orban of Hungary. Were living Brexit and some are seeing Italy's exit on the horizon. Will the EU project, the euro, survive that?

ADVERTISEMENT

We should be realistic as opposed to persuing this drive of hammering federalist propaganda and further integration. We should revisit the basics and consolidate them.

The four basic freedoms set out in the Treaty of Rome are of utmost importance, and should be treated as a given. These are the free movement of goods, services, capital, and persons within the EU, together with the EUs single market should be accepted and supported by all member states. Im saying this because some political leaders and some countries are questioning it. This is unacceptable.

We can then move to agreeing on further integration on an ad-hoc basis. Call them coalitions of the willing of you like, or perhaps a two speed Europe. These agreements can revolve around migration, security and defence, amongst others. A number of member states can decide to work closer together, and here PESCO comes to mind as 25 member states joined. Malta and Denmark did not.

We could also have a look at how Malta is managing the migration crisis, wherein we have managed to find a solution on burden sharing with a number of countries.

This is the sustainable way forward to operate and run a smooth European Union in a globalised world.

Indeed the future of Europe should be about building alliances based on our values, protecting our interests and advancing our ideas by leading international efforts on reducing conflict, promoting security, building a stronger and fairer world economy and protecting the future of our planet.

From promoting economic reform to fighting climate change, global poverty and international crime, we know that the main challenges we face demand that we work with our European partners rather than stand alone.

I have said previously that one of Europes great strengths is its shared social values. To this end we will work to protect and promote the social values and the European social model based on the economic dynamism we require while helping to build equality and opportunity for all.

The European Union brings many benefits to Sweden and Malta, through playing an active part we must continue to work to create a fairer Europe, with a more responsible labour market, with fair and decent employment rights and protections for all rather than a race to the bottom and which focuses on improving skills and adding value as a way to ensure we remain globally competitive.

The global economic crisis has vividly demonstrated the interconnected nature of the world, where decisions taken in one country can have a huge impact on the lives of people in others.

As the EU's fastest growing economy, Malta wants to work together with our allies like Sweden to build a vision for Europe that goes beyond the day-to-day imperatives of managing multi-national relations, endless debates about institutions, and other crises as they arrive.

Our approach must not be to defend the status quo within Europe we need to ensure that the European Union is a multilateral body which is fit for the 21st century and that supports the creation of a wider global system which promotes sustainable development.

Europaforum Hässleholm is a fantastic concept which allows debate and discussion on the future of Europe outside of the Brussels bubble, away from the pressure of lobby groups and the corridors of power, and close to our families, our people.

I have been so taken by the success of the concept that I want to replicate it in Malta next year.

I am driving the narrative back home that Malta, being in a very strong financial position and having successfully brokered a number of agreements as hundreds of migrants are crossing the mediterranean sea from Libya and Tunisia, should now play a leading role in shaping what the EUs future should look like.

Europaforum Malta will be organised in the first quarter of next year, with your help and support, and will follow a number of public meetings we are currently organising across the country based on French President's Macron's concept of citizens dialogues. Europaforum Malta will be like this: an open and frank discussion with academics, students, the civil society, civil servants, the business community and the public in general about Malta's relationship and role in the EU.

We will be working closely with MEUSAC, a government agency in Malta which was set up with the purpose of getting people more engaged in the EU project, inform those concerned about the changes and impact that EU regulations and directives will have on our industry and also assisting local government and NGOs in tapping into EU funds.

Our recent reform of this agency are designed bring the EU closer to Maltese citizens, revamp its digital presence, and create a stronger relationship between MEUSAC, EU institutions, Maltese institutions, ministries, and other relevant authorities. MEUSAC is being reinforced in order to enhance current services.

It is our aim that social dialogue will be strengthened between the Government, citizens and civil society when it comes to EU policies, EU funding, directives and legislation. I am very much in favour of sharing best practice.

From many conversations Ive had here I know MEUSAC is an agency the Swedish government would like to explore introducing, perhaps the political parties are still in time to have it in their manifestos.

The conversations at Europaforum are important because they help build a vision for Europe that goes beyond the day-to-day imperatives of managing current multi-national relations, security operations and other international crises as they arrive — and it is vital that politicians like me build ongoing dialogue with civil society organisations and the public to develop a credible and relevant international policy.

I want people to be at the heart of Europe - using our internationalist principles, leading voice and strong alliances, and to help Europe play a progressive role globally.

Now is the time for the European Union to address its challenges, for Malta and Sweden to show leadership on cohesion policy and set out a bold vision for future generations, moving forward in the spirit of collaboration and unity to ensure that no member states are sidelined or left behind.

Our countries must lead in charting a way forward economically, politically and diplomatically in Europe, ensuring a growth strategy which boosts jobs, recognises the importance of public investment, provides stability and addresses deficits in a sustainable way.

Europaforum Hässleholm is an annual event which holds discussions on economic, scientific, and societal issues through the EU perspective with broad participation of regional and international actors. Over the years, the event evolved from a half-day seminar to the largest arena in Sweden for discussing and debating the future of Europe. 

On another visit to Hässleholm earlier this year, I oversaw the signing of a memorandum of understanding signed between Europaforum Hässleholm and Malta, committing our country to a partnership in which Hässleholm advises Malta in the start-up of its own Europaforum. In recent weeks, I signed an implementation agreement and assumed personal responsibility for its delivery.

 Dr Aaron Farrugia, Parliamentary Secretary for EU funds and Social Dialogue

  • don't miss