The Malta Independent 26 June 2019, Wednesday

Influence and credibility in Europe

David Casa Thursday, 23 May 2019, 07:53 Last update: about 2 months ago

At this point, there are very few honest arguments one can pose against the European Union from a Maltese point of view. The most vociferous critics in Malta have admitted it has brought benefits for Malta. The ongoing challenge that remains is how those benefits can be distributed to reach all Maltese citizens, because on the other hand, nobody can claim that the EU is a perfect institution, either. What is crucial is that we work to improve it.

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As the head of delegation for the Nationalist Party, we have been striving to build a healthy working relationship with our European colleagues, not just to acquire the benefits for Malta, but to prove that Malta plays an important role in the European Union, too. The legislation that my colleagues and I draft impact all European citizens.

In summary, we have worked tirelessly over the past 15 years to secure influence and prove our credibility with the European institutions. We have remained consistent and stood by what we campaigned for so vehemently back in 2003. It’s precisely the consistency and persistence to work towards a common goal that have lent us the credibility with which we can promote Malta’s interests effectively on the continent.

Can the same honestly be said for the Labour MEPs? During this very MEP campaign, Alfred Sant went on record saying that his biggest regret is ‘Partnership’ did not win the referendum. It is good that he concedes that now. He was not so ready to do that in 2003. For Sant, now that we’re in there’s nothing he can do. It’s shocking that a sitting MEP only chooses to work in the Parliament on the basis of a ‘fait accompli’.

With that attitude, it’s no wonder that the Labour Party has completely lost any clout it might have ever had with the Socialists in Europe. Even after a decade and a half, that’s the best the Labour Party can come up with. The influence Labour wields in Malta is fairly explicable, especially with the way they’ve hijacked every institution from the state broadcaster all the way up to the commissioner of police.

The same cannot be said for the power they have in Europe. What’s clear is that their arguments cut no ice with the European institutions. Labour’s campaign has largely been a character assassination campaign directly against my colleagues and myself, on the premise that we are ‘traitors.’ To rebut, we need only show our records, and our records show that Maltese interests and values have consistently been at the heart of our politics.

One concrete way we have done this is keep up our opposition against tax harmonisation. Malta’s economic sectors today are the fruit of work premised on our tax sovereignty. Briefly, this means that Malta gets to decide how to structure its tax system. For a country of our size, we need all the help we can get to keep the economic wheel turning and generate wealth for our citizens.

The reason we are so adamant against harmonising tax across the EU is that it will adversely impact Malta, and will undo all the hard work that successive administrations have done to bring Malta to where it is today.

And yet Alfred Sant insists on calling me a traitor, when his own party’s lead candidate for the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, is advocating for exactly that: tax harmonisation. It suspends all belief to have the Labour Party accusing us PN MEPs of voting in favour of tax harmonisation (we have repeatedly proven this to be false), when their own Socialist Party is actively promoting it.

Frans Timmermans has made it one of his foremost policies to set corporate tax across the EU at a minimum of 18%. This would be disastrous for the Maltese economy. For the so-called strongest party in the S&D Group, why is the Labour Party sitting idly while their own European family is promoting policies at odds with Malta?

The reason is clear to all those who want to see it: The Labour Party has no clout in Europe. They have the exact number of MEPs as us, and they’re the incumbents. But what they lack is goodwill and honesty, and that is what is keeping them from influencing policy at the European level. In an interview Alfred Sant criticised the EU for ‘rushing too much’ in its expansion in the 90s. Simultaneously, Frans Timmermans is viciously pushing for a ‘fundamental reform’ of the EU. Which is it, Dr Sant?

Sant likes to use the line that works ‘behind the scenes’ like a gloomy version of Sir Humphrey Appleby – a convenient way of evading accountability. If his work is really happening where we can’t see it, he ought to prove it. Because the S&D manifesto is so contradictory to Maltese values and interests it is mind-boggling that the Labour Party has actually sanctioned it.

 

David Casa is an MEP and the head of the Nationalist Party’s delegation to the European Parliament.   He is also a candidate in the forthcoming European parliamentary election

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