The Malta Independent 4 December 2020, Friday

At the Mediterranean Conference Centre

Alfred Sant MEP Monday, 16 November 2020, 08:01 Last update: about 18 days ago

It was a strange experience and not such a nice one really last week to visit the Mediterranean Conference Centre in the evening. At about this time of year and at the same time of day, the place would be packed with people. The hall, which is actually an enormous corridor, would be crammed with stands manned by publishers out to exhibit the books they have on offer. Everywhere there would be people moving from stand to stand, children drifting between tables displaying books laid out for their inspection, publishers, writers, book collectors, gossips doing their rounds.

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All that crush was this time nowhere to be seen. The hall still shaped like a corridor was empty and dark, except for some violet lighting coming high up from the sides. It was all very quiet.

It’s as if Covid 19 had docketed the Book Festival under a huge blanket. True, it was still being held in virtual mode, but I have to admit I have not followed it there. At present, there are already too too many virtual spaces I have to be in...

Even so, I do believe that quite soon, there will be a total change in circumstances. A building as spectacular as the Mediterranean Centre and an initiative that is as worthwhile as the Book Festival will soon be making their comeback so that once again crowds will assemble around and inside them.

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FUNDS FROM FINES

At the level of the European Parliament, there was much jubilation at how the the Parliament had succeeded ... despite the resistance of member states following the European Council during which member states had arrived at their final decision on the subject... to increase the financial commitment of the EU attached to the budgets for the years 2021 -2027. And this for a total amount of 16 billion euros.

One cannot but fully agree with the aims for which the European Parliament negotiators pushed. The funds will go to health, education like in the Erasmus projects, and research.

Here is what is worrying about their approach: The extra funds for these projects will not come from EU resources but from the monies accruing from fines that the European Commission will be charging enteprises when they infringe European competition rules.

In my view, this is a dangerous precedent: regulatory decisions  taken by an executive agency, the Commission, might get to be assessed also according to the extent that they will be channelling funds to the European treasury. Actually, it’s by way of being more than just dangerous!

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JUST TWO LEGISLATURES?

Before retiring from politics, former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat expressed the view that it would be better if MPs in the Malta Parliament would have a limit of two legislatures in which they could serve.

The first time I heard about the idea, I found myself in disagreement for I believe that legislative skills, linked to the correct political behaviour that should accompany them, need to be learnt in a process which takes time. It is hardly reasonable to get MPs to leave the Parliament just when they would have at last assimilated such “skills”. Indeed, during the last forty years or so, the technical quality of laws approved by the Malta Parliament has unfortunately deteriorated steadily... as would happen if time after time, newcomers would be a majority of the Parliament or almost.

On the other hand, if Muscat’s proposal was intended to see how one could curb the pressures of clientelism that remain enormous on all MPs, then it does merit much consideration.

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