The Malta Independent 19 June 2021, Saturday

EU Funding: 17 years of transformation of the Maltese nation

Sunday, 9 May 2021, 11:00 Last update: about 2 months ago

Earlier this month, Malta celebrated the 17th anniversary since joining the European Union back in 2004. Since that historic day, the island has embarked on a political, social and economic tranformation path that will leave a significant imprint on generations to come.

This membership has opened doors to position  Maltese citizens at par with their European counterparts. It gave a population of just under half a million equal rights to those of larger countries, a right to push significantly above our country's weight. It is about respecting higher standards of governance, respect to fundamental freedoms economic stability, air and water cleanliness, and right to travel, study and work anywhere in the 27-country bloc.

Sure enough, as in any relationship, we had reasons not to be happy with the European approach towards certain issues of concern, with the perceived inability of the EU to handle the migratory challenges in the Mediterranean in a just and fair way being a clear example of this. Yet, even here, being present on the European table outweighs to realities of operating in isolation.

However, the generally positive impact of membership reflects itself in how the Maltese perceive the European Union. The latest Eurobarometer survey showed that Maltese citizens are the staunchest supporters of membership, with half of the population across political beliefs, having a "totally positive" image of the club, with only a mere six percent saying they had a "totally negative" perception.

Despite the many benefits outlined above, which in reality should have been the primary benefits of membership it is undeniable that visibly, it is EU funding that had the strongest impact. Since Malta joined the EU in 2004, the Cohesion Policy has invested in excess of €1.5 billion in a variety of initiatives which have improved Malta's educational and health facilities, enhanced our historical assets, trained thousands of individuals and supported numerous businesses in their road towards innovation, growth and job creation.

It is practically impossible to go anywhere in our country which has not enjoyed the benefit of such funding.  Restoration of massive fortifications, the construction of new roads, investment in educational and health institutions, businesses expanding their operation through EU Funds.

Interestingly though, it is perhaps the less celebrated projects which bring longer-lasting change to society's fabric. The hundreds of projects which, without much exposure , ensure that truly no one is left behind.

Think, for example, of the EU-funded Invest programme, which involved the completion of 77 labs spread among 13 state secondary schools,  in Malta and Gozo, aimed to offer facilities for the teaching of vocational and applied subjects. The supplies for these labs were co-financed by the EU's Cohesion funding. Every workshop features real life on-the-job settings, including state-of-the-art equipment such as high-tech machinery and specialised furniture, giving our children different routes towards educational attainment.

The regeneration of communities living for decades in dilapidated areas is another example of EU funded projects which had a tangible impact of the lives of people. Indeed, one of the most extensive Cohesion-funded projects was in Cottonera. The EU allocated more than €7 million in favour of Urban Regeneration and Improving the Quality of Life in area.   This money was used for upgrading of inner urban areas, an enhanced transport infrastructure, embellishment of the environment and the introduction of more sustainable transport options. Together, such investments have strengthened the community of the three cities and completely transformed the quality of life in that area.

Think about the investment in training delivered to persons coming from different challenging backgrounds, whether early school leavers or persons with disabilities, allowing them to have a better chance of accessing quality employment.

These are just few examples of how EU funds are used to bring about social cohesion ensuring that all citizens, whichever their background, are given the opportunity to succeed in life.

In other practical terms, EU funding was availed of  more recently, as a deadly pandemic struck the world, with over €60m in Cohesion Policy funds being reallocated towards COVID-relief measures to support the Maltese health system, aid businesses and maintain jobs in industries that were adversely affected by the pandemic.

More funds are on our way for the next budgetary period, with Malta securing a total of €842 million in funds under the core Cohesion Policy. Such assistance will come around at a crucial time as the country sets itself on the path of economic regeneration, with an emphasis on a green and digital transformation meant to deliver sustainable growth for a better future.

.This content was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Corporate Identities Ltd., and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

 


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