30 May- 5 June , 2001

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European Union accession negotiations entering most complex stage
By Richard Cachia Caruana

RICHARD CACHIA CARUANA, CHAIRMAN OF MALTA’S CORE NEGOTIATING GROUP ON MONDAY ADDRESSED THE 15TH MALTA/EP JOINT PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE AND PROVIDED A BREAKDOWN ON THE PROGRESS OF NEGOTIATIONS – WHAT THE LAST SIX MONTHS HAVE BROUGHT AND WHAT DIRECTIONS NEGOTIATIONS WILL TAKE IN THE NEAR FUTURE. WITH MALTA’S PRE-ACCESSION ACTIVITIES NOW IN FULL SWING, MR CACHIA CARUANA REFLECTS ON SOME OF THE BUSINESS-RELEVANT CHAPTERS ALREADY CLOSED - COMPANY LAW, ECONOMIC AND MONETARY UNION, INDUSTRIAL POLICY, SMES, TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES.

Let me start by thanking you for this opportunity to review the current status of Malta’s accession negotiations with the European Union, as well as to discuss the concerns which will be shaping the development of this process over the coming months.

As you are aware, we have now entered the second year of negotiations. I think we can look back, with some satisfaction, on the past intensive fifteen months and the achievement of our key targets.

Of course, this success is due in large part to the close co-operation that exists with the various services of the Commission, as well as to the hard work and professionalism that continues to be demonstrated by the Maltese Public Service, as well as by those non-governmental bodies involved in the accession process.

I would like to take you through the progress since the official start of negotiations in February of last year. During this period, twenty-one chapters were formally opened, thirteen of which have been provisionally closed.

Seven of these were closed under the Portugese Presidency: Industrial Policy, Small and Medium-sized Undertakings, Science and Research, Education and Training, Telecommunications and Information Technologies, External Relations and Common Foreign and Security Policy.

Under the French Presidency we provisionally closed five chapters: Culture and Audio-Visual Policy, Company Law, Economic and Monetary Union, Statistics and Consumers and Health Protection.

I feel I should highlight the fact that the chapter on Economic and Monetary Union deals with one of the newer and evolving dimensions of the European Union. The provisional closure of this chapter at this stage underlines the extent to which Malta is already aligned with the acquis. Additionally, the closure of the Company Law chapter shows that Malta’s legislation and administrative structure in this area are well in place.

Under the Swedish Presidency we have, so far, closed one chapter, that of Financial Control. By mid-June, when the Ministerial session of the Accession Conference will take place, we expect to provisionally close a further three chapters: Free Movement of Goods, Freedom to Provide Services and Energy.

The Free Movement of Goods and the Freedom to Provide Services chapters form a substantial part of what one considers to be the inner core of the internal market. The closure of these two chapters will confirm Malta’s preparedness to start operating in the internal market. Two other chapters which are critical to the internal market – Competition and Free Movement of Capital – are currently open for negotiation.

In these negotiations, we have highlighted one area of the Free Movement of Capital chapter, that relating to the acquisition of property, where special arrangements will be necessary. This is because of Malta’s specific geo-physical circumstances.

We have also highlighted one area under the Competition chapter, that relating to state aid to our shipyards, where a transitional period of seven years is being requested. This request also requires special consideration in the light of the social and economic needs of both the industry and the area in which it is located.

Malta’s internal financial structures and administration are well rooted within the Union’s cultures and practices. This has allowed us to provisionally close the chapter related to Financial Control. It reflects Malta’s sense of professionalism and integrity at both personal and institutional levels, as well as underlines the qualities of service and probity in the conduct of public affairs.

It should also be noted that the closure of the Free Movement of Goods and the Energy chapters will also mean that agreement would have been reached on two of the transition periods requested by Malta. In the Free Movement of Goods chapter, a four-year transitional period in relation to Article 3 of the Directive, relating to proprietary medicinal products, had been requested to allow the review of market authorisations for medicines to continue after 1 January 2003. In the Energy chapter Malta has requested a transitional period of four years to build up the required 90 day contingency stocks of fuels.

With the expected opening of a further five chapters in the coming weeks, we should end the Swedish Presidency with twenty-eight chapters open for negotiation, sixteen of these being provisionally closed.

I feel I should point out that we are somewhat disappointed with the progress registered in the Justice and Home Affairs chapter. It is, however, hoped that this will be ready for closure during the Belgian Presidency.

The outcome of negotiations on the Chapter on Free Movement of Persons depends upon a breakthrough in the Union’s internal debate on certain aspects related to the free movement of workers. On our part, for the same reasons as Germany and Austria, we have requested special provisions to be put in place to prevent the disruption of the labour market in Malta in the event of a high inflow of workers following accession.

Our targets for the Belgian Presidency include the closure of the following chapters: Social Policy, Transport, Justice and Home Affairs as well as Free Movement of Persons. Considering the amount of technical work already completed, it would also seem that another three chapters, namely Free Movement of Capital, Fisheries and Customs Union, could similarly be earmarked for closure under the Belgian Presidency.

This scenario would leave us with negotiations on the six most complex chapters to be concluded during 2002: Competition, Agriculture, Taxation, Regional Policy, Environment and Financial and Budgetary Provisions.

The chapters on Regional Policy and Financial and Budgetary Provisions are directly linked to the arrangements which need to be in place immediately upon accession. In the specific context of the chapter on Regional Policy, it is now reasonable to anticipate that, as a member state, Malta will be eligible for Objective 1 status under the Structural Funds.

There are a number of issues which cannot be negotiated exclusively on the basis of technical discussions. We feel that, without in any way disregarding the application of the acquis, such sensitive issues should also require discussion within the wider aspects of their economic and social implications which can be considered within the broader perspective of EU membership. These include certain aspects of value added tax, a special programme for Maltese agriculture and the need for assistance in the implementation of some aspects of the environmental acquis.

As can be imagined, these past months of intensive negotiations have been accompanied by a far-reaching programme of change, both within Government, as well as among the non-governmental organisations and social partners that have contributed to the formulation of Malta’s negotiating positions and to the general debate surrounding accession.

As a deeper insight was gained into the procedural and technical aspects of the accession negotiations, the structures set up by Government to manage and facilitate the process have similarly matured. Their complementary roles and responsibilities are now clearly defined, and they continue to adjust to the evolving nature of the negotiations.

Every effort has been made to ensure that those public officers involved in the negotiations are given access to the training and information they require. Since the accession negotiations were opened, more than four hundred and twenty Maltese officials have attended seminars, training sessions and other meetings related to Malta’s accession process.

Maltese officials were actively involved in the two sessions of technical consultations held during the past fifteen months. An average of one hundred and eighty officials participated in each of the sessions.

The technical input of these public officers is also an integral factor in the formulation of negotiating positions and the analysis of any issues related to the negotiations. This is done in a structured and co-ordinated manner, not least through the regular technical meetings which are held on individual chapters. These bring together both the public officers concerned with each chapter, as well as the interested organisations in civil society. Twelve meetings were held in 2000 and a further twelve have been convened this year to date.

This process, together with the wider forum provided by the Malta-EU Steering and Action Committee (MEUSAC), highlights the full scope available to all sectors of Maltese society to participate in the accession negotiations. The twenty-nine negotiating positions that have been concluded up to now were, in fact, approved in forty-seven meetings of this Committee.

In the context of the broader political scenario, Malta together with the other candidate countries, has welcomed the successful conclusion of the Nice Summit, which means that enlargement is feasible as from 2003. On a technical level, the realisation of such a target date is being aided by the implementation of the Commission’s proposals contained in its November Strategy Paper. We expect this Road Map to remain the guideline for the negotiations.

On another level, we appreciate the continuous support and encouragement given to us by the European Parliament in the discussions on enlargement and the reports, particularly the annual report prepared by the Rapporteur of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Ms Ursula Stenzel, on Malta’s application for EU membership and the state of negotiations.

The resolution on Malta that follows each report has been encouraging and I augur that this year’s report and resolution will again reflect a fair assessment of the efforts being made to honour the commitments that have been entered into for the successful conclusion of our negotiations.

 



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