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More to gain than to lose – Walker

"Smaller states that are low in natural resources have definitely more to gain than larger states." This was stated yesterday during a press conference at the delegation of the European Commission, by Mr Kenneth Walker, a British member of the European Economic and Social Committee and author of the report entitled "Malta on the road to accession," report.

When asked by The Malta Financial and Business Times Mr Walker said He added that if Malta were to withdraw its application he would not be certain of future outcomes however applications can’t be started and withdrawn ad infinitum.

The report is partly the outcome of a visit to Malta in the Spring of this year where a group of committee met representatives of a range of Maltese civil society organisations. The report was adopted by the committee and Mr Walker came to Malta to present the opinion document.

Present at the conference were Mr Roland Gallimore, Ambassador of the EU to Malta and Professor Scicluna from the Malta Council for Social and Economic Development.

When Mr Walker was asked what was the most striking fact he came across when drawing up the report, he replied "the lack of consensus within Malta regarding EU membership."

When asked about the advantages and disadvantages of membership Mr Walkers replied, "the advantage is pooling into a community of nations where each state is a full and equal member." Trade is also improved and though economic aspects are very important they are not the most important aspect of membership.

Transition periods were brought up during the press conference. Mr Walker said that Malta has already received transition periods and is confident that if need be Malta will receive further transition periods. Misinterpretations regarding bird hunting, by the local Greens, were also put right by Mr Walker where he further specified that a transition period in this case might need to be negotiated.

Mr Gallimore expressed the importance he gives to the opinion of the committee.

He said that the report covered all spheres of policies and directives and said that the report will be looked with great detail. Mr Gallimore also said that the commission encourages objective information. In that way the public can reach their own conclusions after having correct information.

The economic extract of the report on ‘Malta on the road to accession.’ has various interesting points which are more objective, coming from a foreign independent source. The Maltese GDP in purchasing Power Parities is 52% of the EU average which would qualify Malta for structural funds. However he added that Malta’s GDP is one of the highest in candidate countries therefore the EU average might have to be brought down to the point were Malta would no longer qualify in the longer term.

The report also highlighted Malta’s economical principle weakness is the level of budget deficit. Although from 1998 the deficit has decreased reasonably government debt percentage of the GDP continues to increase. The report added that government revenue from taxation is currently estimated at 39% of GDP on the basis of what is actually collected. The report concedes that further taxes in Malta will act as a disincentive to foreign investment. The only solution is the reduction of government expenditure.

Another interesting point highlighted was that negotiations could be made with the EU on the conditions of entry and could take into consideration the possibility of classifying Gozo as a dependant territory and in this way can benefit from certain funds.

The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt