19 SEPTEMBER 2001
By Miriam Dunn
It is high time the government moves from words to action when it comes to taking the "massive" steps needed for European Union compliance in the sensitive areas of agriculture and environment, according to Leonard Mizzi, the Director of the Malta Business Bureau in Brussels.
Dr Mizzi also believes that some of the Maltese people still feel they are not getting the information they need about Maltas bid for EU membership.
The director of the bureau was giving his comments to The Malta Financial and Business Times following the publication last week of an Opinion paper by the European and Social Committee entitled Malta on the Road to Accession.
Dr Mizzi, who says there were no major surprises in the paper, believes its underlying message is that although Malta has made a great deal of progress in its EU bid from a technical perspective, there is still a lot to do.
He highlights maritime safety, agriculture and the environment three as areas which need particular attention.
"It is also important to communicate the real implications of EU membership to the vulnerable groups of Maltese society," he says. "Some are still feeling de-linked from the process."
Turning to the subjects of agriculture and environment - widely recognised to be two of the most difficult areas in EU compliance - Dr Mizzi points out that the financial implications on these two sectors are "enormous" and that there needs to be massive institution-building.
I ask Dr Mizzi for his comments on the complaints, made by representatives in the agriculture sector and picked up in the opinion paper, that they are still not obtaining enough information or being given enough time to give feedback.
He admits that although key players in the sector are taking steps to obtain the facts on EU membership themselves, there could be a strengthening of relations with the government.
There is clearly more scope for confidence building between farmers and government, especially on the policy reforms which need to be introduced as from next year."
On the subject of the environment, Dr Mizzi highlights the need for the government to move forward from words to actions, even though the decision will not be easy.
"On environment it is crucial that the government starts acting rather than analysing the situation," he says. "Some tough decisions need to be taken."
He believes that the problem is what order to address the monumental problems in this sector and where the funding will come from.
"The problem is how to sequence the investments for waste management and treatment of waste waters and who will fund these investments - the government, the private sector or the EU," he says.
But he also points out that Malta cannot wait for EU accession to start addressing the problem of environmental degradation.
"This is already having major implications on the tourism sector,"