The status of negotiations
Richard Cachia Caruana, Core Negotiating Group Chairman, addressed
the 16th meeting of the EU-Malta Joint Parliamentary Committee on Monday.
He reviews the current status of Maltas accession negotiations
and discusses the developments expected over the coming months.
Since we last had an exchange of views within this forum, a further
seven chapters are now, so to speak, on the table. We have also had
the satisfaction of reaching agreement on another five chapters which
are now provisionally closed, with the eighteenth closure the
Transport chapter occurring only ten days ago.
The other chapters to be concluded since we met in Malta last May are
those dealing with the Free Movement of Goods, the Free Movement of
Persons, the Free Movement of Services and Energy.
This means that we have reached the stage where a number of Maltas
requests for special arrangements have been considered and granted.
This is the case with all the five chapters we have closed since May,
except that dealing with the Free Movement of Services, where no requests
were made by Malta.
At this stage the only chapter remaining to be opened is that dealing
with Agriculture. We expect this chapter to be formally opened for negotiations
during the Belgian Presidency. Nevertheless, a number of technical discussions
have already taken place with Commission officials on various aspects
of this chapter. These relate in particular to the veterinary and phytosanitary
acquis. Substantive negotiations will take place during the first semester
of 2002 under the Spanish Presidency.
The arrangements granted to Malta so far, vary in nature. The two granted
in the chapter dealing with the Free Movement of Goods are of a very
specific and technical nature. These are:
a four year transition period for full harmonisation with requirements
related to the registration of pharmaceutical products; and
the possibility of retaining traditional references to evaporated
milk, cocoa and chocolate products on the basis of consumer recognition
The four-year transition period agreed under the Energy acquis is also
of a technical nature and relates to Maltas need to conform with
the requirement of a 90 days supply of oil stocks.
In a certain sense, the same can be said of the special arrangements
granted in the Transport chapter which relate essentially to Maltas
size and the fact that it is an island. These include:
a three-year transition period for the retrofitting of certain
vehicles with speed limitation devices;
a transition period of two years for vehicles operating internationally
and of three years for vehicles operating nationally in respect of the
charging of heavy goods vehicles for the use of certain infrastructures;
a two-year transition period to finalise the roadworthiness test
The special arrangement granted to Malta under the Free Movement of
Persons chapter goes well beyond the technical dimension of the other
arrangements concluded so far. This deals with the free movement of
The Maltese Government understood that there was a clear perception
within Maltese society that EU membership could create an imbalance
in the labour market, at least in the initial stages. As you know this
is not a phenomenon unique to Malta.
It can be argued, on the basis of previous enlargements, that Malta
should not experience a major influx of workers following accession.
It can also be contended that the economic growth that will follow EU
membership will be sufficient to sustain any possible entry of labour
Nevertheless, as was the case within the Union itself, it was politically
imperative for the Government to seek ways of addressing what was a
In the light of this concern, Malta has been granted an arrangement
whereby the acquis on the free movement of workers will be applied as
from day one of membership, but, for an initial period of seven years
Malta will have the possibility of taking remedial action in the case
of any unmanageable influx of workers. Subsequent to this seven-year
period, Malta will also have the option of consulting with its partners
in case any difficulties should arise.
As Minister Borg has said, it is a credit to the manner in which the
accession negotiations are being carried out that the member states
readily understood the context of Maltas request and gave an appropriate
and satisfactory response to it.
While this forms an important basis for the final package that will
be presented to the Maltese people, there are a number of other important
issues that will be discussed in the coming weeks and months.
In the shorter term, we are focusing our attention on the chapters dealing
with Social Policy and Employment, the Free Movement of Capital, Fisheries
and Justice and Home Affairs.
In the Social Policy chapter we have made four requests for transition
periods. Three of these are based on the time required for the new Occupational
Health and Safety Authority of Malta to reach full operational status.
The other concerns the implementation of the article of the Working
Time Directive dealing with the maximum working week. Consultations
on this latter request are in their final stages and we hope that agreement
can be reached in time for provisional closure at the next meeting of
the Accession Conference at Deputies level.
The chapter dealing with the Free Movement of Capital has seen considerable
progress in the past few weeks and we can say that there is only one
outstanding issue to be finalised. This deals with our request to retain
restrictions on the purchase of secondary residences in Malta. The Union
has acknowledged that Maltas size calls for special consideration
in this context. Both sides are now focusing on what is necessary to
reach a satisfactory arrangement on this issue.
While the Maltese fisheries sector may be considered to be rather small
in purely economic terms, it clearly has social and cultural relevance.
The negotiations on this chapter, where the principal issue for Malta
is our request to manage the 25 miles around Malta as a conservation
zone, are in hand. We hope that significant progress can be registered
over the coming weeks.
We consider that Malta is well advanced in its preparations in the case
of Justice and Home Affairs. Indeed, we expected to have been able to
close this chapter by now. Unfortunately this has not been the case.
The aftermath of the September 11 attacks has had its own inevitable
impact on this area of the acquis. Nevertheless, we would still wish
to provisionally close this chapter under the current Presidency.
We can also aim at conclusion of three of the remaining chapters in
the medium term. The negotiations on Customs Union and Taxation are
now each concentrated on one outstanding issue. In the case of Customs
Union this concerns duty relief. In the case of the Taxation chapter
the issue under discussion is our request to maintain the exempt VAT
status of a number of sensitive items. We are hopeful that over the
coming weeks ignificant progress can be registered on these key issues,
both of which are of high importance for Malta.
The environment negotiations should see major developments now that
our new Environment Protection Act is in place. A number of requests
for special arrangements have been made in this chapter, the majority
of which relate to infrastructural measures that require time and considerable
funding to implement.
This leaves us with the final four substantive chapters: Competition,
Regional Policy, Financial and Budgetary Provisions and Agriculture.
The negotiations on these subjects were always expected to take longer,
both because they involve inherently complex issues and also because
they have significant financial implications, in particular for the
I would, nevertheless, like to briefly touch upon the key issues involved.
The most conspicuous aspect of the Competition chapter concerns state
aid, including aid to the ship building and repair industries. I am
confident that the Union has understood our need to restructure a sector
that relates to an economic activity that is so characteristic of our
The chapter on Regional Policy centres on the structures that Malta
needs to put in place to allow it to make maximum use of the structural
and cohesion funds after accession. On the EUs side the discussion
will naturally focus on the funding that will be made available to new
The chapter on Financial and Budgetary provisions deals primarily with
the technical issues connected with the harmonisation of certain budget
practices and procedures.
The last chapter is that of agriculture, which I have already referred
to. This is undoubtedly one of the most critical chapters. Not only
does it have the largest acquis, it also has the largest budget allocated
to it by the European Union. It has to be noted that although Maltas
agriculture sector only produces 2.5% of Maltas GDP, the raw numbers
do not paint an accurate picture of either the socio-cultural or the
environmental importance of this sector. Considerable effort will go
into guaranteeing the financial viability of farming in Malta.
I have run briefly through all the chapters which we are negotiating.
It is, however, necessary to place an assessment of this nature within
the broader implications that the accession exercise presents for Malta.
Throughout this process, our conviction has been that accession is primarily
a political act. It is, however, the essential characteristic of the
European process that fundamentally political objectives are normally
pursued through the progressive application of pragmatic and very often
Accession negotiations constitute a classic example of this approach.
Throughout the accession process, Malta - like any other candidate country
- needs to ensure that, without minimising the relevance and importance
of the technical aspects of the negotiations, it never allows the political
objective to become blurred.