30 OCTOBER 2002
By Matthew Vella
EU Budget Commissioner Michaela Schreyer yesterday said she is not aware of Maltas expenditure in attaining EU environmental standards. She offered brusque answers as to how Malta is expected to finance capital projects when it is to receive a meagre EU handout of EUR7 million equivalent to Lm2.8 million a year, the annual turnover of a middle-sized Maltese company.
Dr Schreyers evasive replies and Eurocrat platitudes continue to cast doubt on the EUs financial package for Malta.
Asked how will Malta cope with the proposed capital and operating costs of Lm260 million on the 20-year waste management plan, she told The Malta Financial and Business Times that she was not aware of Maltas environmental costs, arguing that the EUs environmental programmes would be providing the funds to tackle such problems.
Her statement added contrast between Maltas EU obligations and the EUs contribution of EUR7 million a year.
The German Commissioner told The Malta Financial and Business Times the EU was waiting for the Maltese government to present its proposals for 2003 in its upcoming plans.
She said fund allocations have been based on Maltas specific situation and geographical size.
This would mean that the country will not be getting as much agricultural aid in proportion to other EU member states.
The EUs Common Agricultural Policy absorbs 80 per cent of the annual EU budget. Malta will contribute to the EU budget for costs which do not apply to its specific situations, such as trains and motorways.
Stupid Pact a success
Dr Schreyer chose to sideline a question asked by The Malta Financial and Business Times on the EU Stability and Growth Pact, an agreement that obliges the 12 Eurozone countries to lessen budgetary spending.
Portugal faces restraint from the EU for breaching the ceiling on budget deficits allowed by the Union. Asked twice why no steps would be taken against Germany, likely to violate the threshold this year, and France, who ignored a Commission order, Dr. Schreyer shifted the subject to Malta.
She said Maltas deficit is expected to be decreased in the coming years and that the EU Commission would be monitoring the situation.
She also chose to describe as a success the same Stability and Growth Pact that EU Commission Head Romano Prodi dubbed as stupid.
Finance Minister John Dalli, who was also present for the press conference, said that he and Dr Schreyer had been discussing EU fund allocation and monitoring.
Dr Schreyer said Malta had done good progress on matters such as financial controlling and internal auditing and that there were no real critics on these matters. She also added that by 2003, the European Commission would have compiled a monitoring report on Malta and its progress within these sectors.
"The results of the Brussels Council were a success. The negotiations should be closed by the end of this year and the financial package has been accepted.
"As was said in previous times within the European Commission, it has been decided that no acceding country will be a net contributor in its first years of accession. It will not be in a worse-off position in relation to the 2003 EU budget.
"All these fears the Malta would become a net contributor have been answered. The route map is clear and the Commission is very optimistic on Maltas choice within the coming referendum," Dr Schreyer said.