12 MARCH 2003

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Social partners give ‘Yes’ vote two thumbs up

Malta’s business oriented social partners have given the ‘Yes’ vote in Saturday’s referendum an unconditional two thumbs up. Although the endorsement of the positive vote would come a no surprise, as the bodies concerned had already voiced their approval for Malta’s European Union accession, the endorsement is nevertheless surely welcome by the pro-membership camp.
Speaking to The Malta Financial and Business Times yesterday, Malta Employers’ Association President Paul De Battista described the referendum result as clear and not open to interpretations. He also appealed for calm from the public in light of the mixed messages emerging from Malta’s two main political rivals.
He told this newspaper yesterday, "As far as we [the MEA] are concerned, the referendum result was clear and is not open to different interpretations. As an association, we are in favour of European Union accession for the benefit of all. After all, everyone wants what is best for themselves and the country. It is our conviction that EU accession is in the country’s best interest."
Likewise, the Malta Chamber of Commerce expressed its satisfaction that the majority of Maltese voted in favour of EU membership. The result was in line with opinions expressed by Chamber members during a survey carried out by the Chamber in January.
According to the Chamber, "In the interest of business and the country’s economic progress, it is vital that the parties across the entire political spectrum recognise the will of the people as determined in this democratic process. Local economic development has been hampered for some time by the country's unclear direction in its relations with the EU.
"The Chamber now expects that the Referendum result will serve its purpose of acting as the first instrument to eliminate, or at least reduce, this uncertainty. Entrepreneurs, investors and indeed, workers in the country require an unequivocal sense of direction in order to contribute towards increased prosperity for the nation."
The Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association also welcomed the result.
It explains, "For various reasons the members of the MHRA were, in their vast majority, in favour of our Islands joining the European Union. In fact, on many occasion the Association stated that the alternative of staying out of the EU would be harmful to the tourism industry.
"It is with the backing of all the studies carried out by the MHRA on the subject that the Association welcomes the referendum result wherein over 53 per cent of the people that voted on the issue have expressed their wish for our Island to join the EU. The MHRA believes that there is no room for interpretation of the result and the majority decision should be unequivocally accepted."
The MHRA has urged the political parties to accept the result and actively work towards getting the Islands back to normal.
According to the MHRA, "Malta needs direction, certainty and a renewed determination to work on the problems at hand within a calm and focused atmosphere. This national issue has been resolved and it is critically important for all Maltese to unite, away from politics, and work towards making our Island economically strong. One of the most positive aspects of the recent referendum campaign was the joint effort put up by the majority of the constituted bodies working towards a common goal for the good of the nation. The MHRA sincerely hopes that this united effort will continue to be practised on many other issues in the future.
"The MHRA also augers that the tourism industry will be given the attention and support it needs within the Island’s new European context so as to enable the investors and the 40,000 families that depend on this industry to prosper in the years ahead."
The Malta Federation of Industry, meanwhile, described the referendum result as a result for the best interest of the members of the Federation, most of whom have stated that EU membership would be beneficial to their business.
The FOI has urged the political parties to bring an end to the uncertainty that has prevailed over the last few weeks.
The FOI explains, "An unwarranted prolongation of the situation will benefit no one – as the whole country will be the loser. This is why the FOI is pleased that the Prime Minister has decided to call the general elections for the 12th April 2003. Such elections should put to rest any lingering doubts on Malta’s future direction.
"The FOI also believes that once the elections are over, the social partners - Government, employers and the unions - should settle down to start removing the many existing problems of competitiveness that industry is facing.
"United efforts of all the social partners are also needed if Malta is to gear itself to derive all possible benefits from EU membership, both in the remaining fourteen months prior to accession and, even more so, in the years that will follow."

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
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