EDITORIAL | Choosing wisely

Being strongly critical of bad governance is one thing but allowing that position to be used by others as an excuse to hit out at Malta’s tax system is another thing


Malta elects its six members of the European Parliament in five weeks’ time as formalities kicked off last Tuesday with the start of the nomination process.

The candidates for all four mainstream political parties have been known for a while and it is unlikely there will be any surprises by the time the nominations close next week.

Electors will be presented with a crowded list of hopefuls vying for Malta’s six seats in a parliament of more than 700.

The European Parliament election may lack the lustre of a general election when people are more inclined to go out and vote because it determines who governs the country.

Turnout for the three EP elections held so far in Malta has always been the highest in the EU bar those countries where voting is compulsory.

However, with every election the turnout has dropped. In 2004, the turnout stood at 82.4%, dropping to 78.8% in 2009 and 74.8% in 2014.

The situation indicates that the turnout could drop even further come next May.

The reasons why people behave differently in European elections are myriad but it is plausible to suggest that many feel disconnected from the work done by MEPs.

The reality is that legislation which MEPs debate and push for at European level can and will have a direct impact on individual countries, businesses and ordinary life.

The legislation proposing a reduction in CO2 emissions from cars piloted by Labour MEP Miriam Dalli is one such example.

This legislation directly impacts the car industry and aims to reduce the negative effect of the transport sector on climate change.
Other EU legislation such as the new data protection rules introduced last year have wide ranging consequences on societies and businesses.

Within this context, the EP election does take on a different dimension as highlighted recently by the Malta Business Bureau when it presented its manifesto to the Prime Minister.

The affiliate of the Chamber of Commerce emphasised the importance of electing six hard working MEPs.

Simon De Cesare, president of MBB, underscored that no political group or Member State delegation can shape EU legislation on its own.

This is an important safeguard of European democracy, he added, but it also means that smaller countries like Malta with a delegation of only six MEPs, had to punch far above its weight.

“What matters more is not the size of the country, but the ideas and persuasive work of its elected representatives, based on strong network and alliance building. This makes it even more crucial that we elect our six members from the most hardworking and brightest pool of resources,” De Cesare said.

This leader agrees with the MBB’s call to voters and urges them to evaluate the individual qualities of all candidates.

From a business perspective, the surge of inward looking Eurosceptic parties may be a disruptive force that could threaten the open economy championed by the EU.

With Malta having one of the most open economies in the EU it is vulnerable to external shocks, especially if these come from within the bloc.

Another aspect that will definitely come to the fore in the next legislative term will be the attempt by some of the big States to push for corporate tax harmonisation.

While Malta must remain committed to fighting money laundering and the exchange of information to curb abuse, any move to harmonise taxes must be resisted.

Tax advantages are an important tool for economies on the periphery of the EU to attract investment. Any attempt to dismantle this will be harmful to the Maltese economy.

Maltese MEPs in whichever political grouping they sit must oppose this and have to show judiciousness when using the EU platform to hit out at this country’s ills.

Being strongly critical of bad governance is one thing but allowing that position to be used by others as an excuse to hit out at Malta’s tax system is another thing.

The MBB is right when it says the upcoming European election is “too important not to take seriously” and with just six MEPs, Malta needs them all to work extremely hard for the collective good.

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