Karmenu Vella and the plastic tax

Karmenu Vella, EU Commissioner for the Environment, is enthusiastic about the possibility of a plastic tax being introduced throughout the EU. In his view, this tax – if properly designed – could be one of a number of tools for delivering environmental objectives as well as providing budgetary income. Planet Earth is drowning in plastic.

Vella made these comments in an interview published on Euractive last week on the subject of the EU’s new plastics strategy.

We have been there before and maybe it is time to consider the matter once more in Malta. Some 10 years ago in Malta we had an environmental tax which was known as an “eco-contribution”. It was a valid proposal, badly designed and arrogantly implemented. The lessons learnt from that exercise could, if properly analysed, lead to the development of effective policy tools addressing the generation of waste in the Maltese islands. Policies should be well thought out and not developed as a result of panic – as is clearly the case with the current government incineration proposal.

Ten years ago, the eco-contribution tried to address the generation of plastic waste including “single-use plastic”. This is one of the primary targets of the EU plastics strategy published on the 16 January.

Its title is very clear : A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy. Plastic is ubiquitous: it is present in all aspects of our economy and our daily lives. The plastics we use must be such that they can be re-used rather than thrown away. It is an important resource which can be put to good use rather than thrown away or incinerated.

It is for this purpose that the newly-published plastics strategy lays the foundations for a new plastics economy where “the design and production of plastics and plastic products fully respect reuse, repair and recycling needs and more sustainable materials are developed and promoted”.

A plastics economy would definitely not send “waste plastic” to the incinerator to be converted into energy. Even Malta’s latest version of the Waste Management Strategy, approved in 2014, emphasises that our approach to waste must be one based on the sustainable use of resources and, in line with the EU waste hierarchy, gives priority to recycling over incineration.

In fairness, it has to be said that our government’s advisors on incineration have already sounded the alarm. Apparently this has not, as yet, been understood – either by the government or by the Opposition. It would be pertinent to point out that the Special Assignment Report by Jaspers dated 23 February 2017 on a Waste to Energy (WtE) project in Malta specifically emphasises that “it would be difficult to justify a WtE facility that is not based on low waste growth and high recycling”.

Rather than talking about incineration, it is about time we discussed in detail the implementation of our Waste Management Strategy in order to identify why it has not to date succeeded in increasing Malta’s recycling rates. What initiatives need to be taken in order that the waste generated in Malta is minimised?

Malta’s waste management strategy, now complemented by the EU’s Plastic Strategy, is definitely a much better roadmap than the documentation encouraging incineration. And what about our commitments to encourage a “circular economy” : gone with the wind?

Karmenu Vella’s plastics tax is food for thought.

It is about time that Wasteserve is managed properly. As a first step, it should stick to its brief and seek to implement carefully the Waste Management Strategy, which establishes the year 2050 as the year when we should achieve a “Zero Waste Target”. This target will not be achieved through the use of incineration but through a policy encouraging waste minimisation as well as recycling.

This is not just a task for the Minister responsible for the Environment. The Minister responsible for the Development of the Economy also has a very important role to play in achieving a successful implementation of the Waste Management Strategy.

Unfortunately he is apparently completely absent.

Zero waste municipalities in Europe are continuously indicating that an 80 to 90 per cent recycling rate is achievable. The fact that Malta’s recycling rate is, at best, estimated at around 12 per cent, is a clear indication that there is room for substantial improvement – with or without Karmenu Vella’s plastics tax.

Published in The Malta Independent on Sunday 28 January 2018

 

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For sale : access to the decision-taking process

 

 

The Lowenbrau saga has raised another issue as to the extent that revolving door recruitment should be regulated. By revolving door recruitment I am referring to the movement from government service to private sector lobbying and vice-versa of holders of political office as well as of senior civil servants. As a result of such recruitment, an investment is being made in the access to the decision-taking process which is purchased or offered for sale.

Last Sunday, The Malta Independent on Sunday understandably raised the issue with reference to former Minister John Dalli in the article Revolving doors: John Dalli denies conflict of interest in Lowenbrau deal  (TMIS 22 January). However, the issue is much wider. It is a matter which is of concern in respect of the manner of operation of lobbying which in this country is largely unregulated. It has already happened not just in Mr Dalli’s recruitment with the Marsovin Group but also when the Corinthia Group recruited both Mr Dalli as well as current EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella.

It concerns both holders of political office as well as senior civil servants, including senior officers of authorities exercising executive authority.

There is much to learn from foreign jurisdictions as to the manner in which such recruitment should be regulated. A recent example which made the international headlines was the recruitment by Goldman Sachs of Josè Manuel Barroso, former President of the European Commission.  An ethics panel had described Mr Barroso’s behaviour as morally reprehensible even though it concluded that he was not in breach of the EU Integrity code.

Corporate Europe Observatory had then commented that the Barroso recruitment had “catapulted the EU’s revolving door problem onto the political agenda, causing widespread jaw-dropping and reactions of disbelief, making it a symbol of excessive corporate influence at the highest levels of the EU.”  Corporate Europe Observatory had also referred to the recruitment of other former European Commissioners by various corporations and emphasised that it is hard to avoid the conclusion that as a result of this behaviour European politicians are seen to be acting for private interests over the public interest.

This is the real significance of revolving door recruitment:  it needs to be ascertained that the potential abuse by holders of political office of milking public office for private gain is regulated. It is not just another layer of regulation or unnecessary bureaucracy.

The issue is however more complex than the recruitment of holders of political office at the end of their political appointment. It is also of relevance even when such holders of political office are appointed to such office from the private sector as can be ascertained through the current hearings by the US Senate of the Trump administration nominees. It is also applicable to senior civil servants from the wider public sector.

Parliament is currently debating a Standards in Public Life Bill, which at this point in time is pending examination at Committee stage. Unfortunately, revolving door recruitment as well as lobbying have not been considered by the legislator!   Revolving door recruitment is an exercise in selling and purchasing access to the decision-taking process. It is high time that it is placed under a continuous spotlight.

published in The Malta Independent: Wednesday 25 January 2017

John Dalli u d-dubbien

 

Mating-olive-flies

 

John Dalli bħall-ħmar il-magħkus. Għalih iduru d-dubbien.

F’dak kollu li għadda minnu John Dalli u wara ħidma pubblika fuq tul ta’ snin, jidher li għadu ma fehemx li għandu obbligu wieħed sagrosant: li jagħti kont ta’ egħmilu.

Sfortunatament dan diversi drabi ma jagħmlux.

Issa jiena, kif jaf tajjeb, m’għandi l-ebda preġudizzju kontra tiegħu.

Il-każ tad-Daewoo mhux każ privat bejn il-klijent ta’ Dalli u l-Bank. Hu każ li nissel ħafna suspetti. L-opinjoni pubblika qatt ma kienet sodisfatta u għaldaqstant bil-fors jibqgħu l-mistoqsijiet, kemm tal-media kif ukoll tal-politiċi.

L-informazzjoni tista’ tingħata minn tlett sorsi. Mill-bank, li minħabba l-obbligu ta’ segretezza bankarja qatt m’hu ser iwieġeb. Mill-klijent ta’ Dalli, Joe Gaffarena, li għalih hi issue kummerċjali u ovvjament m’għandu l-ebda interess li jikxef idejh. Minn Dalli innifsu, li għalkemm għandu ukoll obbligi ta’ kunfidenzjalita’ professjonali għandu ukoll (jew kellu) responsabbiltajiet pubbliċi.

Ankè jekk b’mod limitat, dwar id-Daewoo, Dalli kellu l-obbligu li jinforma. Imma sfortunatament għal Dalli l-informazzjoni mhiex obbligu li jħoss li għandu jonora.

Din bħal tat-tabakk fejn qal li lagħbuh. Jista’ jkun li bl-attitudni tiegħu, li ftit jagħti piż lill-kontabilità, daħħluh f’nassa dawk ta’ madwaru. Dan kollu seta’ jevitah kieku ta’ prijorità lill-obbligu tiegħu li jagħti kontabilità pubblika.

Jew bħaż-żjarat tiegħu fil-Bahamas meta kien għadu Kummissarju Ewropew. Qatt ma kellu jkun hemm. L-obbligi tiegħu bħala Kummissarju Ewropew kienu ċari, imma għaddas rasu fir-ramel u baqa’ għaddej. Hu jaf għaliex. Imma jibqa’ l-fatt li dan mhux mod kif iġib ruħu persuna fil-ħajja pubblika.

Għalhekk idur għalih id-dubbien.

L-approvazzjoni ta’ Karmenu Vella

Karmenu Vella.pensive

Uħud qed jogħruk jdejhom li Karmenu Vella kien approvat miż-żewġ kumitati tal-Parlament Ewropew li għarbluh.

Kien mistenni li jsir hekk minkejja li uħud kellhom u għad għandhom dubji dwar dan. Huma esprimew dawn id-dubji fil-laqgħat li saru, kemm fil-pubbliku kif ukoll fil-privat.

Il-kritika ndirizzata lejn Karmenu Vella kienet ta’ żewġ tipi.

L-ewwel tip ta’ kritika kienet dik dwar ir-responsabbiltajiet tiegħu. Fir-realta’ din kienet kritika iktar indirizzata lejn Jean Claude Juncker u l-mod kif huwa qassam ir-responsabbiltajiet bejn il-Kummissarji differenti proposti. Id-diffikulta tal-Membri Parlamentari Ewropej kienet li minħabba li diversi materji ta’ importanza ambjentali ġew assenjati bħala responsabbilta ta’ Kummissarji oħra huma riedu jkunu jafu l-fehma ta’ Karmenu Vella dwarhom. Dan minħabba li bħala membru tal-Kummissjoni Ewropeja Karmenu Vella bla dubju ser ikun mitlub jieħu sehem fit-teħid ta’ deċiżjonijiet dwarhom. Allura kien meħtieġ li jkun stabilit x’kienet il-ħegga u l-viżjoni ambjentali ta’ Karmenu Vella. Izda dwar dan ħarġu ferm disappuntati.

It-tieni tip ta’ kritika kienet dwar il-preparazzjoni. Karmenu Vella kellu ħmistax-il jum (biss) biex jipprepara ruħ. Kellu preparazzjoni raġjonevoli dwar is-Sajd u l-Politika Marittima imma l- preparazzjoni dwar l-ambjent kienet waħda ferm fqira.

Imma xorta ġie approvat.

Għaliex sar dan?

L-unika grupp li appoġġah b’mod assolut kien dak Soċjalista. Il-Popolari kellhom riżervi dwar it-tweġibiet li ta’ imma kienu lesti li jagħtuh ċans. Il-Liberali riedu assugurazzjoni dwar l-impenn tal-Kummissjoni kollha favur l-iżvilupp sostenibbli. Il-Greens dehrilhom li ma kienx addattat u fuq kollox li ma kienx ser joħroġ għonqu għall-Ambjent u Sajd jekk ikun ikkonfrontat minn interessi proposti.

Huwa ċar li ġaladarba qablu bejniethom is-Soċjalisti u l-Popolari, Karmenu Vella kellu l-appoġġ tal-maġġoranza fil-kumitati tal-Parlament Ewropew li deher quddiemhom. Wara li s-Soċjalisti iddeċidew li jagħtu l-appoġġ lill-kandidatura ta’ Jean Claude Juncker bħala President tal-Kummissjoni kien ċar li ħlief f’kaz li jinqala’ xi ħaġa gravi m’hu ser ikun hemm l-ebda Kummissarju Socjalista jew Popolari li ma jkunx approvat. Jekk ma jseħħx dan, kull naħa għandha x’titlef. (Nafu li hemm ta’ l-inqas sitt Kummissarji li qegħdin taħt attakk.)

Fil-ġranet li ġejjin irridu naraw kif ser jiżviluppaw il-laqgħat tal-Parlamentari mal-Kummissarji proposti kif ukoll kemm Jean Claude Juncker ser jagħti kaz tal-kritika li saret, lilu u lill-Kummissarji proposti.

Bl-istampa sħiħa d-diskussjoni tkun ferm iktar interessanti.

 

Żieda : 8.20am

Sadanittant il-BBC għadu kemm ħabbar li Jonathan Hill, il-Kummissarju prospettiv nominat mir-Renju Unit għadu ma ġiex approvat mill-Kumitat Parlamentari. Għadhom m’humiex sodisfatti u fil-fatt sejħulu biex jidher mill-ġdid għal iktar mistoqsijijiet il-ġimgħa d-dieħla.

 

Anke l-Kummissarju Spanjol għandu l-problemi biex ikun ikkonfermat. Ara hawn.

 

 

Its BBQ time

Karmenu Vella + Dom Mintoff

On Monday 29 September at 2.30pm Karmenu Vella, Malta’s nominee to the Juncker led EU Commission will meet with Members of the European Parliament who sit on the Parliamentary Committees dealing with the Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs. They will listen to his introductory views on the responsibilities which he has been assigned and subsequently they will ask questions.

For three hours they will listen to his answers after which they will decide whether in their opinion he is suitable for the post to which he has been nominated, that is as EU Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

The MEPs will be interested to hear Karmenu Vella explain as to how he will go about with the proposed revision and possible consolidation of the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directives which matter he was specifically instructed by Commission President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker to take in hand. These views are especially significant in view of the quasi unconditional support which the Labour Party in Malta gives to hunters and trappers. The European Voice on Monday 22 September paraphrased it very accurately when it stated that: the matter “is particularly sensitive because Malta has been in repeated and continued violation of these laws because of bird hunting.” Will Karmenu Vella, for example, in view of the Labour’s experiences in Malta seek to sanction spring hunting within the rest of the EU? MEPs will undoubtedly be very eager to learn about what possiblies lies ahead if EU Environmental governance is dependent on Karmenu Vella!

In the letter of appointment Jean-Claude Juncker identified 5 clear targets which Karmenu Vella has to attain, namely:

  1. The overhaul of existing environmental legislative framework,
  2. The European Union strategy about the quality of air,
  3. The circular economy and the results achieved to date and in the light of the first reactions of the European Parliament and of the Council of Ministers,
  4. The implementation of the common fisheries policy,
  5. Active participation in international fora on the Oceans within the United Nations and other multilateral and bilateral fora.

MEPs would be very much interested as to what is in store as a result of environmental deregulation. Which legislative instruments will be targeted? How will Karmenu Vella in his role as Commissioner  seek to ensure that the protection which the EU has to date afforded to both man and the eco-system is not dismantled but rather reinforced?

The European Chemicals Agency which deals with the implementation of the REACH Directive has been removed from the Environment portfolio and transferred to the portfolio dealing with Enterprise. This is not a matter which Karmenu Vella has to answer for but it is indicative as to the forces at play on Juncker’s table. The REACH Directive is not considered as an environmental matter by Jean-Claude Juncker. In his opinion it has to be administered primarily in the interests of enterprise, that is of business and industry.

Committees of the European Parliament will by now have digested the experiences of former European Commissioner John Dalli. As a result they would be more than interested about Karmenu Vella’s contacts with the business world, about his thoughts on lobbying as well as what he think’s transparency is all about.

A report published by the Corporate Europe Observatory earlier this month is entitled: Do not bet on the commissioner: the case of Karmenu Vella of Malta.  Since this report emphasises that Karmenu Vella “is not suitable to be a commissioner” the members of the Committees of the European Parliament would undoubtedly wish to hear from Karmenu Vella as to why, in his opinion they should arrive at a different conclusion.

 

published in The Malta Independent : Wednesday 24th September 2014

Questions for Karmenu Vella

Junker + Vella

 

Extract from Today’s European Voice

Five nominees with questions to resolve at Commission hearings

Political alliances in the European Parliament will protect some nominees during confirmation hearings, and leave others at risk.

5) Karmenu Vella

Wrong country, right group, sensitive portfolio (environment and fisheries), wrong profile.

Hearing: Monday 29 September, 2.30pm

Vella will face two concerns during his hearing: discontent over the portfolio he has been given and discomfort over his political history in Malta. Juncker’s decision to merge environment and fisheries has not gone over well and Vella will face demands from MEPs on both the environment and fisheries committees to guarantee that he will not give their policy area short shrift. MEPs on the environment committee are concerned about the mandate letter sent by Juncker to Vella, which they see as prioritising an agenda of deregulation. Juncker’s request that Vella “carry out an in-depth evaluation of the birds and habitats directives and assess the potential for merging them into a more modern piece of legislation” is particularly sensitive because Malta has been in repeated and continued violation of these laws because of bird hunting. A group of the EU’s biggest environmental campaign groups wrote to Juncker last week and warned: “The environment portfolio has been given to a commissioner whose government is under intense international criticism for failing to implement EU bird conservation legislation, which the commissioner will now be in a position to amend.”

Vella may also face questions about his time as part of the Labour government of Dom Mintoff  in the 1980s – a time of political turmoil in Malta. There have been allegations in the Maltese press against Vella of political thuggery, tax evasion and corruption. None of these allegations has been proven but Vella will probably face a few questions. In part, these allegations are the product of Malta’s brand of intensely tribal politics, but faith in Malta has been damaged by the loss from the last college of commissioners of John Dalli, the Maltese commissioner forced to resign during the last term over allegations of corruption.

On the other hand, it will count to Vella’s advantage that his government belongs to the S&D group. Neither the S&D nor the EPP is expected to pursue an aggressive line of questioning. But colourful anecdotes from Vella’s time in Maltese politics could be red meat for Eurosceptic MEPs, who could use the opportunity to attempt a resurrection of Dalligate. The European Conservatives and Reformists group would also have nothing to lose by going after a centre-left MEP. This would likely not translate to a majority voting against Vella’s nomination, and the numbers are still in his favour. But if questions over his political past cause Vella’s hearing to go off the rails, he may find support from the EPP and S&D groups is brittle.

 

Il-biża’ dwar Karmenu Vella: strument biex imexxu l-arloġġ lura

turning back the clock

 

Il-ħatra ta’ Karmenu Vella minn Jean-Claude Juncker biex ikun responsabbli (fost affarijiet oħra) għall-politika ambjentali tal-Unjoni Ewropeja qed tnissel biża’ mhux żgħira fost l-għaqdiet ambjentali Ewropej w internazzjonali.

Karmenu Vella mhux bniedem li jbeżża’ n-nies. Huwa l-programm politiku li għandu quddiemu li hu tal-biża’. Huwa programm politiku li fil-qasam tal-ambjent imexxi l-arloġġ lura.

Jean-Claude Juncker jidher li għandu l-mira li jdgħajjef jew jelimina kull regolament ambjentali li jista’ jitqies bħala li hu ta’ xkiel għall-ħidma ekonomika. Issa meta jingħad kliem f’dan is-sens ifisser li l-business u l-industrija jitħallew jagħmlu li jridu għax dawn iqiesu kull regola bħala li ixxekkilhom fl-iskop uniku tagħhom: dak li jimpalaw l-euros! Regoli li jipproteġu n-nies u l-ambjent. Regoli li jippruvaw jasiguraw imġieba korretta. Dawn kollha qegħdin fil-mira tal-Kummissjoni immexxija minn Jean-Claude Juncker.

Karmenu Vella ġej minn pajjiż (u minn partit politiku) li ftit li xejn għandu kredibilita’ fejn tidħol l-osservanza tar-regolamenti ambjentali. Il-lista hi twila u mhux il-Gvern tal-lum biss ta’ kontribut għal din il-fama ħażina: il-Gvernijiet ta’ Gonzi u Fenech Adami ukoll għandhom jerfgħu ir-responsabbilta’ għal dan.

L-għaqdiet ambjentali internazzjonali, għaxra minnhom, mhux minn Karmenu Vella biss qed jibżgħu. Huma inkwetati mill-programm politiku tal-Kummissjoni immexxija minn Jean-Claude Juncker li jidher li jrid idawwar l-arloġġ lura fil-qasam ambjentali.

F’ittra pubblika grupp ta’ għaxar għaqdiet ambjentali isemmu r-raġunijiet dettaljati għal din il-biża’ tagħhom kif ġej:

  1. Ir-responsabbiltajiet ambjentali flimkien ma dawk għas-sajd u l-politika marittima taħt Kummissarju wieħed ser idgħajfu l-impenn u l-prijorita’ li għandu jkollha l-politika ambjentali,
  2. L-oġġettiv ewlieni tal-Kummissjoni għall-ħames snin jidher li hu tnaqqis tar-regolamentazzjoni (deregulation),
  3. L-inkarigu ċar u speċifiku lil Karmenu Vella biex jinbidlu id-direttivi dwar l-Għasafar u l-Habitats: hu messaġġ ċar kontra l-ħarsien tal-bijodiversita’,
  4. Ġew imqegħda flimkien, taħt Kummissarju wieħed ukoll, l-enerġija u t-tibdil fil-klima: dan ifisser li l-azzjoni dwar il-bidla fil-klima ser tkun soġġetta għas-suq tal-enerġija,
  5. L-għażla bħala Kummissarju għall-Klima u l-Enerġija ta’ persuna b’kuntatti magħrufa fl-industrija taż-żejt jnissel biża’ addizzjonali ta’ kunflitt ta’ interess,
  6. Iċ-ċaqlieq tar-responsabbilta’ għal Aġenzija Ewropeja dwar il-Kimiċi (u allura d-Direttiva REACH) mid-Direttorat Ġenerali dwar l-Ambjent għad-Direttorat Ġenerali tal-Intrapriża juri b’mod ċar li l-interessi tal-industrija qed jitpoġġew qabel l-interessi tan-nies, qabel il-ħarsien tas-saħħa u qabel konsiderazzjonijiet ta’ ħarsien ambjentali,
  7. Ma hemm l-ebda Viċi President tal-Kummissjoni inkarigat milli jikkorodina l-ħidma ambjentali (ekonomija l-ħadra, żvilupp sostenibbli, ħarsien tar-riżorsi ………….).

 

Dan kollu jfisser li l-Kummissjoni Juncker ser tkun Kummissjoni kontra l-politika ambjentali. Il-kliem li l-għaqdiet ambjentali jużaw hu li ser ikun hemm “a de facto shut-down of EU environmental policy making.”

Din hi l-biża’. Mhux biss biża’ minn Karmenu Vella, imma biża’ li l-Kummissjoni immexxija minn Jean-Claude Juncker ser iddawwar l-arloġġ lura fil-qasam tal-ambjent u Karmenu Vella ser ikun l-istrument biex dan iseħħ.

 

Il-BBQ ta’ Karmenu Vella

Karmenu Vella + Joseph

 

Il-BBQ li l-Parlament Ewropew mistenni jorganizza għal Karmenu Vella ser isir nhar it-Tnejn 29 ta’ Settembru 2014 bejn s-2.30pm u l-5.30pm.

Tlett siegħat sħaħ li fihom huwa mistenni li jwieġeb mistoqsijiet tal-Membri Parlamentari Ewropej dwar l-Ambjent, dwar is-Sajd u dwar il-Politika Marittima. Hu mistenni li fost il-mistoqsijiet ikun hemm xi waħda jew tnejn dwar il-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa.

Ikun interessanti ukoll kif Karmenu Vella ser jispjega x’ser jagħmel dwar id-Direttiva tal-Għasafar u d-Direttiva tal-Habitats liema żewġ direttivi ngħata l-inkarigu speċifiku dwarhom minn Jean-Claude Juncker.

Fl-ittra tal-ħatra  Jean Claude Juncker ipoġġi 5 targets quddiem Karmenu Vella:

  1. L-eżami mill-ġdid tar-regolamentazzjoni ambjentali,
  2. L-istrateġja tal-Unjoni Ewropeja dwar il-kwalita’ tal-arja,
  3. L-ekonomija ċirkulari u r-riżultati miksuba s’issa u dan fid-dawl tal-ewwel reazzjonijiet tal-Parlament u tal-Kunsill tal-Ministri,
  4. L-implimentazzjoni tal-istrateġija komuni dwar is-sajd,
  5. Sehem attiv f’fora internazzjonali dwar l-ibħra fi ħdan il-Ġnus Magħquda u fora oħra multilaterali u bilaterali.

Il-Kumitati tal-Parlament Ewropew bla dubju ser ifittxu li jgħarblu l-ideat ta’ Karmenu Vella dwar kif ser iwettaq l-inkarigu l-ingħatalu. Imma fuq kollox, fid-dawl tal-esperjenzi ta’ John Dalli bħala Kummissarju Ewropew bla dubju l-Kumitati tal-Parlament Ewropew ser jistaqsu lil Karmenu Vella diversi mistoqsijiet dwar il-kuntatti tiegħu mad-dinja tan-negozju, dwar il-ħsiebijiet tiegħu fuq il-lobbying kif ukoll kif jaħsibha dwar it-trasparenza.

Ser jissemma ukoll ir-rapport ippubblikat ftit tal-ġranet ilu mill-Corporate Europe Observatory intitolat: Don’t bet on the commissioner: the case of Karmenu Vella of Malta. 

Billi f’dan ir-rapport jingħad li Karmenu Vella “ is not suitable to be a commissioner ” il-membri tal-Kumitati tal-Parlament Ewropew ikunu jixtiequ jisimgħu mingħand Karmenu Vella għaliex huma għandhom jaslu għal konklużjoni differenti.

Lenti fuq Karmenu Vella: kif jarawh (uħud) fl-Ewropa

Revolving-Door11-300x229

Hemm diversi mill-Kummissarji nominati li mhux ser jieħdu ġost fil-gimgħat li ġejjin. Jidher li ta’ l-inqas hemm ħamsa : l-Ispanjol (Miguel Arias Cañeta), l-Ungeriż (Tibor Navracsics), l-Ingliż (Jonathan Hill), il-Malti (Karmenu Vella) w is-Slovena (Alenka Bratuŝek) li jidher car li dwarhom qed jitlestew il-kanuni fil-Parlament Ewropew u l-kumitati tiegħu.

Illum jiena ser nillimita ruħi għal xi ftit minn dak li qed jingħad fuq Karmenu Vella.

Fil-każ tal-Kummissjoni Ewropeja li jinvolvi l-ex Kummissarju John Dalli, l-Unjoni Ewropeja instamtet. Huwa każ li għadu għaddej, u irrispettivament minn kif ser jispiċċa, għamel ħsara kbira lil kull min kien involut fih.

L-issue hi  l-aċċess mhux trasparenti tal-Kummissarji għas-setturi tan-negozju u l-industrija. Din hi issue taħraq ħafna, u ilha hemm minn ħafna qabel ma faqqa’ l-każ ta’ John Dalli. L-opinjoni pubblika fl-Unjoni Ewropeja tħares b’mod suspettuż lejn kuntatti bil-moħbi u mill-viċin bejn il-politiċi u d-dinja tal-business.

Il-Kummissjoni Ewropeja taffronta din is-sitwazzjoni b’żewġ miżuri: bi trasparenza dwar il-kuntatti u b’dik li tissejjaħ revolving door policy.

It-traparenza tintlaħaq billi tingħata pubbliċita kemm lill-fatt li jkunu saru l-laqgħat kif ukoll dwar x’ikun intqal fil-laqgħat infushom.

Il-politika ta’ dan l-imbierek bieb li jdur hi dwar uffiċjali għolja tal-Kummissjoni (Kummissarji u uffiċjali imlaħħqin) li meta jintemm il-perjodu tal-ħatra tagħhom imorru jaħdmu mas-settur privat li qabel kienu jirregolaw (meta kienu Kummissarji jew uffiċjali tal-Kummissjoni). Għal numru ta’ snin wara li Kummissarju (jew uffiċjal) jispiċċa mill-ħatra huwa jeħtieġlu jikseb permess qabel ma jibda impieg ġdid. Dan biex il-Kummissjoni tipprova tnaqqas l-impatt f’termini ta’ lobbying minn ex-uffiċjali tagħha stess.

Il-Corporate Europe Observatory hi NGO li għandha l-funzjoni ta’ kelb tal-għassa dwar il-lobbying fl-Unjoni Ewropeja. Tlett ijiem ilu ippubblikat rapport dwar Karmenu Vella. Ir-rapport hu intitolat : Don’t bet on the Commissioner: the case of Karmenu Vella of Malta.

Fil-bidu nett tiegħu dan ir-rapport jgħid hekk dwar Karmenu Vella;

“He has been a member of the Maltese Parliament since 1976, but that hasn’t prevented him from also holding a variety of external business roles at the same time including within the gambling industry. CEO now argues that these recent outside interests make him unsuitable to be a Commissioner.”

Għal dawk li bejnhom u bejn ruħhom qed jgħidu, “imma dan x’għandu x’jaqsam?” ir-rapport jispjega l-ħajja professjonali ta’ Karmenu Vella tul is-snin imma jżid jikkummenta hekk:

“ ……it is his recent private sector roles which will raise eyebrows most as, between 2007 and 2013, Vella had an extensive relationship with the Betfair group , acting as “non-executive director on the Betfair Maltese Board” to Betfair Holding (Malta) Limited and Betfair Poker Holdings Limited. He also joined Betfair International Plc on 27 January 2012. Betfair is apparently the world largest internet betting exchange and while it started life as a UK business, its first overseas licence was granted in Malta.”

Ir-rapport ikompli:

“For several years, Vella was also chairman of the Orange Travel Group  which is a merger of Maltese travel firms Mondial and SMS Travel. OTG encompasses a number of subsidiaries and associate outbound travel companies, is present in eight countries, and specialises in cruise trips and outbound travel to Malta and elsewhere.”

Ir-rapport tal-Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) wara li jispjega l-importanza għall-ekonomija Maltija tal-industriji tal-imħatri u tat-turiżmu jagħmel l-osservazzjoni segwenti:

“ In CEO’s view, it is pretty shocking that an MP was able to maintain such outside interests whilst apparently not breaking any rules; even more shocking when this MP was then appointed as Minister for Tourism.”

Wara li jirriproduċi l-kummenti ta’ Karmenu Vella illi meta kien Ministru ma kellu l-ebda konflitt ta’ interess minħabba li l-kumpaniji li fil-passat kellu assoċjazzjoni magħhom ma kellhom l-ebda xogħol mal-Gvern  l-Corporate Europe Observatory tagħlaq ir-rapport tagħha dwar Karmenu Vella bil-kumment segwenti:

“In CEO’s view, it is inappropriate to nominate as a European commissioner a serving politician who has had such recent links to big business. As a very minimum we hope that MEPs who will shortly grill him on his appointment will seek the following commitments from Vella: a commitment to have no professional or private contacts with any of the companies with which he has been involved and / or their lobby representatives, and a promise to refuse all professional and private contacts with the gambling and tourism industries.”

Hu ċar li hemm il-biża’. Il-biża’ hi dwar kuntatti bil-moħbi (lobbying mhux trasparenti). Wara l-każ ta’ John Dalli, hu inevitabbli li Karmenu Vella jitqiegħed taħt il-lenti.  L-ispjegazzjonijiet li jrid jagħti huma bosta.

Hu ċar, għal min irid jifhem, li hemm baħar jaqsam bejn kif inħarsu lejn is-serjeta’ fil-ħajja pubblika aħna l-Maltin u kif iħarsu lejha fl-Ewropa. Il-Corporate Europe Observatory qed jgħid b’mod ċar li dak li f’Malta ma nagħtux kaz tieghu, għalihom hu ta’ importanza fundamentali.  Mhux ser ikun faċli għal Karmenu Vella, anke bir-rieda tajba kollha possibli, li jikkonvinċi, għax il-każ ta’ John Dalli ħoloq pregudizzju kbir fil-konfront ta’ Malta u tal-Maltin li diffiċli ħafna biex jingħeleb.

 

ara wkoll fuq dan il-blog

10 ta’ Settembru 2014 : Ir-responsabbiltajiet ta’ Karmenu Vella fil-Kummissjoni Juncker .

11 ta’ Settembru 2014 : Jean Claude Juncker hu ġurdien xiħ.

12 ta’ Settembru 2014: Kif jista’ Karmenu Vella jitfi s-switch?

Lobbying risks corruption

 

EU.lobbying

In a democratic society, lobbying is a potentially legitimate activity. It involves the communication of views and information to legislators and administrators by those who have an interest in informing them of the impacts of the decisions under consideration.  It is perfectly legitimate that individuals, acting on their own behalf, or else acting on behalf of third parties, seek to ensure that decision takers are well informed before taking the required decisions. Obviously lobbying should not be the process through which the decision takers make way for the representatives of corporations to take their place.

Free and open access to decision takers is an important matter of public interest. It is perfectly legitimate but ought to be regulated and the resulting information adequately and appropriately disclosed. The difficulty, as always, is where to draw the line. It must be ensured that society protects itself against the corruption risks involved in lobbying when this is secretive and unregulated.

The manner in which Dalligate is unfolding in the EU institutions clearly underlines this preoccupation.  The European Institutions have lobbying rules.  The basic issue of Dalligate is in my view not whether former EU Commissioner John Dalli resigned or was dismissed. Rather, in line with the Code of Conduct for Commissioners, the issue is whether he “acted in a manner that is in keeping with the dignity and duties” of his office when meeting with lobbyists away from the Commission offices, unaccompanied, and such that what went on during the meetings is not documented but known only to a couple of persons. Even if everything said in such meetings was above board, the fact that they were held is itself unacceptable. John Dalli claims, most probably correctly, that he was entrapped by the tobacco industry. Being so naive as to facilitate his own entrapment, it was right that he should go without a whimper. Instead we were regaled with theatrics which have served no useful purpose, not even for John Dalli.

All this is further compounded by the additional very serious allegation that representatives of the tobacco industry met with other senior officials of the EU Commission without these meetings being disclosed and documented.  Emily O’Reilly Ombudsman of the European Union is currently carrying out an investigation at the request of Corporate Europe Observatory on fourteen such meetings.

Corporate Europe Observatory, a watchdog based in Brussels and campaigning for greater transparency and accountability in decision taking, estimates that in Brussels alone there are around 30,000 lobbyists. Compare this to the around 24,000 staff employed by the European Commission as on 31 December 2013 and you get a glimpse of what’s going on in the corridors of Brussels. Lobbying in Brussels is a billion euro industry which seeks to influence and at times deflect political decisions. The regulation of lobbying seeks to place a spotlight on the source of influence and hopefully to counter attempts to derail or deflect political decisions.

There is a continuous debate in the EU institutions on fine tuning the rules regulating lobbying. In 2011 the European Parliament approved an “Inter-institutional agreement on a Common Transparency Register between the Parliament and the Commission”. This register provides for the voluntary registering of lobbyists active in the EU institutions. It is hoped that during the current EU Parliament’s term the registration of lobbyists in Brussels will be a compulsory matter. This may happen when the issues raised by Dalligate are finally addressed, possibly within the next few months.

Closer to home, a Parliamentary Select Committee has concluded its workings on Standards in Public Life. The Select Committee generally did a good job. It produced a final report which Mr Speaker laid on the Table of the House on the 24 March 2014. The report, including the proposed legislation attached to the said report, deals with the behaviour of Members of Parliament (including members of Cabinet) and persons appointed to positions of trust in the public sector (including statutory authorities) primarily with reference to their declaration of assets as well as with reference to a Code of Ethics which has been in force since 1994.  Surprisingly there is no direct reference to lobbying in the workings and conclusions of the Parliamentary Select Committee.

Lobbying, as is normal, is very much existent in Malta too. It would be appropriate if it is addressed by ensuring that it is regulated, documented and disclosed where appropriate. However it seems that currently there are no plans to regulate lobbying in Malta. If we are really serious on tackling corruption at its roots it would be better if the need to regulate lobbying is urgently reconsidered. Together with legislation on the financing of political parties, the regulation of lobbying would create a quasi complete tool-kit in the fight against corruption.

published in The Times of Malta – 21 July 2014