Il-Lobbying u l-eżerċizzju tal-poter

Meta niddiskutu l-politika dwar ir-regolamentazzjoni tal-lobbying bosta drabi jqum l-argument dwar dawk il-politiċi li hekk kif jispiċċaw mill-politika attiva jingħataw responsabbiltajiet f’azjendi kbar. Din nirreferu għaliha bħala politika tar-“revolving door”, imsemmija għall-dawk il-bibien tal-lukandi li jduru u li hekk kif tidħol fiċ-ċirku tagħhom, malajr tispiċċa ġewwa.

L-eżempju klassiku li jissemma hu l-ingaġġ ta’ Josè Manuel Barroso li sa ħames snin ilu kien President tal-Kummissjoni Ewropea mill-bank multinazzjonali Goldman Sachs. Il-kumitat tal-etika tal-Unjoni Ewropea kien iddeskriva l-imġieba ta’ Barroso bħala waħda li kienet etikament ħażina avolja kien konkluż li ma kien hemm l-ebda ksur tal-Kodiċi tal-Etika.

Imġiba bħal din hi meqjusa bħala parti integrali mill-proċess tal-lobbying li jeħtieġ li jkun regolat b’mod adegwat.

F’Malta dawn l-affarijiet nagħmluhom “aħjar” minn hekk għax l-anqas regoli dwar imġieba ta’ din ix-xorta ma għandna! Fost oħrajn, dan huwa riżultat tal-fatt li ma kienx hemm qbil bejn Gvern u Opposizzjoni fil-Parlament dwar ir-regolamentazzjoni tal-lobbying meta kienet qed tkun diskussa il-liġi dwar l-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika. Allura ipposponew id-diskussjoni billi tefgħuha f’ħoġor il-Kummissarju dwar l-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika George Hyzler, bl-inkarigu li jkun hu li jabbozza r-regoli proposti dwar il-lobbying f’Malta.

F’Malta dan fil-fatt seħħ ukoll fil-passat riċenti mhux biss meta John Dalli kien ingaġġat mal-Grupp tal-Marsovin imma ukoll meta l-Grupp Corinthia, fi żminijiet differenti, ingaġġa kemm lis-Sur Dalli kif ukoll lill-Karmenu Vella, li għadu kif temm perjodu ta’ ħames snin bħala Kummissarju tal-Unjoni Ewropea. Ma nkisrux regoli minħabba li l-imġiba etika f’dan il-pajjiż hi ġeneralment injorata. Ir-reazzjoni lokali għal dan l-ingaġġ ta’ politiċi ġeneralment kienet: għala le?

Hu loġiku li nikkonkludu li jekk f’Malta niġu naqgħu u nqumu milli nirregolaw kif fid-dinja tan-negozju u l-industrija jingaġġaw malajr politiċi li jkunu għadhom kif spiċċaw mill-ħatra, aħseb u ara kemm ser nagħtu kaz meta nies tan-negozju jiġu ngaġġati huma stess f’posizzjonijiet viċin il-politiċi biex b’hekk jinfluwenzaw u jirregolaw l-aġenda pubblika.

Wara skiet twil, f’wieħed mill-messaġġ qosra, qishom it-talba ta’ filgħodu, li qed jippubblika fuq facebook, Varist Bartolo, qalilna kemm hu perikoluż li nies tan-negożju jkunu viċin iżżejjed tal-poter. Probabbilment li qed jitkellem mill-esperjenza, wara li hu u sħabu fil-Kabinett kienu qed jiffaċċjaw lill-Keith Schembri għal kważi seba’ snin sħaħ fl-Uffiċċju tal-Prim Ministru. U dan mhux l-uniku kaz.

Meta l-Kummissarju dwar l-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika ikollu l-ħin biex ifassal regoli dwar il-lobbying, dan kollu, bla dubju, jkun wieħed mill-punti fundamentali li jkunu meħtieġa illi jkunu indirizzati. In konformità ma dak li jiġri band’oħra, probabbilment li jikkonsidra regolament li ma jippermettix li l-qabża mis-settur politiku għal dak kummerċjali jseħħ immedjatament. Dan ikun ifisser li ħatriet ta’ din ix-xorta jkollhom jistennew bejn sena u nofs u sentejn minn meta tkun ġiet fi tmiemha l-ħidma fis-settur li fiha l-persuna tkun ħadmet l-aħħar. Dan isir bl-intenzjoni li jkun imnaqqas l-impatt negattiv tal-lobbying li inevitabilment jirriżulta u li jkun intrinsikament assoċjat ma dawn it-tip ta’ ħatriet.

Qegħdin tard ukoll biex ikun regolat il-lobbying b’mod ġenerali. Ir-rimedju bażiku kontra l-impatti negattivi tal-lobbying hi t-trasparenza.

Il-lobbying, kemm-il darba jsir sewwa u b’mod etiku m’għandux iwassal għal governanza ħażina. Għax huwa perfettament leġittimu li ċittadin, gruppi ta’ ċittadini, kumpaniji u anke għaqdiet mhux governattivi jfittxu li jinfluwenzaw it-teħid tad-deċiżjonijiet. Dan isir il-ħin kollu u jinvolvi l-komunikazzjoni ta’ informazzjoni u opinjonijiet jew veduti lill-leġislaturi u lil dawk li jamministraw minn kull min għandu kwalunkwè xorta ta’ interess.

Dan hu perfettament leġittimu għax iżomm lil min jieħu d-deċiżjonijiet infurmat bl-impatti ta’ dak li jkun qiegħed ikun ikkunsidrat. Imma huwa importanti li dan il-lobbying ma jkunx trasformat fi proċess li bħala riżultat tiegħu il-politiku jagħmel il-wisa’ u d-deċiżjonijiet fil-fatt jeħodhom ħaddieħor mid-dinja tal-business.

Il-lobbying jirrikjedi ammont konsiderevoli ta’ transpareza: hu essenzjali li jkun sganċjat mis-segretezza jew kunfidenzjalità artifiċjali. Fejn il-lobbying hu regolat dan isir billi l-laqgħat jew attivitajiet oħra li jservu għall-lobbying jingħataw pubbliċità biex b’hekk ikun possibli li jsir skrutinju mill-opinjoni pubblika. Il-minuti ta’ dan it-tip ta’ laqgħat ikunu pubbliċi kif għandu jkun ukoll kull dokument u studju assoċjat. Għandna d-dritt li nkunu nafu min u kif qed ifittex li jinfluwenza l-proċess tad-deċiżjonijiet. Dan jassigura li l-lobbying ma jkunx użat bħala għodda sigrieta biex iħarbat il-proċess demokratiku li bih jittieħdu d-deċiżjonijiet politiċi.

Din hi waħda mill-problemi ewlenin li tat kontribut biex tixxettel il-kriżi politika preżenti f’Malta: in-nuqqas ta’ apprezzament tal-ħtieġa ta’ mġiba etika korretta f’kull ħin fil-ħajja pubblika. Problema li jeħtieġilna li niffaċċjawha immedjatament.

 

Ippubblikat fuq Illum : Il-Ħadd ta’ Diċembru 2019

Lobbying and the levers of power

When discussing the politics of lobbying regulation, what is known as the “revolving door” policy is frequently discussed. This is normally understood to mean the accelerated passage of a politician, generally from a senior political role, to a leading role in the corporate world.

The classic example of this was the recruitment by multinational investment bank Goldman Sachs of Josè Manuel Barroso, former President of the European Commission. An EU 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.

Such behaviour is considered to be an integral part of the lobbying process which requires adequate regulation.

In Malta we do it even better than that, because no rules governing such behaviour exist! This is the result of no agreement on lobbying regulation being reached when the Standards in Public Life legislation was discussed by Parliament. As a result, they postponed the discussion and conveniently added the requirement of formulating lobbying rules to the duties of the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life, George Hyzler.

In Malta it has already happened in the recent past, not just in John Dalli’s recruitment by the Marsovin Group but also when the Corinthia Group recruited, at different times, both John Dalli and outgoing EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella. No rules were infringed, bypassed or ignored here as, to put it mildly, regulating ethical behaviour has never been Malta’s strong point. Rather, the local reaction was: why not?

It stands to reason that some would think that if Malta does not regulate the use of “revolving doors” to catapult politicians into the corporate world, why on earth should we regulate it for businessmen intending to do away with the lobbying middlemen and take the levers of power directly into their very hands?

After a long silence, it was very “thoughtful” of Minister of Education Evarist Bartolo to warn us of the perils we face in one of his recent early morning thoughts for the day posted on facebook. Together with his Cabinet colleagues he has had to face Keith Schembri for almost seven years at the Office of the Prime Minister, to name just one such appointment.

When the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life finds time to draft rules regulating lobbying, the issue of “revolving doors” should undoubtedly be high on his list of must dos. In line with lobbying regulations in other jurisdictions he will, hopefully, be proposing a cooling off period as a brake on such appointments. This would mean high-level appointments from the corporate world to the political world (and vice-versa) would need to wait until 18 to 24 months have elapsed between ceasing activity in one sector and entering the other. This is normally intended to dampen the negative lobbying impacts which such appointments lead to. It is inevitable and is intrinsically linked with these types of appointments.

It is also about time for the regulation of lobbying in general. Applying transparency to lobbying is the basic antidote needed.

Lobbying, if done properly and above board, should not lead to bad governance. It is perfectly legitimate for any citizen, group of citizens, corporations or even NGOs to seek to influence decision-taking. It is done continuously and 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, should seek to ensure that decision-takers are well informed before taking the required decisions. However, lobbying should not be the process through which the decision-takers make way for the representatives of corporations to take their place.

Lobbying requires a considerable dose of transparency: it needs to be unchained from the shackles of secrecy. In other jurisdictions this is done through actively disclosing information on lobbying activities, thereby placing them under the spotlight of public opinion. The timely publication of minutes, as well as documents and studies relative to meetings held by holders of political office, is essential. The public has a right to know who is seeking to influence the decision-taking process. This helps ensure that lobbying is not used as a tool to secretly derail or deflect the democratic process leading to political decisions.

This is one of the major issues resulting from the political crisis currently engulfing the Maltese islands: essentially an absence of ethics in the public sphere which should be addressed forthwith.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday : 15 December 2019

Is-sussidjarjetà fil-Kostituzzjoni

 

Nhar il-Ġimgħa delegazzjoni ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika iltaqgħet ma’ Silvio Parnis, Segretarju Parlamentari għall-Gvern Lokali, biex miegħu niddiskutu l-White Paper ippubblikata mill-Gvern dwar ir-riforma tal-kunsilli lokali.

Waqt id-diskussjoni għaddejna lil Silvio Parnis l-ideat tagħna dwar din il-White Paper. Għamilna tmien proposti b’dik ewlenija tiffoka dwar il-ħtieġa li jkun aċċettat u implimentat il-prinċipju tas-sussidjarjetà. Il-prinċipju tas-sussidjarjetà jeħtieġ li jifforma parti mill-kostituzzjoni biex iservi ta’ linja gwida għall-amminstrazzjoni pubblika tal-pajjiż u allura jħares b’qawwa l-ħidma tal-Gvern lokali u reġjonali.

It-trattati Ewropej diġa għamlu dan il-pass meta addottaw il-prinċipju tas-sussidjarjetà bħala prinċipju bażiku li jirregola r-relazzjonijiet kumplessi bejn l-istituzzjonijiet Ewropej u l-istati membri tal-Unjoni Ewropeja.

Il-prinċipju tas-sussidjarjetà hu l-iktar żviluppat fl-istati hekk imsejħa Ġermaniċi tal-Ewropa u ċjoè l-Ġermanja, l-Awstrija u l-Iżvizzera, liema pajjiżi għandhom qafas ta’ Gvern lokali u reġjonali b’saħħtu u bħala riżultat ta’ dan ir-responsabbiltajiet u l-poteri huma mifruxa.

L-amministrazzjoni pubblika teħtieġ li tkun l-iktar viċin possibli taċ-ċittadin: min jamministra u jiddeċiedi għandu jkun l-iktar qrib possibli ta’ min hu effettwat mid-deċiżjonijiet. L-eċċezzjonijiet għandhom ikunu rari u altru milli ġustifikati. Jacques Delors, li kien President tal-Kummissjoni Ewropeja, hu ikkwota li qal li : is-sussidjarjetà ma tillimitax biss l-intervent ta’ l-ogħla awtorità f’dak li kull persuna jew komunità tista’ tiddeċiedi hi innifisha, imma hi ukoll dover ta’ din l-istess awtorità biex taġixxi b’mod li lil din il-persuna jew komunità tgħinhom biex iwettqu l-ħolm tagħhom.”

Dan jitfa dawl fuq żewġ aspetti tas-sussidjarjetà. L-ewwel li ħlief f’każijiet eċċezzjonali l-ogħla awtorità ma jindaħalx fejn ma jesgħahiex fil-ħidma ta’ awtoritajiet oħra taħtha. It-tieni : l-obbligu li tgħin biex tinkoraġixxi l-kisba tal-awtonomija.

Alternattiva Demokratika qed tipproponi li l-prinċipju tas-sussidjarjetà jkun aċċettat bħala prinċipju kostituzzjonali li jagħti gwida lill-amministrazzjoni pubblika u dan bħala l-ewwel pass għat-twettieq ta’ proposta radikali oħra: id-diċentralizzazzjoni tal-ħidma operattiva tal-amministrazzjoni pubblika lill-awtoritajiet lokali u reġjonali, bil-Gvern iżomm f’idejh il-funzjonijiet regolatorji. Dan jista’ faċilment jitwettaq fuq il-mudell ta’ Għawdex bid-differenza li jitmexxew minn politiku reġjonali flok minn politiku nazzjonali.

Id-dokument bil-proposti ppubblikat minn Alternattiva Demokratika jittratta diversi temi oħrajn bħalissa ċentrali fid-dibattitu dwar ir-riforma proposta tal-gvern lokali u reġjonali.

Is-servizz ta’ kull kunsillier lokali għandu jkun apprezzat, mhux biss is-servizz li jagħti s-Sindku! Il-proposta li l-uffiċċju tas-Sindku jkun wieħed full-time ma hemmx ħtieġa tagħha. Hemm diversi raġunijiet għal dan. Bħala riżultat ta’ din il-proposta dawk kollha li ma jistgħux jieqfu mill-impieg normali tagħhom ikunu esklużi milli joffru s-servizz tagħhom fil-kariga ta’ Sindku. Dan billi tali proposta teffettwa b’mod qawwi l-possibilità li huma jirrintegraw ruħhom fl-impieg meta jintemmilhom il-perjodu tal-ħatra tagħhom. Bla dubju jinħolqu ukoll kunflitti bla bżonn mas-Segretarju Eżekuttiv li l-liġi illum tikkunsidrah bħala l-uffiċjal amministrattiv ewlieni tal-kunsill lokali.

Flok ma tiffoka fuq is-Sindku r-riforma għandha tinkoraġixxi iktar il-ħidma kolleġjali fil-lokalitajiet tagħna b’mod li twassal għal sehem iktar attiv ta’ kull kunsillier fit-tmexxija tal-lokalitajiet. Il-proposta li qed jagħmel il-Gvern li kull kunsillier jingħata responsabbiltajiet hi tajba. Saret diġa minn Alternattiva Demokratika fil-konsultazzjoni pubblika dwar il-kunsilli lokali li saret fl-2008. Waħedha imma mhiex biżżejjed. Trid tkun segwita minn pass ieħor: li kull kunsillier jingħata onorarju raġjonevoli. Din m’għandiex tkun materja riżervata għas-Sindku.

Il-prinċipju tas-sussidjarjetà għandu japplika ukoll biex materji ambjentali jkunu regolati minn dawk li l-iktar jeffettwawhom mill-viċin. Li jkunu nvoluti sewwa l-kunsilli lokali u reġjonali f’dawn id-deċiżjonijiet għandu jwassal għal deċiżjonijiet aħjar minn dawk li għandna illum. Imma dwar dan, darb’oħra.

Il-konsultazzjoni pubblika dwar ir-riforma tal-gvern lokali u reġjonali issa ġiet fit-tmiem. Nistennew il-posizzjoni li ser jieħu l-Gvern dwar in-numru mhux żgħir ta’ proposti li saru. Nittama li jittieħdu bis-serjetà.

ippubblikat fuq Illum : 2 ta’ Diċembru 2018

Subsidiarity in the Constitution

 

On Friday, a delegation from Alternattiva Demokratika met Parliamentary Secretary for Local Government Silvio Parnis to discuss the White Paper published by the government concerning the reform of local government.

During the discussion, we handed Mr Silvio Parnis our response to the White Paper, a response that contains eight proposals – the central one focusing on the need to accept and implement the principle of subsidiarity. The principle of subsidiarity needs to be constitutionally entrenched in order to serve as a guiding light to the country’s public administration and, consequently, protect local and regional government.

The European treaties have already entrenched the principle of subsidiarity as a basic tenet, regulating the complex relationship between European institutions and EU member states.

The principle of subsidiarity, mostly developed in the so-called Germanic states in Europe- namely Germany, Austria and Switzerland – which states have a robust local and regional arrangement, as a result of which responsibilities and the corresponding authority is spread.

Public administration should be as close to the citizen as possible: those administering and making decisions should be as close as possible to those who feel the impact of such decisions. Departure from this basic rule should only occur for reasons of absolute necessity. Former President of the European Commission Jacques Delors is quoted as having stated that subsidiarity is not only a limit on the intervention of a higher authority in the affairs of a person or community that can act itself, it is also a duty of this authority to act in relation to that person or community in such a way as to give it the means to fulfil itself.

This brings to the fore two aspects of subsidiarity. Firstly, that of non-interference by the higher authority in the workings of the lower authority, except in exceptional cases and, secondly, the duty to help – that is help that encourages autonomy.

Alternattiva Demokratika is proposing that the principle of subsidiarity be accepted as a guiding constitutional principle for the public administration as a first step to implementing another radical proposal: the decentralisation of the operational functions of public administration to the regions and local authorities with government retaining the regulatory functions. This can be easily carried out on the Gozo model, although with a regional elected politician replacing the current national politician in charge.

The document published by Alternattiva Demokratika deals with various other matters currently being debated as part of the proposed local and regional government reform.

The service of all elected local councillors should be appreciated, not just that rendered by the Mayor! The proposal to transform the office of Mayor in our localities into a full-time role is uncalled for and a number of reasons come to mind. It would automatically exclude all those who cannot take a sabbatical from their employment as it would have a long-term negative effect on their ability to adequately reintegrate when their mayoral term of office comes to an end. It would also create unnecessary conflict with the Executive Secretary, currently defined by the Local Council legislation as the chief executive of Local Councils.

Instead of singling out the Mayor, the local council reform should encourage a more collegial leadership, with all councillors being more actively involved in the running of the localities. The proposal in the White Paper to codify the duty to assign responsibilities to each elected councillor – a proposal first made by Alternattiva Demokratika and highlighted during the public consultation of 2008 on local council reform, is a good first step. It has to be followed by ensuring that all councillors receive a reasonable honorarium: this should not be a reserved for the Mayor alone.

The principle of subsidiarity should also be applied to regulating environmental issues closer to base. Involving regional and local councils in these decisions could lead to much better decisions than those we currently face. But more about that next time.

The public consultation has now been concluded. We await the reaction of the government to the large number of proposals made. Hopefully, these proposals will be seriously considered.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 2 December 2018

Through the revolving door: politicians for sale at a discount

Barroso.GoldmanSachs

 

US Investment Bank Goldman Sachs announced last week that it had “hired” former EU Commission Chairman Josè Manuel Barroso as an advisor and non-executive Chairman of the Goldman Sachs International arm.

The New York Times quoting co-CEOs of Goldman Sachs International Michael Sherwood and Richard J. Gnoddle explained the relevance of the appointment as being “Josè Manuel’s immense insights and experience including a deep understanding of Europe”. Earlier this week, the EU Observer  further commented that Goldman Sachs hired Barroso “as it struggles with the fallout from Britain’s vote to leave the EU”.

Based in London but offering services across Europe, Goldman Sachs may be faced with limited or no access to the EU’s single market as a result of Brexit. Hence the need to hire Barroso as an advisor and lobbyist as the United Kingdom and the European Union prepare for the negotiations leading to the UK’s exit from the European Union which can be triggered any time in the forthcoming weeks through a declaration in terms of article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Barroso’s engagement with Goldman Sachs is one which will be much debated as, like nine other members of the Commission which he led between 2009 and 2014, he has been catapulted into the corporate boardroom through the revolving door. His value to Goldman Sachs is his knowledge of the privileged information to which he had access during his 10-year tenure as President of the EU Commission and, the influence which he may still have on a number of key EU officials.  This gives great value to his advisory/lobbying role with Goldman Sachs.

European Union regulations on the possible activities of its former Commission members draw a cut-off line after an 18-month cooling-off period at the end of their tenure when, as stated by an EU Commission spokesperson, “there is a reasonable assumption that the access to privileged information or possible influence are no longer an issue”.   This is contested by the different political groupings in the EU Parliament who maintain that the cooling-off period for EU Commissioners taking up sensitive jobs after ceasing their duties as Commissioners should be extended from 18 months to five years as the present length of time is insufficient to ensure that the EU is really the servant of ordinary people and not of multinational corporations or international financial institutions.

This debate at a European Union level contrasts to the provisions of the Standards in Public Life Bill currently being debated by the Maltese Parliament which Bill, so far, does not make any provision on the regulation of lobbying in Malta in any form or format.

It is not unheard of in Malta for politicians to move through the revolving door from the Cabinet to the private sector boardroom or its anteroom, and back again. Three such cases of former Cabinet Ministers in Malta in the recent past come to mind : John Dalli and his involvement with the Corinthia Group and later the Marsovin Group, Karmenu Vella who similarly was heavily involved first with the Corinthia Group and subsequently with the Orange Travel Group as well as with Betfair and finally Tonio Fenech’s recent involvement in the financial industry.

Being unregulated, lobbying through the revolving door is not illegal but it can still be unethical and unacceptable in a modern democratic society as it can result in undue influence of corporations over the regulatory authorities.

Piloting the debate on the Standards in Public Life Bill on Monday 11 July, Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech recognised the deficiencies of the Bill and declared that a register of lobbyists in Malta was a necessity. While this is a welcome statement and a significant first step forward, it is certainly not enough, as a proper regulation of lobbying in Malta is long overdue. This involves much more than registration of lobbyists or even the regulation of revolving door recruitment in both the private and the public sector.

If done properly, lobbying is perfectly legitimate. It is perfectly reasonable for any citizen, group of citizens, corporations or even NGOs to seek to influence decision-taking. In fact it is done continuously and 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, should seek to ensure that decision-takers are well informed before taking the required decisions.

However, for lobbying to be acceptable in a democratic society, it must be done transparently. In particular, through regulation it must be ensured  that lobbying should not be transformed into a  process through which the decision-takers make way for the representatives or advisors of corporations to take their place. Lobbying activities must be properly documented and the resulting documentation must be publicly accessible.

Hopefully, Parliament will take note and act.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 17 July 2016

Juncker taħt il-lenti tal-Ħodor

four_pillar-sustainable  development

Il-bieraħ Alternattiva Demokratika ippubblikat ittra li Rebecca Harms u Philippe Lamberts mexxejja konġunti tal-Grupp tal-Ħodor fil-Parlament Ewropew bagħtu lil Jean Claude Juncker il-President elett tal-Kummissjoni Ewropeja.

F’din l-ittra li l-oriġinal tagħha jista’ jinqara hawn Harms u Lamberts qed jilmentaw li fit-tqassim tar-responsabbiltajiet lill-Kummissarji l-ġodda Juncker injora l-fatt li t-trattat Ewropew fl-artiklu 3.3 tiegħu ipoġġi bħala mira ċara tal-Unjoni Ewropeja li din taħdem favur l-iżvilupp sostenibbli.

Dan l-obbligu, jemfasizzaw Harms u Lamberts mhux rifless fir-responsabbiltajiet tal-Viċi Presidenti u l-anqas fl-ittri tal-ħatra tal-Kummissarji differenti.

L-emfasi fuq it-tnaqqis tar-regolamentazzjoni flimkien mal-fatt li ingħaqdu flmkien responsabbiltajiet ta’ dawk li sal-lum kienu dikasteri differenti huwa ferm inkwetanti. L-Ambjent ingħaqad mas-Sajd u l-Politika Marittima filwaqt li l-Enerġija u l-Azzjoni dwar it-Tibdil fil-Klima inġabru ukoll fir-responsabbiltajiet ta’ Kummissarju wieħed. Dan kollu flimkien iwassal għat-tħassib fundat li l-importanza għal azzjoni ambjentali ser tkun imdgħajfa filwaqt li l-ħidma dwar l-impatti klimatiċi ser tonqos drastikament.

Dan kollu hu konfermat ukoll miċ-ċaqlieq ta’ numru ta’ responsabbiltajiet li sal-lum kienu meqjusa bħala primarjament responsabbiltajiet ambjentali li issa ġew assenjati f’direttorati ġenerali oħra.

Fid-dawl ta’ dan il-Ħodor ħeġġew lil Jean-Claude Juncker biex jagħmel tibdil fir-responsabbiltajiet tal-Kummissarji u dan billi :

l-ewwel: jassenja r-responsabbilta għall-iżvilupp sostenibbli lil wieħed mill-Viċi Presidenti,

it-tieni: jissepara mill-ġdid ir-responsabbilta għall-klima minn dik għall-enerġija u dik għall-ambjent mis-sajd u l-politika marittima,

it-tielet: jirrevedi l-ittri tal-ħatra ta’ numru ta’ kummissarji ewlenin billi jagħti importanza u prijorita’ lis-sostenibilita kif ukoll lill-użu għaqli tar-riżorsi naturali u lill-bijodiversita,

ir-raba’ jirrevedi ċ–ċaqlieq ta’ responsabbiltajiet li tneħħew mid-Direttorat Ġenerali tal-Ambjent.

Fl-ittra tagħhom Harms u Lamberts jemfasizzaw li huwa obbligu tal-Parlament li jassugura illi l-interessi taċ-ċittadini Ewropej ikunu imħarsa huwa u jsir l-iskrutinju u l-ħatra tal-Kummissjoni. It-tibdil li dwaru l-Ħodor qed jinsistu huwa fl-interess taċ-ċittadini Ewropej u għaldaqstant il-Ħodor jidhrilhom illi jekk dan it-tibdil ma jseħħx huwa impossibli għalihom li jagħtu appoġġ lill-Kummissjoni l-ġdida.

Diġa kien hemm reazzjonijiet għal dan kemm minn Martin Schultz President tal-Parlament Ewropew kif ukoll minn Juncker innifsu.

Schultz irreaġixxa limitatament għall-punt dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli. Il-bieraħ stess ENDS Europe irrappurtat lil Schultz hekk : New Commission needs sustainability Vice President.

Schultz jidhirlu li hu żball da parti ta’ Juncker li ħalla barra responsabbilta għall-iżvilupp sostenibbli mir-responsabbiltajiet tal-Viċi Presidenti.

Min-naħa l-oħra Juncker isostni kemm il-ġabra flimkien ta’ responsabbiltajiet tal-ambjent, sajd u politika marittima kif ukoll dawk dwar il-klima u l-enerġija. Min-naħa l-oħra jsostni ukoll li r-responsabbilta’ dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli hi tal-Kummissarji kollha.

 

Din hi l-kritika kostruttiva li qed jagħmlu l-Ħodor fil-Parlament Ewropew. Mhiex kritika indirizzat lejn xi pajjiż jew lejn xi Kummissarju partikolari. Dawk qed isiru ukoll minn ħaddieħor u huma motivati minn diversi raġunijiet.

Nistennew u naraw kif ser jiżviluppaw is-seduti pubbliċi li fihom, min-nhar it-Tnejn il-Kummissarji l-ġodda ser ikunu skrutinati dwar il-kompetenzi tagħhom.

Id-diskussjoni tkompli.

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

Il-voti ta’ Juncker jibdew jitnaqqru

Juncker & Schultz

Is-Soċjalisti Spanjoli iddeċidew li ma jagħtux l-appoġġ lill-Kummissjoni immexxija minn Jean Claude Juncker għax għalihom hu diġa ċar li Juncker ser imexxi l-quddiem politika ekonomika ta’ awsterita’. Fil-fatt isostnu s-Soċjalisti Spanjoli, li l-mod kif inhuma mqassma r-responabbiltajiet fl-istess Kummissjoni jpoġġi fuq quddiem lil dawk li dejjem taw appoġġ lill-awsterita’: ċjoe l-issikkar taċ-ċinturin. Is-Soċjalisti Spanjoli għandhom 14-il vot.

Hemm kuntrast bejn dak li qed jgħidu s-Soċjalisti Spanjoli u dak li qed tgħid it-tmexxija Soċjalista fil-Parlament Ewropew. Il-mexxej Soċjalista fil-Parlament Ewropew, it-Taljan Gianni Pitella diġà esprima ruħu pubblikament dwar kemm (fil-fehma tiegħu)  hi bbilanċjata l-Kummissjoni Juncker. Jiftaħru dwar ir-rwol ċentrali tal-Franċiż Pierre Moscovici imma ma jgħidux li dan ftit jista’ jiċċaqlaq minħabba li ser ikun taħt is-sorveljanza tal-konservattiv Finlandiż Jyrki Katainen Viċi President tal-Kummissjoni u wieħed mill-esponenti ta’ politika ta’ awsterita li għandu l-appoġġ ta’ Angela Merkel.

Il-voti favur il-Kummissjoni ta’ Juncker bdew jitnaqqru. Baqa’ ftit iktar minn xahar sa ma tittieħed deċiżjoni, f’liema żmien jistgħu jiżviluppaw diversi xenarji interessanti.

Sadanittant diversi Kummissarji milll-ġodda qed jiltaqgħu informalment mal-Membri Parlamentari li huma attivi fid-diversi kumitati parlamentari jfittxu li jispjegawlhom il-posizzjoni tagħhom kif ukoll iwegħduhom li ser ikunu aċċessibli kontinwament matul il-ħatra tagħhom.

Bħalissa insomma kulħadd għaddej jipprova jimpressjona. Kemm dan ser jirnexxi jew le narawħ lejn tmiem Ottubru, forsi ftit qabel ukoll.

Ara Euractiv.com tas-16 ta’ Settembru 2014: Spanish socialists to vote against Juncker, Cañete.

Jean-Claude Juncker, Karmenu Vella and the missing cluster

EU Juncker Commission

When Jean-Claude Junker announced the distribution of the responsibilities in his Commission on Wednesday 10 September 2014 he decided to group the Commissioners into a number of clusters which he called project teams led as follows:

Frans Timmermans (NL), the First Vice President will deal with Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Freedoms. He will oversee the Project on Home Affairs and Justice in addition to being Juncker’s Deputy.

Federica Mogherini (IT) the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy will oversee a Project Team dealing with Enlargement, Development, Humanitarian Aid and Trade

Andrus Ansip (ET) will be the Vice President leading the project on the Digital Single Market.

Alenka Bratusek (SL) will be the Vice President leading the Energy Union project whilst Vladis Dombrovskis (LT) will as Vice president lead the project on the Euro and Social Dialogue.

Jyrki Katainen (FI) will lead the project on Growth, Investment and Competitiveness Project whilst Kristalina Georgieva (BG) will head the EU Budget and Human Resources Project.

These clusters or projects will bring together Commissioners responsible for specific areas such that there is coordination and purpose in the work of the Commission. Whilst the treaties provide for such a horizontal structure this is the first time that it is being tried. If it succeeds it will become the new template and it will settle once and for all the debate on the size of the Commission.

There is however one missing cluster: a cluster dealing with Sustainable Development. This point has been emphasised by the international NGO World Wildlife Fund in its comments about Juncker’s Commission.

The EU Sustainable Development Strategy is by its very nature a well defined cluster of priorities which identified seven key priority challenges many of which are predominantly environmental.

Yet the Juncker Commission has ignored all this and grouped together the Environment with Fisheries and Maritime Policy, in the process downgrading the importance of all three areas of policy.

Jean Claude Junker needs the approval of the EU Parliament to implement this plan.  From the various statements being made it seems that some MEPs do not have the intention of giving this stamp of approval as they consider that the Environment on the one hand and Fisheries and Maritime Affairs on the other hand each require a separate Commissioner to be dealt with appropriately. The same goes for Energy and Climate Change which likewise have been assigned as responsibilities of one Commissioner instead of two separate Commissioners.

Its fine for the President-elect of the EU Commission to encourage the development of the Green Economy and the Blue Economy as he has emphasised in the mission letter to Commissioner-designate Karmenu Vella. This will not however be achieved sidelining sustainable development, nor by relegating the Environment, Fisheries  and Maritime Policy to a second class status within the Commission.

 

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?