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

 

L-iskema taċ-Ċittadinanza ta’ Joseph Muscat: il-kobba tkompli titħabbel

Malta+EU

Il-kobba tal-iskema tal-bejgħ taċ-ċittadinanza qed tkompli titħabbel.

Il-Gvern iddeċieda. Ikkonsulta ruħu, prinċipalment wara li kien ġja ħa d-deċiżjonijiet.

Il-ħsieb li għandu l-Gvern hu wieħed ċar ħafna. Għandu bżonn il-flus biex jiffinanzja il-programm politiku tiegħu. Wara li rabat idejh li ma jżidx taxxi, kif ukoll wara li daħal fi sqaq billi naqqas it-taxxa tad-dħul meta l-pajjiż ma kienx ippreparat għal dan, ma kienx baqa’ wisq fejn idur. Iddeċieda li s-sors tal-finanzjament meħtieġ ser ikun id-dħul mill-bejgħ ta’ madwar 1,800 passaport. Dħul li hu ikkalkulat li jammonta għal madwar €1.20 biljun.

L-argumenti politiċi f’Malta instemgħu għal darba, tnejn u iktar. Kulħadd qal tiegħu, iżda l-Gvern wara li bidel xi dettalji tal-iskema, jidhirlu li għandu jibqa’ għaddej.

Mhux ċar jekk dan il-ħsieb dwar il-bejgħ taċ-ċittadinanza żviluppax mill-elezzjoni lil hawn jew inkella jekk ġiex ikkristalllizzat qabel l-elezzjoni ġenerali. Saru kitbiet diġa f’dan is-sens u hemm min spekula li l-pjan sar qabel l-elezzjoni, iżda nżamm mistur. Qed tiċċirkula l-ideja li l-Partit Laburista (u per konsegwenza l-Gvern iffurmat minnu) qiesu obbligat li jimplimenta din l-iskema. Qiesu jrid jonora xi ftehim milħuq. S’issa dan għadu mhux ċar għax ovvjament ħadd m’hu ser jikxef x’ġara, għalmenu għalissa.

Issa bdiet tiżviluppa fażi oħra tal-istorja. Il-mistoqsija hi dwar jekk il-Gvern Malti (u kwlaunkwe Gvern ieħor fl-Unjoni Ewropeja) għandux id-dritt assolut li jiddeċiedi dwar iċ-ċittadinanza. Minn dak li qalet il-Kummissarju Viviane Reding nhar il-Ħamis hi u tiftaħ id-dibattitu fil-Parlament Ewropew l-Unjoni Ewropeja hi tal-fehma li d-dritt li tkun irregolata ċ-ċittadinanza m’huwiex dritt assolut tal-istati membri. Reding qalet hekk:

While I am not calling for the Commission to receive legal power to determine what constitutes nationality or the rules granting it, the Commission nevertheless expects that Member States act in full awareness of the consequences of their decisions.

Our debate today shows the growing importance of these questions in a European Union where national decisions are in many instances not neutral vis-à-vis other Member States and the EU as a whole. It is a fact that the principle of sincere cooperation, which is inscribed in the EU Treaties (Article 4.3 of the Treaty on European Union), should lead Member States to take account of the impact of decisions in the field of nationality on other Member States and the Union as a whole.”

Fi ftit kliem il-Kummissarju Reding qed tgħid li f’dak li nagħmlu bħala pajjiż irridu ta’ bil-fors nagħtu każ tal-impatti fuq il-pajjiżi l-oħra membri tal-Unjoni. Hi tirreferi għall-artiklu 4.3 tat-trattat dwar l-Unjoni u speċifikament dwar il-prinċipju ta’ kooperazzjoni sinċiera, xi drabi imsejjaħ ukoll il-prinċipju ta’ lejalta’. Dan kollu jfisser ħaġa waħda biss: li għandna d-dritt li niddeċiedu kif irridu sakemm ma neffettwaw lil ħadd. Jekk id-deċiżjoni tagħna bħala pajjiż teffettwa lil ħaddieħor għandna l-obbligu li nikkonsultaw. Iktar ma hu kbir l-impatt iktar irridu nikkonsultaw u allura iktar hu diffiċli li nikkonkludu kif irridu.

Iktar ċari minn hekk l-affarijiet ma jistgħux ikunu!

Issa hawn min qed isemmi skemi f’pajjiżi oħra li jixxiebħu mal-iskema tal-Gvern Malti. Euroactiv.com   iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa jirreferi għal dokument iċċirkulat fi Strasbourg mill-Gvern Malti li fih jirreferi għal skemi f’pajjiżi oħra dwar ċittadinanza : “Cyprus, Austria, Belgium and Portugal singled out” jgħidilna l-Euroactiv.com. L-iskemi l-oħra huma differenti, ghax prinċipalment huma ibbażati fuq residenza flimkien ma investiment sostanzjali. Tnejn mill-pajjiżi imsemmija (Ċipru u l-Portugall) għandhom ukoll problemi finanzjarji kbar.

S’issa jidher li l-Unjoni Ewropeja ma ikkummentatx dwar dan kollu imma jidher li issa ser tieħu passi. Il-każ ta’ Malta hu l-iktar sfaċċat imma l-każi l-oħra jixxiebħu u probabbilment li l-Unjoni  tikkummenta dwarhom ukoll.

Dan hu l-pass li jmiss. Minn kif tkellmet il-Kummissarju Reding jidher li d-diskusjsoni interna saret u l-ideat huma ċari. Ħames xhur oħra tiġi fi tmiemha l-ħajja tal-Kummissjuni preżenti u allura nistenna li fil-ġimgħat li ġejjin (ferm qabel ma jinbiegħ l-ewwel passaport),  inkunu nafu x’ser tagħmel il-Kummissjoni.

Il-Gvern jidher li ma kienx ippreparat għal dak li ġej. Kuntrarjament għal dak li qed jingħad il-vot tal-Parlament Ewropew għandu sinfikat kbir. Mhux biss huwa dikjarazzjoni politika qawwja. Imma jiftaħ għajnejn Muscat li l-unika appoġġ li għandu huwa ta’ politiċi bħal Marine Le Pen!

Le Pen

Mhux aħjar tirtira n-nomina ?

Qabel ma Lawrence Gonzi innomina lil Tonio Borg bħala Kummissarju Ewropew suċċessur Alternattiva Demokratika kienet insistiet li kien neċessarju li l-kandidat Malti jkun wieħed riżultat ta’ kunsens. Kandidat li fuqu jkun hemm qbil.

Lawrence Gonzi ma qabilx: webbes rasu u innomina lil Tonio Borg.

In-nomina ta’ Tonio Borg ma kienitx adatta għal Malta. Kienet adatta għal Gonzi għax warrablu minn Viċi Kap tal-PN.

Kuljum qed jintqalu affarijiet ġodda dwar Tonio Borg. Issa intqal li l-Parlament Ewropew qed jinvestiga materja ta’ serjeta’ kbira li fiha qed jissemma isem Tonio Borg: il-permess ta’ residenza ta’ dak li kien ħaten il-mexxej tal-Kazakstan. Il-Euractiv.com dal-għodu qaltilna : Malta’s choice for Commission faces grilling over Kazakh connection.  Din il-materja qamet ukoll dal-għodu waqt il-konferenza stampa li l-Kummissjoni Ewropeja tindirizza kuljum fi Brussels.

X’jonqos?

Mhux aħjar tirtira n-nomina ta’ Tonio Borg Dr Gonzi, qabel ma tkompli timbarazza lil Malta?