Karmenu Vella : kontroversja bla ħtieġa

Junker + Vella

 

Għada waranofsinnhar Karmenu Vella jippreżenta ruħu biex ikun eżaminat minn żewġ kumitati tal-Parlament Ewropew.

Fid-dibattitu pubbliku li ilu għaddej mill-10 ta’ Settembru 2014, id-diffikulta prinċipali mhiex il-persuna ta’ Karmenu Vella, imma d-deċiżjoni politika li ħa Jean Claude Juncker dwar ir-responsabbiltajiet li assenja lil Karmenu Vella u lil oħrajn. Fl-ittra li ntbagħatet mill-Grupp tal-Ħodor lil Jean Claude Juncker nhar il-Ġimgħa li għaddiet dan kien ċar ħafna u jpoġġi f’perspettiva l-argumenti kollha.

Karmenu Vella il-persuna jidher li ma hu fil-mira ta’ kważi ħadd. L-unika kritika diretta lejh kienet dik tal-Corporate Europe Observatory. Għalhekk ma nistax nifhem kif fl-aħħar siegħat ħoloq il-kontroversja hu stess meta ġew ippubblikati t-tweġibiet li kien mitlub jagħti bil-miktub għal xi mistoqsijiet li sarulu. Hi kontroversja li kien ikunu ħafna għaqli li kieku evita. Imma tawh pariri ħżiena!

Il-gazzetti tal-lum (apparti l-Kullħadd u t-Torċa li baqgħu siekta) kienu mimlijin bil-kummenti li juru kemm Karmenu Vella żbalja bl-ikraħ meta qal li hu ivvota biex Malta tissieħeb fl-Unjoni Ewropeja meta hu ċar li sa ftit ġranet qabel il-votazzjoni tar-referendum tal-2003 hu kien involut b’mod attiv favur il-LE, anke f’dibattitu fuq it-TV.

Issa din kienet kontroversja bla ħtieġa għal Karmenu Vella. Imma kontroversja li ħalliet togħma morra ma bosta. Hawn Malta ħadd m’hu jemmen dak li qal Karmenu Vella dwar kif ivvota. X’ser jagħmlu l-Membri Parlamentari Ewropej ma nafx. Naf biss li ħadd m’hu ta’ subgħajh f’ħalqu. Dawk minnhom li jsegwu x’inhu jiġri jafu l-posizzjoni li ħa l-Partit Laburista f’Malta dwar is-sħubija fl-Unjoni Ewropeja. Min minnhom għaldaqstant jifhem x’qiegħed iħarref Karmenu Vella bil-fors li ser ikollu d-dubju dwar it-tweġbiet l-oħra li Karmenu Vella jagħti fuq l-Ambjent, is-Sajd u l-Politika Marittima. Għax il-loġika tgħidlek li jekk ma ssibhiex bi kbira li tħarref fuq ħaġa l-anqas m’int ser issibha bi kbira li tħarref fuq affarijiet oħra.

B’mod oġġettiv, kieku l-kumitati parlamentari tal-Parlament Ewropew kellhom jiddeċiedu fuq il-kompetenzi individwali tal-kummissarji proposti, madwar 6 minn dawk proposti ma jkunux approvati. Imma nafu li l-Parlament Ewropew u l-Kumitati tiegħu ma jaħdmux hekk sakemm ma jkun hemm affarijiet ta’ serjeta’ kbira li jistunaw. Dejjem sakemm ma jkunx hemm xi gaffe bħalma għamel Rocco Buttiglione fl-2004 inkella sakemm il-Kummissarju li jkun qed iwieġeb ma jweġibx b’mod adegwat mistoqsijiet dwar dak li jidher bħala l-konflitt ta’ interess tiegħu jew tagħha kif kien ġrala l-Bulgara Rumiana Jeleva fl-2010.  Sakemm ma jiġrix hekk hu probabbi li l-Kummissjoni tkun approvata kollha kif propost u dan bl-appoġġ tal-Popolari u s-Soċjalisti kif ukoll tal-Liberali.

Pero jekk jinqala’ dak li mhux previst ma tistax tgħid x’jiġri.

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.

The Greens write to Juncker: Sustainability in the New European Commission

EGP.p1

EGP.p2

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-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-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.

 

Mhux Mare Nostrum

immigration05

Iż-żjara fostna tal-Kummissarju Ewropew Cecilia Malmström għandha l-intenzjoni li tiffoka fuq l-immigrazzjoni fil-Mediterran u fuq il-ħtieġa ta’ solidarjeta’ effettiva fl-Unjoni Ewropeja.

Għal min isegwi x’inhu jiġri hu ċar li Malmström taqbel fuq il-ħtieġa li l-Unjoni Ewropeja tibda terfa’ r-responsabbilta’ għall-immigrazzjoni. L-Unjoni Ewropeja trid terfa’ din ir-responsabbilta’, iżda huma l-pajjiżi membri li għadhom ma jaqblux li dan għandu jsir.

Fi ftit kliem il-problema tal-immigrazzjoni qabel ma tissolva fi Brussels trid tissolva fl-ibliet kapitali tal-pajjiżi li jifformaw l-Unjoni Ewropeja. Biex dan isir il-Gvern Malti jrid jikkonvinċi lill-Gvernijiet individwali. Mhux biżżejjed li jappoġġawna l-Italja, l-Ġreċja u Ċipru. Hemm bżonn ukoll li jappoġġawna l-pajjiżi l-kbar.

S’issa l-Ġermanja, per eżempju ma qablitx li l-immigrazzjoni tibda tkun kompetenza tal-Unjoni Ewropeja. L-anqas r-Renju Unit ma jaqbel ma dan. Għax dawn pajjiżi li jridu illi dwar l-immigrazzjoni jiddeċiedu huma, mhux l-Unjoni Ewropeja.

Biex nitkellmu ċar jekk irridu road-map, jekk irridu solidarjeta’ obbligatorja, jekk irridu strateġija fit-tul, jekk irridu li pajjiżi fl-Unjoni Ewropeja jkollhom l-obbligu li jieħdu f’pajjiżhom immigranti li jiġu fuq xtutna irridu nifhmu sewwa x’qegħdin ngħidu.  Li qed jgħid il-Gvern Malti – u jiena naqbel ma dan – hu li l-immigrazzjoni ma tibqax iżjed materja li niddeċiedu dwarha aħna fil-Belt Valletta, jew li jiddeċiedu t-Taljani f’Ruma, inkella l-Ġermaniżi f’Berlin. Li qed ngħidu hu li tkun materja li tiddeċiedi dwarha Brussels li jkollha l-jedd li ġġiegħel lill-pajjiżi kollha (bla eċċezzjoni) biex jagħtu daqqa t’id. Ifisser li jkollna politika Ewropeja komuni dwar l-immigrazzjoni.

Din il-proposta tal-Gvern Malti tal-lum kif ukoll tal-Gvern tal-bieraħ hi tajba għax tfisser li l-ġewwa mill-fruntieri tal-Unjoni Ewropeja għandna nerfgħu l-piż ilkoll flimkien, it-28 pajjiż li niffurmaw l-Unjoni Ewropeja. Kull pajjiż għandu jkun mgħejjun, iżda ukoll kull pajjiż ikollu l-obbligu li jgħin ukoll meta dan ikun meħtieġ.

Id-deċiżjonjijiet dwar l-immigrazzjoni fil-fatt għandhom jittieħdu Brusssels. Għax ir-realta’ hi li dan m’huwiex iżjed Mare Nostrum. Fil-fatt hu tagħna lkoll

MEPA leaves no stone unturned

Alfred E. Baldacchino's Blog

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Mepa leaves no stone unturned

Alfred E. Baldacchino

 The illegally extended road on Comino. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

The illegally extended road on Comino. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Times of Malta lately reported the construction of a dirt and concrete road on Comino, an island with barely half a dozen residents and an EU Natura 2000 site.

The Malta Environment and Planning Authority, which is the Competent Authority for the EU environment acquis, thus also for Natura 2000 sites, was quick to show its surprise and lack of awareness of the matter.

It immediately issued an enforcement notice on the Commissioner of Land, on the grounds that Comino is government land. Pontius Pilate would have envied this. Incidentally, the Commissioner of Land falls within the portfolio of the Prime Minster.

Natura 2000 sites are sites listed according to important habitat types in the EU Habitats Directive. On accession, each member state has to declare such sites, and once approved…

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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