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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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.

 

 

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

L-ewwel reshuffle ta’ Joseph

 

 

reshuffle

Tħabbar iċ-ċaqlieq u t-tibdil fil-Kabinett.

Fost dawk effettwati miċ-ċaqlieq hemm min matul l-aħħar sena, min għal ftit żmien u min għal ħafna, kellu diffikulta u konflitt bejn il-prattika professjonali u r-responsabbiltajiet pubbliċi tiegħu. Fuq quddiem nett kien hemm il-każ ta’ Franco Mercieca li kif stqarr huwa stess jippreferi l-prattika professjonali tiegħu. Il-kwistjoni issa ser tiġi fi tmiemha. Imma jonqos li naraw ukoll x’tibdil ser ikun hemm fil-kodiċi tal-etika tal-Ministri w is-Segretarji Parlamentari.

Hemm ukoll issues serji konnessi mal-ħatra ta’ Marie Louise Coleiro Preca bħala President tar-Repubblika. Hu żball oħxon li l-President iżżomm responsabbiltajiet diretti għal oqsma ta’ politika soċjali. Il-President għandha tkun distakkata minn dawn l-affarijiet. Bla dubju ser ikun hemm konflitt bejn kif tara l-affarijiet hi u kif jarahom il-Ministru l-ġdid għall-politika soċjali, Michael Farrugia.

Il-ħatra ta’ Karmenu Vella bħala Kummissarju Ewropew hi ukoll sorpriża. Karmenu Vella qatt ma kien interessat u qatt ma wera xi inklinazzjoni lejn politika Ewropeja. Għallinqas pubblikament dan m’huwiex magħruf. Huwa kmieni biex wieħed jgħid jekk hiex għażla tajba. Ser jiddependi ukoll mir-responsabbiltajiet li l-President il-ġdid tal-Kummissjoni jassenjalu. Dan il-President jista’ jkun Martin Schultz imma jista’ jkun ħaddieħor ukoll! Iċ-ċaqlieq fil-previżjoni tan-numru tas-siġġijiet li jistgħu jirbħu s-Soċjalisti fil-Parlament Ewropew jindika li Muscat għaġġel fin-nomina ta’ Karmenu Vella. Kien ikun iktar għaqli li stenna madwar xahrejn oħra qabel ma ħa din id-deċiżjoni.

Ir-reshuffle ta’ Joseph Muscat

reshuffle

Probabbilment li jkun hemm bżonn illi ssir reshuffle dalwaqt u dan minħabba illi jridu jsiru numru ta’ ħatriet.

Jrid jinħatar President tar-Repubblika ġdid minn nhar l-4 t’April flok George Abela. Fil-ġimgħat ta’ wara jkun meħtieġ ukoll li jiġi nominat (jew nominata) Kummissarju għall-Unjoni Ewropeja flok Tonio Borg.

Il-ħatriet kif jaf kulħadd qatt ma jsiru biss fuq mertu jew kapaċita. Il-ħatriet huma ukoll parti mil-logħba ċess tal-politika. Huwa naive min jaħseb mod ieħor.

Il-ħatriet il-ġodda ta’ President u Kummissarju huma opportunita biex Joseph jagħmel fine tuning tal-għażliet tiegħu ta’ Marzu li għadda u fix-xhur sussegwenti.

Ix-xniegħat dwar x’tibdil jista’ jsir beda.

Interessanti li aħna u nisimgħu x’inhu jingħad naħsbu ftit dwar min għandu interess f’dawn ix-xniegħat.

L-ewwel interess huwa tal-Prim Ministru innifsu li min jaf kemm ilu jisma’ dwar x’għandu jagħmel u xi jmissu għamel. Joseph Muscat għandu kull interess li jipprova jiżen x’reazzjoni jkollu għaċ-ċaqlieq li għandu f’moħħu.

It-tieni interess huwa ta’ dawk li jew tħallew barra inkella li jixtiequ javvanzaw. Dawn ovvjament jinkludu xniegħat kontra dawk li jixtiequhom li jkunu mwarrba. Nismimgħu kliem bħal: mhux tajjeb/mhux tajba. Dak minn fejn inqala’?  Għadu ġej u jafdah daqshekk?

Il-kapaċita kif nafu, m’hiex l-unika kriterju. L-anqas neċessarjament m’hi l-kriterju ewlieni. Waħda mill-karatteristiċi ta’ Muscat hi li jfittex li jakkomoda bl-iskop li jagħlaq ħalq dak li jkun. Jiġifieri l-kriterji u l-ħsieb wara movimenti partikolari mhux neċessarjament li huma posittivi. M’hu xejn ġdid dan.

Ismijiet qed nisma’. Pero’ ma rridx nirrepetihom għax ma rridx inkun parti mil-logħba li għaddejja. Nippreferi l-lussu li nosserva.

L-interess nazzjonali

 silenced

Qed jgħidulna li min jitkellem b’mod kritiku dwar dak li jkun qed jiġri f’Malta barra l-pajjiż ikun qed jaġixxi kontra l-interess nazzjonali.

Jekk taqra dak li qed jingħad qiesu hemm xi obbligu li f’fora internazzjonali kull Malti għandu l-obbligu li jfaħħar u jappoġġa dak li jagħmel il-Gvern. Bħala eżempju ġieli jgħidulna li d-delegazzjoni Laburista fil-Parlament Ewropew appoġġat il-kandidatura ta’ Tonio Borg għal Kummissarju Ewropew. Qiesu jridu jgħidulna li għamlu hekk minkejja li kienu jafu li dik ma kienitx għażla tajba, iżda huma xorta taw l-appoġġ tagħhom, ovvjament fl-interess nazzjonali!

Fil-fatt meta d-delegazzjoni Laburista appoġġat il-kandidatura ta’ Tonio Borg (minkejja li kienet taf li dik kien proposta żbaljata tal-Gvern immexxi minn Lawrence Gonzi) imxiet kontra l-interess nazzjonali, għax l-interess ta’ Malta kien li jkollna Kummissarju differenti.  Tonio Borg minkejja l-kwalitajiet tajba tiegħu ma kienx għażla tajba għall-kariga ta’ Kummissarju Ewropew.

Bħalma l-Labour dakinnhar żbaljaw, illum jippretendu li l-iżball tagħhom jimitah kulhadd. Jippretendu appoġġ għami għal dak li jagħmel il-Gvern. Taqbel u ma taqbilx. Fl-interess nazzjonali, ovvjament.

Ma hemm l-ebda obbligu li nagħtu appoġġ lill-Gvern meta dan jiżbalja. La f’Malta u l-anqas barra minn Malta.  Hu kontra l-interess nazzjonali li tappoġġa proposti żbaljati biex tidher taparsi patrijott.

X’tagħmel il-GWU dwar il-proposta tal-Gvern dwar il-bejgħ taċ-ċittadinanza hi għażla tagħha. Il-GWU għandha kull dritt (u obbligu) li tasal għall-konklużjonjiet tagħha dwar dak li jkun għaddej. Kif jagħmel ħaddieħor. Pero’ l-President tal-GWU ma għandu l-ebda dritt jippretendi u jinsisti li d-diskussjoni ma tmurx lil hinn minn xtutna. Dak li qed jipproponi l-Gvern dwar iċ-ċittadinanza għandu, implikazzjonijiet serji lil hinn minn xtutna u għalhekk hu floku li l-Parlament Ewropew jiddiskuti l-materja f’nofs Jannar 2014.

Dak kollu li jiġri Malta qatt ma kien ta’ interess għalina biss. Iktar u iktar illum li niffurmaw parti mill-Unjoni Ewropeja. Dak kollu li jiġri f’Malta jinteressa lil kulħadd. Bl-istess mod jinteressa lilna dak li jiġri f’pajjiżi oħra ukoll, kemm dawk li pajjiżi li huma qrib tagħna kif ukoll dawk li huma iktar il-bogħod.

Per eżempju kien hemm żmien meta l-Libja, fi żmien Muammar Gaddafi, ftehmet ma Sarkozy (dakinnhar President ta’ Franza) dwar ix-xiri ta’ impjant nuklejari biex dan ikun istallat mal-kosta Libjana ħalli jipproduċi ilma tajjeb għax-xorb mill-ilma baħar. Dan l-impjant, jekk il-kostruzzjoni tiegħu jseħħ, jista’ jkollu impatt negattiv fuq Malta, iżda minkejja dan ħadd ma fetaħ ħalqu dwaru ħlief Alternattiva Demokratika. L-anqas meta l-Italja taħt Silvio Berlusconi ipprovat tibni impjant nuklejari 94 kilometru l-bogħod minn Għawdex (f’Palma di Montechiaro mal-kosta t’isfel ta’ Sqallija) ukoll ħadd ma fetaħ ħalqu f’Malta ħlief Alternattiva Demokratika. Dan minkejja l-potenzjal ta’ impatt diżastruż ta’ dan l-impjant fuq il-gżejjer Maltin.

L-interess nazzjonali dakinnhar kien jitlob li l-Gvern u l-Opposizzjoni jiftħu ħalqhom. Iżda kemm il-PN kif ukoll il-Labour dakinnhar baqgħu siekta t-tnejn. Bħala riżultat ta’ dak is-skiet dakinnhar irrenjaw l-interessi ta’ Franza, tal-Libja u tal-Italja, mhux l-interess nazzjonali ta’ Malta.

Fi ftit kliem is-skiet biss huwa kontra l-interess nazzjonali. Għandna l-obbligu li niftħu ħalqna dejjem. Nitkellmu b’mod responsabbli iva, imma mhux li nżommu ħalqna magħluq.

Hu fl-interess nazzjonali li min hu tal-fehma li l-iskema tal-bejgħ taċ-ċittadinanza proposta mill-Gvern ta’ Malta hi żbaljata jesprimi ruħu pubblikament, dejjem sakemm dan isir b’mod responsabbli. Ikun qed jimxi kontra l-interess nazzjonali min, minkejja dan, jibqa’ ħalqu magħluq. Hu biss is-skiet li jagħmel il-ħsara.

ippubblikat fuq iNews, it-Tlieta 31 ta’ Diċembru 2013