Joseph iħobb jiċċajta ………… ħafna

Joseph Muscat ihobb jiccajta

Iktar milli jiċċajta, forsi nkun iktar korrett jekk ngħid li jħobb jipprova jgħaddi n-nies biż-żmien.

F’waħda mill-okkazjonijiet li fihom indirizza lill-istampa riċentement qal li l-budget għall-2015 hu wieħed li jħares l-ambjent!

Ħadd ma jistax jiċħad li l-budget fih numru ta’ miżuri ambjentali. Imma b’daqshekk ma jfissirx li dan hu budget ambjentali. Kulma jagħmel il-budget hu li jiġbor flimkien id-diversi miżuri li qed jippjana li  jieħu l-Gvern matul is-sena 2015. Jonqsu viżjoni koerenti ambjentali li la għandu u l-anqas jidher li jista’ jkollu fil-futur immedjat.

Il-ħarsien tal-ambjent m’huwiex biss dwar il-kostruzzjoni, imma ukoll dwar il-bijodiversita, is-sostenibilita’, l-kwalita tal-arja, il-politika dwar ir-riżorsi, il-viżjoni marittima, l-ilma, il-politika dwar il-klima, l-enerġija alternattiva, t-trasport, l-ekonomija l-ħadra, l-ekonomija l-blu, l-ekonomija ċirkulari, it-tassazzjoni ambjentali u tant affarijiet oħra.

Diskors tal-budget li ħa kważi 4 siegħat biex inqara ma sabx imqar ftit sekondi biex jispjegalna kif il-Gvern ta’ Joseph Muscat ser jimplimenta politika ta’ żvilupp sostenibbli. Mhux biss. Imma fl-estimi għall-Ministeru bl-isem twil u bombastiku okkupat minn Leo Brincat (Ministeru għall-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli, Ambjent u Tibdil fil-Klima) kullma hemm ivvutat għall-politika tal-iżvilupp sostenibbli hu għaxart elef ewro. Dikjarazzjoni onesta li tfisser biss li matul l-2015 il-Gvern ta’ Joseph Muscat m’għandu l-ħsieb li jagħmel xejn f’dan il-qasam. It-terminu Żvilupp Sostenibbli fid-diskors tal-budget jissemma darbtejn. Jissemma biss fiż-żewġ tabelli fejn hemm imniżżel l-isem tal-Ministeru ta’ Leo Brincat.

Il-politika tal-Gvern ta’ Joseph Muscat dwar l-Iżvilupp sostenibbli (jekk  teżisti) tqieset mill-Ministru Edward Scicluna bħala li m’għandiex relevanza għall-budget tal-2015

Il-politika dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli tinseġ flimkien il-politika ambjentali, dik ekonomika u soċjali. Meta tkun żviluppata kif imiss, il-politika dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli tassigura l-interessi tal-ġenerazzjonijiet futuri billi tmexxi l-quddiem l-ekonomija b’rispett sħiħ lejn l-ambjent u lejn il-bniedem. Għalhekk ngħidu li l-politika dwar l-iżvilupp sostenibbli hi mibnija fuq erba’ pilastri: l-iżvilupp ekonomiku, l-ħarsien tal-ambjent, il-ħarsien soċjali u l-politika kulturali.

Fil-ġranet li ġejjin ikolli l-opportunita’ nispjega iżjed fid-dettall kemm il-budget ippreżentat għall-2015 bl-ebda mod ma jista’ jitqies budget li jħares l-ambjent.  Minkejja li hemm miżuri individwali li huma pożittivi ma teżistix viżjoni ambjentali ċara u koerenti.

Għalhekk Joseph qed jiċċajta meta jgħid li dan hu budget ambjentali.

sd strategy budget 2015

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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.

 

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.

 

Kif jista’ Karmenu Vella jitfi s-switch?

switching off

 

Karmenu Vella hu ferħan bl-inkarigu li ngħata minn Jean-Claude Juncker. Imma meta tara l-affarijiet sewwa huwa ċar li m’għandux wisq biex jifraħ.

Jiena bħala ambjentalist naħseb li l-proposta ta’ Juncker hi waħda żbaljata u nantiċipa kritika qawwija fil-Parlament Ewropew u fil-kumitati relattivi. Dan diġa jinħass mill-kummenti li qed jinstemgħu fil-kurituri diversi ġo Brussels.

L-ewwel nett l-oqsma ta’ responsabbiltà li Juncker għazel li jgħabbi fuq Karmenu Vella mhux biss huma wisq, imma iktar minn hekk jagħtu l-messaġġ ta’ tnaqqis tal-importanza tal-oqsma kollha: l-ambjent, il-politika marittima kif ukoll is-sajd. L-għażla tar-responsabbiltajiet ta’ Karmenu Vella kienet deċiżjoni politika ta’ Jean-Claude Juncker. Hi għażla li tfisser li dawn it-tlett oqsma ser ikunu emarġinati.  Dan hu messaġġ ħażin li qed jagħti Jean-Claude Juncker.

Hu messaġġ li ma jirriżultax biss mid-daqs tal-portafoll imma ukoll mill-fatt li l-ħidma ta’ Vella biex tasal għad-diskussjoni fil-Kummissjoni trid il-kunsens ta’ wieħed mill-Viċi Presidenti tal-Kummissjoni prinċipalment fuq kriterji ekonomiċi u ta’ kompetittivita u dan bħala riżultat tal-proposta tal-clustering tar-responsabbiltajiet fil-Kummissjoni. Dan ser ifisser li jista’ jinħonoq il-leħen ambjentali fil-Kummissjoni. Dan ikun pass kbir lura li jieħu lill-Unjoni Ewropeja lura snin kbar.

Kien ikun ħafna iktar għaqli kieku, kif qed tinsisti l-World Wildlife Fund, inħoloq cluster ta’ Kummissarji taħt id-direzzjoni ta’ Viċi President responsabbli mill-Iżvilupp Sostenibbli. Imma din donnha li għal Jean-Claude Juncker mhiex materja ta’ importanza.

Karmenu Vella hu bniedem raġjonevoli. Tista’ tiddiskuti miegħu b’faċilita. Filwaqt li dan hu importanti ħafna, mhux biżżejjed.

F’karriera politika ta’ kważi 40 sena Karmenu Vella ftit li xejn kien espost għall-politika ambjentali . Li taqra d-dossiers li jħejjulek fuq materji differenti jista’ jkun ta’ għajnuna imma qatt ma hu ser jirrimedja, f’kamp daqstant vast u kultant ikkumplikat bħalma hu dak ambjentali.

Fuq kollox imbagħad Karmenu Vella jappartjeni lil partit politku li m’għandux kredenzjali ambjentali li qatt jista’ jiftaħar bihom. Għadu ħiereġ minn kampanja elettorali fejn bħala parti mill-Partit Laburista Karmenu Vella ta appoġġ inkundizzjonat lill-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa u lill-insib, posizzjonijiet li huma dijametrikament opposti għar-responsabbiltajiet li hu propost li jerfa’. Anzi għandu l-inkarigu ċar u speċifiku minn Juncker li jibda l-proċess ta’ reviżjoni u konsolidament tad-Direttivi bażici dwar l-Għasafar u l-Habitats. Safejn naf jiena ma naħsibx li Juncker irid jintroduċi l-kaċċa fir-rebbiegħa fl-Unjoni Ewropeja kollha!

Kif jista’ Karmenu Vella jitfi s-switch  ta’ posizzjonijiet politiċi li m’humiex kompatibbli mal-linja politika ambjentali tal-Unjoni Ewropeja?

Herman Grech tat-Times dan kollu jiddeskrivieh bħala riżultat tas-sens ta’ umoriżmu ta’ Juncker.

Fuq dan il-blog jiena diġa emfasizzajt li hemm dan il-kuntrast inkwetanti bejn ir-responsabbiltajiet assenjati lil uħud mill-Kummissarji (fosthom Karmenu Vella) u l-politika tal-pajjiż li qed jaħtarhom.

Altru li għandu biex jieħu pjaċir Karmenu Vella.

Ir-responsabbiltajiet ta’ Karmenu Vella fil-Kummissjoni Juncker

Junker + Vella

Jean-Claude Juncker il-President elett tal-Kummissjoni Ewropeja ħabbar ir-responsabbiltajiet tal-Kummissarji l-ġodda, wara ġimgħat ta’ spekulazzjoni dwar x’għandu jagħmel. L-aħħar spekulazzjoni kienet il-bieraħ fil-għaxija fejn Reuters ħabbru format u responsabbiltajiet fil-Kummissjoni li f’ħafna każi, ftit siegħat wara, irriżultaw li kienu l-bogħod mir-realtà.

Ovvjament l-aħbarijiet spekulattivi jkollhom l-skop li jmexxu l-quddiem l-agenda ta’ uħud. Din m’hiex xi ħaġa ġdida. Ġrat ħafna drabi u tibqa’ tiġri. Xi drabi tkun ovvja imma xi drabi tkun sottili ħafna b’mod li ftit jindunaw il-vera skop wara s-suppost aħbar.

Ma kienitx sorpriża li Karmenu Vella ngħata r-responsabbiltà għas-Sajd u għall-Politika Marittima. Imma nistqarr li bħal ħafna kont xi ftit sorpriż bl-inklużjoni tal-Ambjent fil-portafoll tar-responsabbiltajiet tal-Perit Vella. Għax ir-responsabbiltajiet ambjentali huma sostanzjali.

Huwa interessanti ukoll li fl-ittra tal-ħatra ta’ Karmenu Vella iffirmata minn Jean-Claude Juncker hemm spjegat il-motivazzjoni il-għala Juncker deherlu li kellu jġib flimkien l-ambjent mas-sajd u l-politika marittima. Juncker irid jintegra l-ekonomija l-ħadra mal-ekonomija l-blu [l-ekonomija marittima]. Jara l-potenzjal ta’ sinerġija li bl-attenzjoni, responsabbilta’ iffukata w ikkordinata tista’  tagħti kontribut għall-kompetittivita’ tal-Unjoni Ewropeja.

Hi ħatra interessanti li iżda fiha l-potenzjal ta’ diffikultajiet mhux żgħar.

Karmenu Vella ma jidhirlix li semma’ leħnu la dwar il-kaċċa u l-anqas dwar l-insib. Tajjeb, għax issa ser ikollu responsabbilta’ politika għalihom fuq livell Ewropew. Mhux biss, talli fl-ittra tal-ħatra ta’ Karmenu Vella Jean-Claude Juncker identifika id-Direttiva tal-Għasafar u d-Direttiva dwar il-Habitats bħala żewġ Direttivi li jeħtieġu li jkunu eżaminati sewwa u aġġornati għaż-żminijiet tal-lum.

Matul il-ġimgħat li ġejjin Karmenu Vella ser ikun qiegħed iħejji ruħu biex eventwalment jgħaddi mill-għarbiel tal-Parlament Ewropew. Għandu quddiemu sfida kbira f’oqsma li għalih huma relattivament ġodda. Nawguralu li jagħraf li r-responsabbiltajiet tiegħu huma kbar u li jkun kapaċi jerfagħhom.

Ir-responabbiltà tiegħu hi doppja għax bil-ħidma tiegħu irid jagħmel ħiltu biex inaddaf isem Malta li sfortunatament tħammeġ mhux ftit matul dawn l-aħħar sentejn fl-Unjoni Ewropeja.

Tackling the green skills gap

green skills 3

Launching the public consultation on the Green Economy last month, Ministers Leo Brincat and Evarist Bartolo emphasised the need to address the green skills gap in the process leading to a Green Economy strategy and action plan.

It is estimated that 20 million jobs will be created in the Green Economy between now and 2020 within the European Union. Capacity building is the greatest challenge: ensuring that more working men and women are adequately equipped with green skills.

The Green Economy includes activities in different sectors. It is possible to go about activity in these sectors in a manner which reduces their environmental impacts, is socially inclusive and economically rewarding.

Various sectors have been identified as being of key importance in the transition to a Green Economy. The basic characteristics which distinguish the Green Economy are a reduction of carbon emissions, the reduction of all forms of pollution, energy and resource efficiency, prevention of biodiversity loss  and the protection of eco-system services.

The United Nations Environment Programme  has repeatedly emphasised that the transition to a Green Economy enables economic growth and investment while increasing environmental quality and social inclusiveness. A Green Economy is one which respects the eco-system and recognises that there are natural limits  which, if exceeded, endanger the earth’s ecological balance. In effect it means that the transition to a Green Economy signifies addressing all of our environmental impacts in all areas of activity. Addressing impacts in one area would still signify progress although this would be of limited benefit.

An agriculture which forms part of the Green Economy is one which works with nature, not against it. It uses water sustainably and does not contaminate it. Green agriculture does not seek to genetically modify any form of life nor to patent it.

Energy efficient buildings, clean and renewable energy together with the sustainable use of land are also basic building blocks of the Green Economy. We cannot speak of the Green Economy whilst simultaneously tolerating  large scale building construction. Having a stock of 72,000 vacant dwellings, (irrespective of the reasons for their being vacant) signifies that as a nation we have not yet understood that the limited size of the Maltese islands ought to lead to a different attitude. The green skills of politicians and their political appointees on MEPA is what’s lacking in this regard.

Maritime issues are of paramount economic importance to Malta’s economy. The depleted fish stock and the quality of sea water are obvious issues. But the impacts of organised crime through the dumping of toxic, hazardous and nuclear waste in the Mediterranean Sea is not to be underestimated as has been evidenced time and again in the exploits of the eco-mafia reign to our north.

Heavy industry is fortunately absent in Malta. New industries like the pharmaceutical industry are more eco-conscious. However we still require more inputs on resource efficiency and eco-design.

Greening tourism is essential in order to ensure that more of tourism’s environmental impacts are addressed.  The consumption of tourism is 50% more per capita than that registered for a resident, indicating that there is room for considerable improvements.

Public transport is still in shambles. The effects of this state of affairs is evident in the ever increasing number of passenger cars on our roads which have a major impact on air and noise pollution in our communities. Greening transport policies signifies that the mobility of all is ensured with the least possible impacts.  Still a long way to go.

Waste management has made substantial improvement over the years even though it is still way  behind EU targets. It is positive that the draft waste management strategy has established the attaining of a Zero Waste target by 2050. However we still await the specifics of how this is to be achieved. It is achievable but the commitment of all is essential.

Our water resources have been mismanaged, year in, year our. Discharging millions of litres of treated sewage effluent into the sea is just the cherry on the cake. The contaminated and depleted water table which still contributes around 40% to Malta’s potable water supply is in danger of being  completely lost for future generations if we do not act fast.

All the above have been dealt with in various policy documents. One such document is the National Sustainable Development Strategy which establishes the parameters for the action required. Implementing the National Sustainable Development Strategy is the obvious first step in establishing a Green Economy.  It is here where the real green skill gap exists. Decision makers lack green skills. This skill gap exists at the level of Cabinet, Parliament, the top echelons of the civil service and in the ranks of the political appointees to Boards and Authorities where decisions are taken and strategies implemented.

When this skill gap is addressed, the rest will follow and we will be on the way to establishing  a green economy.

published in The Times of Malta, Saturday 14 December 2013

Santiago and maritime affairs

Aerial View_Grand Harbour

Ernest Hemingway’s Santiago in “The Old Man and the Sea” was unlucky. It took him 85 days to catch his big fish. But when he did, being on his own out at sea without any help, he had to tow it back to port, only to discover then that the sharks had reduced his catch to a mere skeleton.  It is the same with maritime policy. We need to coordinate with our Mediterranean neighbours to have meaningful and lasting results. On our own we can achieve very little.

A national integrated maritime strategy is an essential policy tool. Yet, as was pointed out by Parliamentary Secretary Edward Zammit Lewis, it is still unavailable. On May 19, European Maritime Day,  it was emphasised by Zammit Lewis that such a strategy would identify Malta’s maritime policy priorities required to support the Blue Economy.

The economic opportunities presented by the sea which surrounds Malta are substantial. We do however have to make use of such opportunities carefully, knowing that various impacts may result. Through the sea surrounding us we are subject to impacts as a result of the actions of others. Similarly Malta’s maritime activities necessarily will impact other countries, for better or for worse.

The excellent quality of seawater around the Maltese islands resulting from Malta’s recent adherence to the Urban Wastewater Directive of the EU is one positive contribution to a better Mediterranean Sea even though the sewage treatment system is badly designed as it ignores the resource value of the discharged treated water.

Through Arvid Pardo in the 1960s Malta made a lasting contribution to global maritime thought by emphasising that the seabed forms part of the common heritage of mankind.

The sea and its resources have always had a central importance in Malta’s development. Tourism, fisheries and water management easily come to mind. Maritime trade and services as well as the sustainable utilisation of resources on the seabed are also essential for this island state.

Whilst a national maritime strategy will inevitably seek the further utilisation of the coastline and its contiguous areas it is hoped that environmental responsibilities will be adequately addressed in the proposals considered.

A national integrated maritime policy, though essential, cannot however be effective if it  does not take into consideration the activities of our neighbours: both their maritime  as well as their coastal activities.

This is an issue which is given considerable importance within the European Union which seeks to assist member states in coordinating their maritime policies for the specific reason that the impacts of such policies are by their very nature transboundary.  In fact one of the EU Commissioners, Maria Damanaki,  is tasked with Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.  Her work is underpinned by the Marine Strategy Framework Directive which seeks to protect the sea in order that it could be utilised sustainably thereby contributing to attaining the objectives of EU2020, the ten year growth strategy of the European Union.

Within its maritime competencies the EU has also developed effective instruments of transboundary cooperation foremost amongst which are the Baltic Strategy and the Danube Strategy.  These macro-strategies of the European Union, as their name implies, focus on the Baltic Sea and the river Danube respectively. They bring together the European regions bordering the Baltic Sea and the Danube to cooperate in various policy areas such that the resulting coordination addresses challenges which no single country can address on its own.

Such strategies also serve as an instrument of cooperation with non-EU countries. Through the Baltic Strategy it is cooperation with Russia, Iceland and Norway whilst through the Danube Strategy eight EU member states cooperate with six European non-EU member states.  The EU has also more recently launched an Atlantic Ocean Strategy.

A national maritime strategy will  seek to identify those areas which can absorb strategic investments in order to develop the blue economy.  An important point worth emphasising is that a sustainable development of the blue economy will ensure that no negative impacts are borne by our communities residing along and adjacent to the coastal areas. Unfortunately not enough attention has been paid to this aspect in the past. Such negative impacts can be avoided not only through careful planning but also through proper consultation with both civil society as well as directly with residents.

Impacts which have to be avoided include air and sea pollution. In addition potential noise and light pollution need careful attention in particular if the operating times of the newly identified activities span into the silent hours.

Malta’s Maritime strategy needs a double focus: a national and a regional one.  Both are essential elements neither of which can be ignored. It is in Malta’s interest to take part in initiatives addressing transboundary impacts and simultaneously to integrate these initiatives within a national maritime policy strategy. Otherwise we will face Santiago’s fate. The result of our good work will be taken up by the sharks!

Originally published in The Times of Malta, Saturday June 8, 2013