Meeting between MEUSAC Core Group, The Sectoral Committees of MEUSAC and the Maltese Members of the European Parliament
An extraordinary meeting of the Core Group and the Sectoral Committees of the Malta-EU Steering Committee (MEUSAC) with the Maltese MEPs was held on 24th February 2012 at the Grand Hotel Excelsior in Floriana. The meeting was attended by the Secretary General of MUBE Dr. Adrian Borg LL.D. on behalf of MUBE and the Confederation of Malta Trade Unions (CMTU) and Mr. Arthur Rossi as a member of the Core Group of MEUSAC and Vice-President of CMTU.
The meeting opened with a short address by Dr. Vanni Xuereb, Head of MEUSAC – Dr. Xuereb emphasized the fact that the Maltese Government was not the only link between Maltese citizens and the EU – Maltese MEPs also have a highly significant role to play, and it is of paramount importance that MEPs engage with all sectors of Maltese society, through various channels of communication, one of these channels being MEUSAC itself, the office of the European Parliament (EP) in Malta, as well as the various Maltese MEP’s offices in various towns and villages.
The next speaker was Dr.Chris Said LL.D., Minister for Justice, Public Consultation and the Family. The speaker welcomed the participants to the meeting – he stated that the core groups are an excellent instrument of information and consultation on EU affairs. Dr. Said added that over 70 members from various institutions and NGOs constituted the core groups and the 9 sectoral committees – it was important to increase the number of participants and the number of sectoral committees in order to have a wider and more inclusive consultative body.
The participants were then addressed by Mr. Massimo Farrugia, Acting Head of the EP Office in Malta. The speaker explained that the powers of the EP have increased considerably following the introduction of the Lisbon Treaty – the speaker continued by focusing on the importance of lobby groups that work constantly in order to influence EU legislation on various topics.
After these introductory addresses, the first MEP to give a presentation on his work at the EP was MEP Mr. Joseph Cuschieri, who only recently took his post at the EP following his election as the sixth Maltese MEP in 2009 following the Lisbon Treaty amendments. The new MEP stated that he immediately started working in the Tourism Committee, a subject close to his heart as for 5 years he was the Opposition spokesperson on tourism in the Maltese Parliament.
The second MEP to take to the podium was MEP Profs. Edward Scicluna – who stated that he was mostly active in the Economic and Monetary affairs Committee as a member and the Environment Committee as a substitute. It is important that an MEP should specialize in a particular subject as it is impossible to be a ‘jack of all trades’ in the EU; furthermore, it was also commendable that an MEP acts as a rapporteur as an MEP would have more clout to influence policy decisions if he/she works on a report himself, adding that he was actively involved in the preparation of 7 reports and was a shadow rapporteur on another 8 reports.
MEP Dr. Simon Busuttil LL.D stared that the main problems in the EU were the economic crisis, the direction that the EU is going to take in the future, the Arab Spring and its effects on the EU – most discussions throughout 2011 focused on the above-mentioned subjects. As regards participation in Committees, Dr. Busuttil is a full-time member in the Justice and Home Affairs and Civil liberties Committee and acts as a substitute in the Internal Market and Consumer Affairs Committee as well as the Petitions Committee. The speaker explained that there are over 20 such Committees in the EP.
Dr. Busuttil added that the JHA and CL Committee was composed of 60 members, of these the PPE (popular parties group) has 23 members and he heads these 23 MEPs as a coordinator, ensuring that the PPE group has a common position on the subject under discussion. A number of achievements were made through Dr. Busuttil’s involvement in this Committee, for example, one of these achievements was the removal of visas for Maltese citizens travelling to the United States – Dr Busuttil is currently working on the removal of visas for Maltese citizens travelling to Brasil.
MEP Louis Grech started his presentation by stating that the EU was at a cross-roads – it has to decide whether Members States want further political and economic integration or whether they are to opt for greater fragmentation and inter-governmental decision-making. Mr. Grech stated that the main components of the EU were the Eurozone and the internal market – Mr.Grech was a full-time member on the Internal Market Committee.
Mr.Grech added that he had made a proposal to introduce a Single Market Act – the most important point of this Act is that EU citizens should be better informed about the internal market – as a result, following a survey conducted by the EU Commission, the EU citizens voiced their concerns and a list of the ‘Top 20’ problems that EU citizens found in the Internal Market was made. Mr.Grech closed his presentation by urging the participants to give their feedback on the topics being discussed in the EU.
Following these presentations, the participants were divided into Working Groups that discussed various topics such as Immigration and Justice, the Internal Market, Employment and Social Affairs, Economic and Monetary Affairs and Tourism.