EESC Employers’ Group calls for a European growth strategy

The grim reality of recession will demand a tribute in terms of jobs lost, it will also hamstring our capacity for innovation, and waste the potential for creativity of the coming generations, said participants of the conference on "The role of European investments for companies and employment in the future financial perspectives" held yesterday in the European Economic and Social Committee. The challenges that lie ahead can only be beaten through a strategy jointly agreed at EU level, they concluded.


European employers, convening for a meeting organised jointly by UEAPME, or the European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, EUROCHAMBRES and BUSINESSEUROPE, call for the 2020 strategy to be implemented rapidly, drawing on the EU budget, financial engineering and private capital as well as national resources.

"This is the only strategy which will enable us to do more while spending less", said Henri Malosse, President of the EESC Employers' Group. The conference identified priority areas where policy action should be focused.

The education sector must be tackled first, reinforcing mobility programmes, encouraging the creation of European university poles of excellence, and developing skills and qualifications for tomorrow's jobs.

Secondly, the challenging task of reindustrialising Europe can begin through opening up support for innovation across the EU, polling our research efforts, developing European clusters in key sectors to bring together research centres, universities and large and small businesses in European Silicon Valleys.

By providing active support for the EU's 20 million SMEs and for entrepreneurship in general, economic growth can be restored and a healthy employment outlook for young people created. Fewer than 10% of those 20 million businesses currently exploit the potential of the European market. "With an extra 10%, pointed out Henri Malosse, the growth rate of the entire EU would go up 1%".

"European entrepreneurs do not want to hear yet more messages of doom, gloom and austerity from Brussels; they want messages of confidence, recovery and hope", said Mr Malosse.

The Employers' Group is one of the three groups of the Europea Economic and Social Committee (EESC), a consultative body of the European Union. The EESC enables representatives of business organisations, trade unions, professional associations and civic groups to contribute to the framing of EU policies and decisions."

Member states lose money on incorrect import VAT

 European Court of Auditors reports says that incorrect levels of VAT are paid on goods imported into the EU. The European Court of Auditors (ECA) said that member states are failing to ensure that the correct level of value-added tax (VAT) is being paid on goods imported into the EU and transported across borders inside the Union. A special report released by the ECA on 13 December has looked into a customs procedure – number 42 – that is used to provide importers an exemption from VAT on goods that are being sold in another EU member state.

The report says that controls in member states on ensuring that VAT was paid were deficient and that member states did not ensure that the conditions for exemption were being met.

The ECA carried out an audit in seven member states where goods were being imported and asked 21 member states that were the destination of goods to make sample checks of whether VAT was being paid.

Significant losses

The report says that the incorrect application of the procedure has led to "significant losses to national budgets". It says that the losses, extrapolated from the samples, was €2.2 billion in 2009. This represents 29% of all the VAT payable in imports made under the customs procedure in 2009, the ECA says. 

The report says that member states have made some improvements to their controls but that more work is needed. It said that information about transactions using the procedure was not always given to tax authorities in the destination member states.

The ECA recommends include making importers liable for VAT losses in cases where the VAT statement is not submitted, creating a common risk profile for imports using procedure 42, and changing legislation to improve the exchange of information with authorities in the destination member state.



EU Consultation on Plastic Bags: Results are out

 Response statistics for Consultation on options to reduce plastic carrier bags and options to improve the biodegradability requirements in the Packaging Directive and the visibility of biodegradable packaging products to consumers. Statistics are based on 15538 responses.



The respondent



a citizen


a public authority


an industry association




a university






Is it necessary, in your opinion, to adopt measures at EU level to reduce the use of carrier plastic bags?



Strongly agree






Strongly disagree


No opinion




Do you agree that the establishment of waste prevention targets for plastic carrier bags provide for a significant reduction of plastic carrier bags?



Strongly agree






Strongly disagree


No opinion




At which level should the waste prevention targets for plastic carrier bags be established?



EU level


National level


No opinion




Do you agree that an EU ban on plastic carrier bags is needed?



Strongly agree






Strongly disagree


No opinion




In your view, can pricing measures effectively reduce the use of plastic carrier bags?



Strongly agree






Strongly disagree


No opinion




In your view, at which level should pricing measures on the use of plastic carrier bags be best defined?



EU level


National level


No opinion




Measures to reduce the use of plastic carrier bags should make a distinction between:



Biodegradable/non-biodegradable plastic carrier bags


Single use/re-usable plastic carrier bags


No distinction is necessary


No opinion




In your view, are the current requirements on compostability and biodegradability in the Packaging Directive appropriate?





Partially appropriate




No opinion




Do you believe it should be clearly established that only those materials that biodegrade in natural conditions (i.e. on soil, in freshwater and/or in the sea) are to be called biodegradable?



Strongly agree






Strongly disagree


No opinion




Do you agree that a mandatory EU labelling or marking system should be introduced to increase the visibility of biodegradable packaging products to consumers?



Strongly agree






Strongly disagree


No opinion




What should a mandatory EU labelling or marking system indicate?



Biodegradable packaging products


Non-biodegradable packaging products


No opinion



VAT 2010 – 2015

LN 132 and 133 published on 24 April 2009 announced the amendments to the VAT Act (Chapter 406 of the Laws of Malta) which will come into force on 1 January 2010, 1 January 2011, 1 January 2013 and 1 January 2015. These changes implement the EU "VAT Package" adopted in February 2008 which announced changes to the place of supply of services rules, additional compliance requirements and revised procedures for recovering VAT incurred in Member States other than a business's home state. The proposed changes to the ‘place of supply' rules are relevant in the context of cross-border provision of services, and their primary scope is to ensure a level playing field for businesses which supply services within the EU.

General Rule: Distinction between B2B and B2C supplies

The new general rule shifts the place of supply of business-to-business ("B2B") services from the country of establishment of the supplier to the country of establishment of the customer, requiring the customer to self-account for VAT in his country of establishment (reverse charge). The current basic place of supply rule will remain the same for business-to-customer ("B2C") supplies of services, which services will be taxable in the country where the supplier is located.

Exceptions for specific services

Exceptions to the general rules will continue to apply to certain categories of services, such as services connected with immovable property and educational, sporting and cultural services. Certain services, such as services consisting of work on movable property, will remain taxable where physically carried out when provided B2C (exception to the general rule), but will be taxable where the customer is established in the case of B2B services. The new rules also clarify the VAT treatment of restaurant and catering services, another exception to the general rules.

Telecommunications, broadcasting and electronically supplied services

With effect from 2015, the place of supply of these services B2C will, in all cases, be the country of establishment of the customer. B2C suppliers of such services would be required to charge VAT in the country of establishment of the customer, however suppliers may opt to have only one EU VAT registration and to report the VAT due in each Member State through that single registration ("One-stop-shop" arrangement).

New reporting obligations

With effect from 1 January 2010, new registration and reporting requirements will be introduced for businesses supplying and receiving services in a cross-border context. The new reporting obligations complement the revised exchange of information arrangements between the EC Member States which will allow the Member States to monitor the cross-border provision of services.

Refund of Malta VAT paid by businesses established in another EU Member State – New Procedure

Legal Notice 357 of 2009 published on 15 December 2009 announced the changes to the application procedure for refunds of Malta VAT paid by businesses established in other EU Member States, effective 1 January 2010. The application for a refund is to be submitted in electronic format to the VAT authorities of the applicant's Member State of establishment, through the electronic portal set up by that Member State. This new procedure applies to refund applications submitted after 31 December 2009. Eligibility of the applicant for a refund of Malta VAT will depend on the said applicant's eligibility in terms of the rules in force in the Member State of establishment. Furthermore, restrictions to the recovery of VAT on certain purchases in terms of the rules in the Malta VAT Act for blocked inputs (including entertainment, alcohol and motor vehicles) continue to apply.

EU VAT Refund Claim

Persons registered under article 10 who are eligible for a refund of VAT paid in another EU Member State may submit an application for a refund through the Malta VAT Department's electronic portal.

Change to the Tax Point rules

Legal Notice 71 of 2010 announced the amendments to the VAT ‘Tax Point' rules in the Fourth Schedule to the Malta VAT Act. The changes impact supplies of goods or services which are made on an ongoing basis over a period of time (continuous supplies) and essentially provide that if no statement of account is raised or payment made, the goods/services shall be considered to be supplied at intervals of one year. In the case of continuous supplies of services from suppliers outside Malta to a business customer in Malta (where the customer must reverse charge Malta VAT), unless the tax point is otherwise triggered, the services shall be regarded as being completed on the expiry of each calendar year until the supply of such services comes to an end.

Information from Deloitte.

Charlotte Gregory – Gregory & Murray Co Ltd

 Why did you become an entrepreneur? Entrepreneurship is something that I have been raised in and therefore for me I believe it is a way of life.  I believe that entrepreneurship is a vehicle that a person can use to achieve their dreams and goals and whilst most times it is very hard work it is also very rewarding.

How have you come to chose your line of business?

After working in the family business for a number of years I decided to branch out on my own and whilst part of our company is still in the same market sector, that of automotive parts, we have been innovative in our approach to the sector in a different way, our company offers a one stop shop for automotive glass. The other sector of the company is very very different. We work in the Occupational Health and Safety sector, we are importers and distributors of Personal Protective Equipment, Barrie systems etc. The reason that I chose this line was because after having researched the market in 2004 I realized the lack of awareness, this is when I started my studies which eventually lead me to wanting to work within this sector.

Where did you go on your last holiday?

In Belgium, although this holiday was not a typical one as I attended the Junior Chamber International World Congress, which is a week packed with meetings, general assemblies, trainings and parties, meeting new people from all around the world is something that I enjoy. As for the last relaxing holiday was in Valencia -Spain

What is your earliest memory?

This is a tough one! My earliest memory would be running around with my parents in the kitchen playing.

If you could chose to be someone famous who would you be?

I think that it would have to be Richard Branson from Virgin as his story is something that moves me, I admire his tenacity and the fact that he believes in people without putting them into boxes. Also his concept of social enterprise is something that I aspire to be able to implement in our company and hopefully within our community

Good news: Crisis fails to dent German optimism

 Germany is providing Christmas tinsel for the struggling eurozone economy. Never mind the region's escalating debt crisis and global fears about the stability of Europe's monetary union. German business confidence has improved for a second consecutive month – and consumers remain surprisingly cheery.An unexpected rise in the Munich-based Ifo institute's business climate index for December indicated the eurozone crisis was leaving Europe's largest economy relatively unscathed.

 Sharp rises in optimism in retailing and construction reflect falls in German unemployment to lows not seen for 20 years, encouraging hopes that the downturn will be shortlived. Separately, the Nuremberg-based GfK research group reported that German consumers' economic expectations also brightened this month.

The latest Ifo rise was "like a winter fairy tale", said Andreas Scheuerle, economist at Deka bank. "It's the story of a large economy at the heart of Europe that keeps getting better, unaffected by the debt crisis and its neighbours' problems.

Earlier this week the Bundesbank predicted a return to solid growth "in the course of next year", supported by the ECB's expansionary monetary policy and stronger world growth. It expects the economy to expand by 1.8 per cent in 2013, after 0.6 per cent next year and 3 per cent this year.

The Ifo business climate index rose from 106.6 in November to 107.2 in December – the highest since September – as companies revised upwards their expectations for the next six months. "The German economy seems to be successfully countering the downturn in western Europe. This bodes well for Christmas," said Hans-Werner Sinn, Ifo president.

"For 2012, we're optimistic," said Stefan Klebert, chief executive of Schuler, a German company making metal-forming machines for the auto industry which earlier this month received a treble-digit million euro order from BMW, the largest in its more than 170-year history. "The situation in the real economy remains good but of course we are carefully watching current forecasts and early economic indicators," he said. "New orders are brisk and the record order backlog from our 2010-11 business year provides an additional solid cushion".

Hansgrohe, the bathroom equipment maker based in Schiltach in the Black Forest, said sales growth had cooled slightly over the summer – but then picked up again in the last two months. "Bathroom fittings are essentially investment goods – many consumers prefer to put their money into bricks and mortar at the moment and we're profiting from that," said Mr Grohe.

The sanguine mood among business leaders is affecting German consumers. The HDE retailers' association expects a last minute surge in business before Christmas, and has "high expectations" about business in the days between Christmas and New Year. Online Christmas sales were expected to grow particularly fast – the HDE forecast a 10 per cent increase compared with 2010.

German consumers were "defying the rising fears of recession and the most recent escalation of the debt crisis" to focus on the "still extremely favourable" conditions in Germany, GfK said. "With most German companies operating at above-average capacity, the labour market is very robust," it noted. Its overall "consumer climate" index was expected to remain steady in January. Consumers may thus play "the vital role of ensuring that Germany avoids going into recession".

"This is good news for Malta. Germany is very important for us and this is the direction we need to follow. A country that manages well its internal balances and avoids deficits at all costs, invests regularly and substantially in capital infrastructural projects and in support of innovation and restructuring of SMEs through the provision of regular and well funded financial assistance in the form of development guaranteed loans and easy access to finance for innovation, restructuring and research and development, and a country that regularly drives for surpluses on its international balances.

Malta has a good story to tell. I find myself comfortable in Brussels and in other European capitals where I am invited to speak as Maltese employers' representative and as an economist on what we, a small EU Member with very limited resources, are doing to survive and continue to expand and grow and create jobs in highly difficult times and surrounded by other southern European countries all in difficulties. I believe we should continue to remain positive and optimistic. The worst thing our entrepreneurs  can do in 2012 is to lose faith and fall for the cheap talk of many in our media who seem to take fun in denigrating the great efforts of all of us in enterprise to keep our beloved small country moving forward in spite of all the odds.

Our size helps us to cleverly find the market niches whether in finance, in transhipment, in business support services, in exports or in tourism that should keep us going. That is why all GRTU's initiatives, and when on platforms with Government authorities, are specifically geared for special support on access to finance and specific external market support and support for restructuring and innovation. The economic prospects for a number of countries around us may be bad but this should not keep us from looking at the trends in the most successful countries and to venture out and seek our opportunities. And the opportunities are there. Provided our frame of mind and institutional and financial back-up is right." Commented Vince Farrugia GRTU Director General and Member of the Employers Bureau at EESC.

GRTU joins KSU in their request for a SMGB Smart Card database

 GRTU has on numerous occasions voiced its concerns and objections on how the scheme is currently being administered. The GRTU would like to remind that it is the retailers who are paying for the current smart card system through the 2% overhead charged on every Smart Card transaction. We firmly believe that at a charge of 2% of the total sale, the scheme should have ample funds to be able to offer a sterling service.

GRTU has always been in favour of having an official database of products that are eligible to be paid with smart card. A list would provide both the students and the retailers with further clarity and avoid misuse. The retailer requires clear information also in order to be able to guide his employees as currently the owner has to trust the judgment of his sales persons and risk errors which could prove costly. We need a clear list, we cannot rely on judgement. It is not always clear whether an item can be classified as educational or not. We feel that compiling a database and adding products to the list as the need arises is not an impossible task.

GRTU is also in favour of changes to the composition of the SMGB board which should include representatives of the retail trade, students and Government officials. Presently the board is composed solely of Government officials. This board not only administers the SMGB system but is also Judge and Jury in cases where inappropriate use of Smart Cards is suspected. The GRTU feels that Government officials might not possess the sufficient technical knowledge some goods might require, which we see as essential in order to be able to make a fair judgement.

In addition to this, having a Government administered scheme run on a transaction cost which is a percentage and not a flat rate charge is no longer acceptable. The transaction cost does not go up and down according to the product price. The transaction cost is a flat rate cost. While the EU is fighting banks on this issue Government is still enacting the same system itself.

GRTU therefore calls for the 2% charge to be converted to a flat fee based on a per transaction system. It does not take longer or cost more for the Smart Card system to process a transaction of €400 instead of one of €10. On a €400 transaction, a retailer pays a staggering €8. It would be cheaper to deliver the money by hand to the SMGB Board!

GRTU has already written to Hon Dolores Christina in this regard. GRTU is presently awaiting a reply.

First reactions on Christmas shopping

 The GRTU has this week conducted a find out amongst a sample of a variety of businesses that usually have their sale effected by purchases made during the festive season. GRTU is therefore able to provide you with a general comment of how business and Christmas shopping is at present. The businesses selected were from the following sectors: beverage distributors, household goods, confectionaries, footwear and clothing, hair and beauty salons, restaurants, jewelers and supermarkets.

The majority of those surveyed said that Christmas shopping caught up mostly after the feast of the 13th and that the level of sales where similar to that of last year with very few saying the sales have increased and slightly more, even though still few, saying sales declined compared to last year. The businesses that saw their sales rise this year said they worked very hard with promotions and offers to boost their chances of succeeding this festive season.

The majority also said that this outcome was expected since Malta is not immune to the effects of the crises. A few did however expect better as they thought the worse of the crises was over and that consumer confidence would be reinstated, however recent negativism once again dwindled consumer confidence, and people are once again cautious to spend. This might have delayed Christmas shopping a little but businesses are confident they will see a boost in Christmas shopping in the coming days.

We saw a difference in the views of the businesses according to the localities in which they operate. The worst views came from shops operated in Valletta. Owners having shops in Valletta, Sliema, Iklin, Hamrun, Melliha, St Julians and other localities say that the sales registered in Valletta were very negative. Sales in Valletta have been declining but this year was an unbelievable record. Owners say that consumers are disincentivised by a number of factors all at once to enter Valletta, namely embellishment works, less and less parking, lack of confidence in public transport, etc…

Saviour Balzan and Maltatoday leap far beyond what is decent and acceptable in journalism

 What Saviour Balzan is trying to inflict using his self assumed power, as owner of a media stable and as a journalist who pretends to be more professional than all others, is going beyond any acceptable limit. It is character assassination of the Director General of GRTU and pure vitriol against GRTU. GRTU has been around for 65 years and has in the past suffered much more than Saviour Balzan and Roger Degiorgio's business venture can ever foment. In spite of what Saviour Balzan invents.

 GRTU is a healthy and well geared national organisation with a National Executive of 18 entrepreneurs from a varied list of enterprise owners, traders, retailers, service providers and other entrepreneurial sectors and an extremely well organised national organisation which is the pride of most of its more than 7000 business owners members.

The hype that Saviour Balzan and Malta Today keep repeating is that GRTU is only a one man affair backed by a triumvirate. This is hilarious and smacks of sheer ignorance, if not more. This hype is believed only by the desolate who has never set foot in the GRTU headquarters. The truth, visible to anyone really well versed and following no hidden agenda,  is that  in Malta no other national organisation representing business is so active on a day to day basis and  handles so many issues at EU, national, localities, sectoral and individual enterprise level, as does GRTU. All visitors to GRTU headquarters know that GRTU is one hub of regular activities on a daily basis. The team working at GRTU behind the Director General is not only professional and well trained but today they manage issues that the likes of Saviour Balzan cannot even start to fathom. The truth is that for people like Saviour Balzan what matters is what appears to their blinkered vision and not what really goes on in the wider world of business. Like the confessor they only hear sinners and live in a world of make believe.   

GRTU under the direction of Vince Farrugia has been transformed over the years from an organisation that simply  pushes forward the complaints of its members and agitates for the authorities to seek solutions, a state in which other organisations unfortunately still reign, to a modern organisation that not only represents and hears the complaints of an ever growing membership spread among all of Malta's micro, small and medium enterprise sectors but succeeds to formulate policies and strategies and recommend solutions to the authorities that best improve the role of micro and small  and medium enterprises and help strengthen the overall performance of the Maltese economy within an EU economic and social framework. Saviour Balzan has a poor idea of GRTU. It is not the same judgement of the EU Commission, of our partners in UEAPME and Normapme and EuroCommerce, all leading Pan European organisation in which GRTU is very active. They consider GRTU as one of the national representative bodies amongst all the EU27 that is most highly well prepared on all issues effecting European SMEs whether from a commercial, fiscal, economic, employment or legislative point of view.

The volume of work and papers and opinions that GRTU produces give credit to a team of professionals at the GRTU head office. GRTU is recognised by all Ministers and Authorities in Malta as well organised and prepared and active with extremely well produced strategies and proposals. GRTU today, through the strong representation of Vince Farrugia as Maltese Employers representative at the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the excellent work done at the EESC by his predecessor, ex-assistant to the Director General, Ms Sylvia Gauci, has a standing with the EU Commission, and with a wide cross section of leading organisations from the EU 27 represented at EESC, unmatched by any other civil society active organisation in Malta. The GRTU NewSTRING that every week succeeds to report only the essential points of what GRTU works on week in week out, shows to all who genuinely care, what GRTU does.

Of course however, for Saviour Balzan and Media Today, all this is not important. All that matters to Saviour Balzan is to keep repeating and exaggerating the conspiracy theory designed by the well paid criminal defence lawyer Dr Manuel Mallia in his defence of Sandro Chetcuti. What Sandro Chetcuti did on 11.03.09 is well documented. The report of the Police and of the Hospital Emergency personnel and other medical and eye witness reports establish clearly why the Attorney General decided to proceed with an attempted murder charge and a charge of grievous bodily harm against Sandro Chetcuti. What Dr Anthony Samuel, Malta's foremost expert on Imagery, produced in Court is objective, electronically registered bone scan evidence which is irrefutable as to the damage caused on Vince Farrugia by the savage attack of Sandro Chetcuti.

When Vince Farrugia's medical consultant, who is also his daughter, stated that a scan is good for the Court case, she said so because a scan is irrefutable, scientific and not opinionated evidence, something on which the court can rely.  She was stating the obvious – a scan shows whether any damage was inflicted, good for the prosecution, or not inflicted, good for the defence. Any consultant would have recommended the same whether the patient was her/his father or not. and in this case it was obviously necessary as contrary to what the defence in court is trying to insinuate and what Saviour Balzan appears to take as fact, Vince Farrugia had never before of 11.03.09 reported or exhibited any pains in the ribs or suffered any accident that could have cause breakages to the ribs as VF himself confirmed under ought in Court. The scan became a necessity after Vince Farrugia was released from Hospital still suffering the same severe pains in his ribs that he felt, as witness by all at GRTU on 11.03.09, immediately after the assault by Sandro Chetcuti. The cause of the pains did not show up on X-ray and any consultant would have given the same advice to any patient in similar circumstances. Any Consultant would also have contacted the Head of the Imagery Department at Mater Dei to see if an early appointment was possible. Anyone of the hospital staff would have sought to send a message, one way or another, if an appointed slot was possible. Whether the message went direct to the patient or indirectly through his son is really irrelevant.

Of Course the Defence in search of a way out of the concrete evidence of all who witness the assault and who heard Sandro Chetcuti scream "noqtlok, noqtlok" – ("I'll kill you, I'll kill you") and, again after he was pulled off Vince Farrugia as he punched and kicked in clear intent to perform what he intended to execute, he screamed, as evidenced in Court "I'll be back with my brother (a night club bouncer) to finish you off". Any serious and well intended journalist would have seen all the evidence and sought to be objective in any comments and not pretend to be gullible enough to accept what the defence of the accused tries to project irrespective of the added harm to the victim of the assault. He is free to swallow the conspiracy theory line, hook and sinker but at least he should have also referred to the other stated sworn evidence by witnesses and scene of crime Police. Saviour Balzan should have also noted what one of the witnesses said in Court. That Sandro Chetcuti told this witness, before he Sandro Chetcuti even went to meet Vince Farrugia at his Office, "Today I'll do him in", referring most clearly to the Director General. That's for intent.

The Defence lawyer has a duty to seek to defend Sandro Chetcuti from an accusation that could land his client many years in prison. It is however strange indeed that Saviour Balzan and Media Today is defending an aggressor with a history of violence on persons (at least one recorded at Rabat and another at the MEPA buildings) and who publicises himself as a land speculator and who is a self-confessed and registered heavy tax evader and who in the not so distant past has been shown by Malta Today itself as a person very scarce on business ethics as a property dealer. All this in a pathetic campaign to denigrate the Director General of GRTU, GRTU as an organisation and to character assassinate not only Vince Farrugia but also Malta's most qualified professional in his field of medical speciality, consultant Dr Anthony Samuel. Anyone at GRTU has the right to ask why Saviour Balzan and Media Today have appointed themselves as super defenders of the accused and are in the field to denigrate the victim of the violent attack even before a Court Judgement is delivered.

The good news today for all of us who hold GRTU in great esteem is that Vince Farrugia is in good health and GRTU members are proud to have him back in full vigour.  The good news also for GRTU is that as a result of  the tremendous work, enthusiasm  and energy that Vince Farrugia places in all that he does for micro, small and medium Maltese enterprises with  the full and constant support of the elected President, Officers and National Executive of GRTU, as well as the work and support of the more than 60 Section and Special Committees active in GRTU, and above all with the professional and hard work of the excellent team employed by GRTU, Malta's National Chamber of SMEs, GRTU, in 2011 had the best year since 1995.