Giving businesses a ‘second chance’

Businesses hit by the economic crisis
will be thrown a lifeline under a new proposal from the European Commission
today to modernise Europe's rules on cross-border business insolvency, helping
to give otherwise viable businesses a ‘second chance'. The Commission is
proposing to modernise the current rules on cross border insolvency which date
from 2000.

Benefitting from ten years of experience, the new rules will shift
focus away from liquidation and develop a new approach to helping businesses
overcome financial difficulties, all the while protecting creditors' right to
get their money back. The new rules will increase the
efficiency and effectiveness of cross-border insolvency proceedings, affecting
an estimated 50 000 companies across the EU every year. This is a first step
towards an EU "rescue and recovery" culture to help companies and
individuals in financial difficulties; this is explored further in a policy
communication adopted in parallel today which identifies those areas of national
insolvency law which have the greatest potential to create an
"unfriendly" business environment and to hamper the development of an
efficient insolvency framework in the internal market.

Insolvencies are a fact of life in a
dynamic, modern economy. Around half of enterprises survive less than five
years, and around 200 000 firms go bankrupt in the EU each year. This means
that some 600 companies in Europe go bust
every day. A quarter of these bankruptcies have a cross-border element. But
evidence suggests that failed entrepreneurs learn from their mistakes and are
generally more successful the second time around. Up to 18% of all
entrepreneurs who go on to be successful have failed in their first venture. It
is therefore essential to have modern laws and efficient procedures in place to
help businesses, which have sufficient economic substance, overcome financial
difficulties and to get a "second chance".

The revision of the EU Insolvency
Regulation seeks to modernise the existing rules so that they support
restructuring of business in difficulties and create a business-friendly
environment, especially in times of financial difficulties. It will bring the
Regulation, which dates from 2000 up to date with developments in national
insolvency laws, in particular in terms of highly indebted firms. Creditors'
interests can also be served by a restructuring, as it can mean that they are
more likely to get back their money that might otherwise be lost in a

It will also increase legal
certainty, by providing clear rules to determine jurisdiction, and ensuring
that when a debtor is faced with insolvency proceedings in several Member
States, the courts handling the different proceedings work closely with one
another. Information to creditors will be improved by obliging Member States to
publish key decisions – about the opening of insolvency proceedings, for
example. All in all, these changes will improve the efficiency and
effectiveness of cross-border insolvency proceedings.

This proposal is also intended as a
first step towards an EU "rescue and recovery" culture in cases of
companies and individuals in financial difficulties more generally. The
challenge is to address the debtor's financial difficulties while protecting
the creditor's interests. In the future, there could be separate rules for
honest entrepreneurs and for cases where the bankruptcy was fraudulent or
irresponsible. In the case of honest bankruptcies, a shortened discharge period
in relation to debts and the legal restrictions stemming from bankruptcy would
make sure entrepreneurship does not end up as a "life-sentence"
should a business go bust.

The proposal for a regulation will
now pass to European Parliament and to the Council of the EU for negotiation
and adoption.


Cigarette Health Warning on Packages to Grow

European Union regulators proposed
stricter health warnings on cigarettes in the latest bid to curb smoking in Europe, where tobacco-related illnesses are estimated to
kill one person every minute. The European Commission drafted legislation to
require that all cigarette packages feature a combined pictorial and text alert
covering three-quarters of the front and back. Under current EU rules,
anti-smoking images on packages are optional while text warnings are mandatory.

The commission also proposed to ban the
sale of cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco and smokeless tobacco with
characterizing flavors. In addition, nicotine-containing products like
electronic cigarettes would be curbed under the proposal, which needs the
support of EU governments and the European Parliament to become law.

"Tobacco kills half of its users and is
highly addictive," EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg said in a statement today
in Brussels.
"This proposal ensures that attractive packaging and flavorings are not used as
a marketing strategy."

Cancers as well as cardiovascular and
respiratory diseases are linked to tobacco use. Saying that 70 percent of
smokers start before the age of 18, the commission described the goal of the
draft legislation as to make tobacco goods less attractive to young people.
Under the new proposal, which would revise a 2001 EU law, cigarette packages
would also have to include an information message on the side that tobacco
smoke contains more than 70 cancer-causing substances. A current EU ban on oral
tobacco, along with an exemption for Sweden, would remain.

Commission to launch Green Paper on unfair trading practices

During this period, the Commission
will launch a Green Paper (framing questions and calling for policy or
legislative options) and carry out an impact assessment involving 5 Commission
DGs. Also DG COMP has announced a major study to collect evidence on the impact
of recent retail developments on consumer choice and innovation while DG MARKT
is launching its study on national legal systems covering B2B relations.


This would enable the Commission to
issue a legislative proposal before the end of 2013, on the basis that they
succeed in gathering sufficient evidence. On the other hand, a swift
implementation of the framework and uptake by a critical mass of retailers in
the first half of 2013 will enable the Commission to take the self-regulatory
initiative as part of its impact assessment, and increase the chances of
avoiding or influencing the content of the legislation, at least under this

Progress on bilateral trade with Peru, Columbia, Central America and Singapore

European Parliament gave its consent to the Free Trade Agreement with Peru and Colombia
and to the Association Agreement with six Central American countries (Costa Rica, El
Salvador, Guatemala,
Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama) on 11 December. European
companies will benefit from lower import tariffs, reduced non-tariff measures
and a better access to the services and public procurement markets.

agreement with Colombia and Peru should be provisionally applied in the
first trimester 2013, the Central America
agreement is expected to be followed in the course of the second quarter 2013.
Both agreements still have to be ratified by all member states to be fully


European Commission and Singapore
completed the negotiations on an FTA on 16 December. The trade deal will remove
non-tariff barriers and provide better market access. Both the EU and Singapore will
now seek approval for the agreement from their respective political authorities
and envisage initialing the draft agreement in spring 2013.

Gearing up for SEPA – The Single Euro Payments Area

As from 1 February 2014, all credit
transfer or direct debit payments in euro made within or between any of the 27
EU Members States, Iceland, Liechtenstein,
Norway, Switzerland and Monaco must be SEPA compliant. What
does this mean for Maltese businesses in practical terms?

In a nutshell, with effect from 1
February 2014:

  • The SEPA requirements will not
    only apply to cross-border payments, but will apply equally to payments where
    both the payer and the beneficiary are in Malta – including, therefore, all
    "direct credit" arrangements to pay monthly salaries, etc., as well as all
    direct debit arrangements between service providers and their clients to settle
    telephone bills etc.
  • All credit transfers must


(i) The beneficiary's International
Bank Account Number (IBAN). Therefore payers must take steps to convert all
beneficiary account numbers to IBAN format. Local banks are temporarily
offering free conversion services to their customers to facilitate this
process, so contact your bank to avail yourself of this service.

The Business Identifier Code (BIC) of the beneficiary's bank. So payers
need to obtain this information from their creditors if they do not already
have it.

In view of these requirements, all
businesses should make it a point to quote their own IBAN and their bank's BIC
on all their invoices, so that this information is readily available to their
own debtors when the latter need to effect settlement of those invoices.

  • All direct debits must likewise specify the payer's
    IBAN and the BIC of the payer's bank.
  • Where a business transmits "batched payments"
    to its bank (i.e. payment instructions covering individual credit transfers or
    individual direct debits which are not to be executed individually, but are
    bundled together for transmission), electronic file formats for such payments
    will change. New file formats based on ISO 20022 XML standards will be
    mandatory (except for microenterprises*). This will involve updating of the
    business's accounting, payroll and payment systems to incorporate the IBAN and
    BIC, and to generate / read XML file formats.



All this calls for close liaison
between management, the Accounts and I.T. Departments, and external I.T.
providers, and will require time and resources to implement. Provision must
also be made for testing, and to give appropriate training to staff.

The clock is now rapidly ticking
towards 1 February 2014, so there is no longer time to waste. Time is of the
essence to ensure a smooth transition to SEPA. So GET READY for SEPA….ACT NOW!

* A microenterprise is one which
employs fewer than 10 persons and whose annual turnover and/or annual balance
sheet does not exceed € 2 million.

Localities geared to celebrate in their own distinctive way

GRTU Survey with Local Councils – Full report – As previously mentioned in GRTU's
Newstring, we have conducted a survey to determine the different trends within
each locality in the way they prepare for the festive season. The following is a full report of the
results gathered:

93% of the localities in Malta and Gozo
decorate the main streets or squares of their locality. Most of the Council's
finance these activities 100% and they engage contractors to decorate.

A large number of localities plan
activities for the children and elderly residents, which range from outings to
parties. Some localities are however developing a growing interest in the
festive season and are putting in a great deal of effort and through in
preparing that special thing that makes them different from other localities,
that appeals to their residents and others outside and makes it that bit more

Local Council

Organization of an open market and have
invited ABBA GOLD from the UK
to perform in the locality.

Local Council

Each year they perform plays and read
poetry with direct reference to Qala traditions.

Poala Local Council

They have yet again created a festive
activity called ‘Milied f'casal'. One this night the main square is closed off
to traffic and food stalls are placed around the square.

Mellieha Local Council

They have prepared for their annual 4
day event known as ‘Milied Melliehi'.

Qormi Local Council

Christmas concert and their local
marching bands perform in the streets

Rabat (Gozo)
Local Council

Concert is in the main square where
local artists perform such as Winter Moods, Ira Losco and so on.

Gzira Local Council

A Christmas Village
and a live crib

Floriana Local Council

Will yet again hold a New Years
Eve  event at the Fosos in collaboration with Valletta Local Council.

These are just a few of the
localities questioned. It was also determined that 39% of the Local Councils
have increased their initiative to further develop festive activities, however
some have also stated that it has become difficult to engage and find support
within the business community. Most of these localities have also mentioned
that there is an increasing number of residents that have volunteered to help
with these activities.

Signing of an agreement between GRTU and Atlas Group

GRTU and Atlas Insurance PPC Ltd have
together entered into a corporate agreement were GRTU members will benefit from
various initiatives that will be introduced with the primary aim of assisting
the members with all their insurance needs. This agreement was signed by
President Paul Abela on behalf of GRTU and Managing Director Michael Gatt on
behalf of Atlas Insurance PPC Ltd.

Previously to this signing a Health
and Safety seminar was also held by GRTU with the support of Atlas, which was
followed with positive feedback. It was stated during the meeting that
this  agreement is just the beginning of
a fruitful collaboration between our two parties.

GRTU always aims to provide
additional services to its members and act as a one stop shop for business

Enjoy this Christmas

GRTU warmly extends the best of
greetings to all GRTU members. This has been another successful year for GRTU
and our social enterprise initiative, Green
MT. The management structure of
GRTU continued to improve with more of GRTU executives specializing on specific
areas of importance for our members.
Our EU & International Support
Services ably managed by Abigail Mamo this year have once again continued to
improve. We continue to publish a highly effective and informative newsletter every
Friday evening: GRTU Newstring. The Newstring is by far Malta's best EU and Business information
electronic publication in Malta.

 More than 25,000 readers now regularly view the GRTU Newstring. The EU Desk has
now become specialist on all EU Communications, Green Papers and Proposals.
This background analysis serves also to support the work of GRTU's Director
General as Maltese Employers' Representative at the European Economic and
Social Committee (EESC) where he succeeds to raise and comment upon a vast
number of issues. Their work is also reflected and supportive to GRTU President
Paul Abela as member of the European Social Fund (ESF), Vice President Michael
Galea as member of the UEAPME Social Dialogue Project and other GRTU
representation at UEAPME, EuroCommerce and during the increasing number of
conferences held in Brussels
and other European Capitals.

The work of the EU & International
Desk is also reflected in the growing number of direct services to individual
members and section committees seeking services or having interest in doing
business with foreign countries, funding and incentive schemes amongst others
and in the number of opinions and papers GRTU now presents to practically all
Ministries and Authorities in Malta.
This Desk also is the main producer of official documents on all major GRTU
events, conferences and proposal for Budget and other schemes of consultation.
This year GRTU was more active at EU level than ever before and our standing as
Maltese Employers Representative of EESC and at ESF as well as our active
pressure at Euro Commerce and at UEAPME has given GRTU a positive reputation
with all EU institutions at EU level in general.

The Localities Support Services is
another growing important part of GRTU management. GRTU through Carmen Borg's
unit now handles all major issues at locality level faced by our growing
membership in each locality. The issues handled react out from traffic
management, special locality events, and municipality support service and
issues of individual concern to businesses in the community. Many members here
benefit from individual support for their business and guidance on specific

The Environment Compliance Services have
constituted a great innovation within GRTU over these last years. Through the
formidable Green MT team, GRTU now handles the environment
and recycling compliance issues of thousands of enterprises. Under the capable
leadership of the Green MT CEO Joe Attard, the Green MT and GRTU team today are
the main voice of the enterprise on all issues related to the EU Waste
Management Framework.

The general Membership Support Team
under Elizabeth Said remains a reliable and exceptional part of GRTU Direct
services support. This is the Unit which is in constant daily contact with
GRTU's membership base, filing in complaints and issues for the rest of the
GRTU team to analyze and seek solutions and representation to resolve
identified problems.

This administrative team lead by young
yet dynamic Bernice Cutajar does the miracles. The bulk of issues and sheer
volume of paperwork and electronic communication that GRTU has now to handle is
exceptional, yet this team keeps producing results of increasing quality.

In Malta GRTU is probably the most
effective business representative organization recognized repeatedly by the
Prime Minister Hon. Lawrence Gonzi and by all leading Ministers more especially
by Hon. Tonio Fenech Minister, Hon George Pullicino, Hon Mario de Marco, Hon
Chris Said, Hon Dolores Christina and Hon Jason Azzopardi Minist. GRTU's relationship
with these Ministers is strong, regular and extremely fruitful.

This year we also faced tremendously
annoying and grossly unfair criticism from those green with envy at our
successes and from those who still look down on the people we represent, the
owners of small businesses and the self-employed. But GRTU has learned to live
with all of this. 2012 was a good year for GRTU and a good year for the
enterprises we represent. It could have been a year that further dipped our
economy in a second round of recession. It did not happen. Malta is one
spot in the whole EU system that can fell relatively good at the end of 2012
and look forward for a happier 2013.

GRTU did a great job this year. The
results show this will be explained in detail during our AGM this January when
GRTU Director General Vince Farrugia will present the Annual Report. A year of
tremendous work that only a formidable organization can master.

To all at GRTU, to all our members and
supporters and to all the consumers of our members, the Newstring team wishes a
Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Information: Consultation on EU Air Quality Policy

European Commission has launched a public consultation in order to collect
views from stakeholders on the review of the Strategy on Air Pollution. This is
the final consultation on the review of EU air policy that follows two years of
discussions within the Stakeholders Expert Group and with the broader public.

current consultation aims at identifying the possible options for a
comprehensive air pollution policy package that would aim to ensure full
implementation of the existing legal framework and make further progress to
reduce the negative impacts of air pollution in the longer term.

pollution and the associated threats to the environment and human health
continue to be a concern for many EU citizens. Despite progress in the past
decades resulting from legislation to reduce harmful pollutants some pollutants
are still causing problems.


consultation is divided into two parts:

short questionnaire for the general public:

more extensive questionnaire for experts and practitioners from national
administrations, regional and local authorities, researchers, businesses,
stakeholders, health, environmental and other groups with experience in
implementing EU air quality legislation:


questionnaire asks opinions about the following issues:

–        ensuring compliance with EU air quality

–        reducing exposure to damaging air
pollution in the long term;

–        revising the Ambient Air Quality
Directive (AAQD);

–        revising the National Emission Ceilings
Directive (NECD);

–        on major air pollution sources, such as
road and off-road transport, agriculture, small/medium combustion sector, and
the shipping sector.

deadline to reply to the questionnaires is the 4th March 2013.