Fabian Demicoli

GRTU raises business priorities at roundtable consultation on the EU 2020 Strategy Implementation

GRTU President Paul Abela participated during a roundtable discussion held by the European Commission Representation in Malta regarding the EU 2020 Strategy. This key EU strategy seeks to drive smart, sustainable and inclusive growth across the European Union with flagship initiatives tackling the various policy areas concerned. The scope of the consultation was to discuss 

elements relating to the substance, the horizon, the delivery and the ownership of the strategy.

Malta’s country profile as reported in the latest state of play on the various targets of the EU 2020 strategy shows that Malta is still at the lower end of the score-sheets in a number of fields. Nevertheless it is also registering the highest in terms of improvements. The major targets are mainly based of the following sectors:

  • Employment
  • Research and Development
  • Climate change and Energy
  • Education
  • Poverty and Social Exclusion

In its feedback, GRTU focused on how Maltese and Gozitan businesses have strived strongly throughout the economic crisis with Malta being one of the few to continue growing its economy during the crisis. Therefore all tools necessary need to be made available to our businesses and further open our doors without taking business for granted.

In relation to access to financegovernment has laid out its vision in last year’s budget. This vision needs to be implemented at a quicker pace for businesses to benefit. It was also highlighted that at European level, policy needs to brought down to the smallest business. Large-scale initiatives such as the Juncker Plan and TTIP negotiations need to be watered down to be felt by the man in the street.

In terms of unfair competitionMalta needs to support its businesses to be empowered through the online realm. There is untapped potential which needs support to make the necessary shift through resources and a culture change. Other initiatives which are clearly targeted to combat unfair competition such as the Guardia di Finanzi initiatives need to be activated as soon as possible. This implies that EU countries need to support one another on a closer level to ensure that there are no impositions of unfair competition practices upon operators across borders.

Commenting on education, GRTU outlined that one needs to see the positive effects registered by recent initiatives such as the alternative learning programme and the relaunched apprenticeship scheme. The vocational education sector has been rebuilt and improved over the years but now needs to be further linked tangibly with the world of work whilst promoting jobs in specific sectors which may not necessarily be high-skilled jobs yet are necessary and lacking in the current labour market. Entrepreneurship needs to be embedded across the board. The education system as a whole needs to be looked upon to address those students who are being failed by the education system itself from their earlier years and thus lose motivation on learning.

In relation to energy, GRTU applauded the initiatives related to the domestic sector but appealed for more flexibility in terms of overcoming bureaucratic hurdles to allow funding openings to achieve similar success stories in the business sector. This will in turn not only help Malta reach its targets but also support businesses in going green and become more and more efficient. A correct national energy mix is necessary whilst ensuring reliability.

GRTU described the strategy as a holistic one providing Europe with a vision, but perhaps needs to be translated in more practical terms. It needs immediate goals and plans that can be captured at shorter intervals to ensure that initiatives are steering towards the same direction. Member states are encouraged by the clear policy direction and can be further supported by funding initiatives which are targeted and on the ground, making the initiatives more accessible to end-users.

GRTU emphasized the importance of ownership. The initiatives and strategy need to be communicated and built around the respective stakeholders. Social partners need to be involved directly at every level as these can be the voice that make the strategy closer to the needs and goals of the people and then in turn sell the scopes of the strategy to the sectors they represent. A lot of talk has been said on thinking small first, but even at this level the EU strategies need to be analysed in terms of how the targets and their respective policies effect the smallest in society, the end-user and the smallest business.

 

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