Fabian Demicoli

Interview: Vince Farrugia will ‘not abandon’ GRTU

 In an interview given to The Times Business and reported yesterday in the paper Vince Farrugia stated that he has "absolutely no intention" of abandoning the GRTU despite contesting June's European Parliament elections, he told The Times Business.

The GRTU director general, who is running on the Nationalist Party ticket, said: "Today I have reduced my public function at the GRTU but I am continuing with my day-today work running the organisation which is what the GRTU members want me to do." He added that during the campaign he will not be acting as a spokesman for the GRTU. "Then in June we will see what happens," he said.

He also said that he will not be campaigning full-time "because I still have my responsibility towards the GRTU" . Mr Farrugia explained that campaigning to become an MEP is very different from running for a national Parliament. "As an MP the government is dependent on your vote to get laws passed and you would generally have to support government policy which some rank and file members might not be comfortable with. "As an MEP I would be working on the programme of the European People's Party which takes into consideration the needs of SMEs. My role in the European Parliament would be similar to my role as GRTU director general, lobbying for SMEs," he said.

Asked whether he'll resign from the helm at the GRTU should he not be elected, Mr Farrugia said there was nothing in the organisation's statute which precludes any official from contesting the European parliamentary elections. "As a full-time employee of the GRTU – and the GRTU is an exemplary employer – we abide by the right of every European citizen to contest such elections and not to lose his job. At the end of the campaign, if I am not elected, it will be illegal not to allow me to return to my post. "In Malta we must recognise that there are capable people who wish to offer their services in such elections and then go back to what they were doing. This is a culture we have to accept, otherwise we will be limiting quality players from contesting and the country would be worse off," he said.

Can the GRTU afford to have its director-general focused on his campaign at a time of such economic uncertainty? "A major reason why I am contesting is precisely because of the present economic climate. Business and SMEs need a strong voice not only in Malta but also in Europe. It is important for one of Malta's MEPs to be able to play a leading role in defending SMEs and to be well versed in economic policy and in how the EU can help small economies," he said.

Mr Farrugia said there was no doubt that the EU needs to focus more on SMEs, adding that he was active in the European Federation of SMEs which will help him lobby on behalf of this sector should he be elected. By concentrating on the needs of SMEs, he said, he would be "safeguarding the backbone of Malta's economy."

How confident was he of being elected? "I would love to use the word ‘confident' but I can't. There are many candidates contesting and the public has a wide choice. I am contesting because I have baggage which is particular and different from the other candidates," he said. He admitted that he has been pleasantly surprised with the reaction so far to his decision to run for the European Parliament. "Last Sunday I had my baptism of fire when speaking at a PN club, for the first time. I think I was welcomed with a lot of enthusiasm and that the people who traditionally vote PN were happy to have me and to hear why I decided to contest this election." He added: "Of course, some people thought I should have contested as an independent, and I did consider this option. I also had a nice discussion with Labour leader Joseph Muscat who told me if I decided not to stand on the PN ticket he would be happy to have me contest with his party – this is the excellent relationship I have with Joseph Muscat.

"A lot of my friends in the Labour Party have congratulated me and told me they accept that I am a valid candidate – even though they don't like the idea of me contesting. My challenge now is to talk to as many people as possible and convince them that even though I am contesting on the PN ticket I am contesting on behalf of all Maltese. Once an MEP is elected- and this is true for most of our MEPS -we have to speak on behalf of all the Maltese."

Asked why he chose to run as a PN candidate he said the Nationalist Party has a greater European political vocation, it is more prepared to assume its role in Europe and it is far ahead in its commitment to European institutions and to the way the European model ought to be adopted in Malta. "The Nationalist Party is the leading party for Europe," he said.

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