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For a better representation in Europe

The 2014 European elections are around the corner. Come May, European citizens will vote and elect their representatives to sit on the 751-strong legislative body. The MEPs will voice their electorate’s opinions on various new EU laws and policies to be launched during the incoming legislature.

Many issues debated at the European Parliament affect the business community at large. Lobbying is done at all stages of the legislative procedure with the intent of ensuring a satisfactory final legislative product, acceptable to all the affected parties. However, one must ask how effective lobbying procedures are, particularly for small businesses from micro states such as Malta.

More often than not, the hard work and lobbying efforts of both the Maltese MEPs and the Maltese business community gets lost in translation in the vast and dynamic forum that is the European Parliament.

We need to find ways in which we can be more influential at all stages of the European Parliament’s proceedings. Clearly, much remains to be done from our MEPs, but we, as business representatives, also have more to do, even before we start lobbying our MEPs.

First and foremost, it is of paramount importance for employers and business representative organisations to work ever closer together on EU issues of common interest. Together we can make our voice stronger and consequently more likely to be listened to at the European Parliament. It is with this spirit of enhanced collaboration that we have together launched a Business Manifesto, entitled ‘We are in business together’ for the upcoming EU elections.

The local business organisations came together with one voice to bring issues to the MEP candidates’ attention. This was probably the first consolidated effort of its kind, and we commend the European Parliament Office in Malta for coordinating such an initiative.

One must ask how effective lobbying procedures are, particularly for small businesses from micro states such as Malta

Now we need to deliver on the manifesto by organising ourselves better. It would be extremely beneficial if such dialogue and joint collaborative efforts were also sustained after the election. This would help strengthen our policy messages, provide valuable input to MEPs’ positioning and, most importantly, help us shift gear into a proactive rather than a reactive stance on EU pipeline acquis.

There is significant room for improvement in the way that elected Maltese MEPs engage with the local social partners. MEPs must stay in constant contact with business organisations in order to ensure that there is a mutual exchange of up-to-date information and views in order to formulate a stronger position in the European Parliament. This can be achieved with the formalisation of working relationships between the teams of MEPs and the secretariats of business organisations. Additionally, it would be advisable to incept and maintain a permanent dialogue between the elected MEPs and the MCESD.

MEPs can also streamline their participation within the European Parliament’s committees and inter-groups. One must appreciate how hard it is for six MEPs to ensure adequate participation in the relevant fora to business.

Consequently, elected Maltese MEPs should strive to attend the most important committees dealing with issues affecting competitiveness and job creation.

Naturally, business understands that other committees are also relevant to the national interest. So where attendance to growth-related committees is not possible, MEPs should create concrete links with other influential MEPs sitting on such committees in order to channel viewpoints and concerns through them. Better synergies can be woven between the European Parliament and national parliaments. MEPs should pursue better inter-parliamentary collaboration between the European Parliament and the shadow committees tasked with the equivalent scope of activities within the National House of Representatives. This would allow for an institutional framework, whereby the House of Representatives’ tasks elected MEPs with debriefings on various issues currently on the agenda, a model already put to excellent use in the UK. However, this would require the national House of Representatives to increase its internal capacity in order to meet the requirements for such duties.

Let us use this election as an opportunity to turn over a new leaf in the way we consult and are consulted. We are here to listen, but we are also here to speak up. Let us collaborate in a mutually rewarding manner so that together we succeed in projecting a stronger voice in the European Parliament.

ceo@mbb.org.mt

Joe Tanti is the chief executive officer of the Malta Business Bureau.

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