PN candidate Peter Agius: Maltese language demotion in Brussels is unacceptable

PN candidate Peter Agius: Maltese language demotion in Brussels is unacceptable

Tajani speechwriter and MEP candidate Peter Agius says he will not accept inferior status for Maltese language in Brussels.

The Nationalist candidate Peter Agius has said he will stand up the possible ‘demotion’ of the Maltese language inside the European Parliament, as capacity issues may affect translations for the language, as well as for Irish and Croatian.

“The latest news that European Parliament could do without Maltese interpretation in many fora of the institution is of utmost concern. This is unacceptable. We have no shortage of interpreters, we have a shortage of opportunities to become a full-time professional one,” Agius, a speechwriter for EP president Antonio Tajani said.

“There are more than 300 graduates who have read for a Masters in Maltese Translation and Interpretation from the University of Malta. As an MEP I would ensure that European Parliament recruiting policies are adapted to take stock of this reality. This matter affects our status in Brussels, I will not accept an inferior status for Maltese. In the past I contributed to end the derogation for the Maltese language translations. We can win this one as well.”

Read the full article published on Malta Today here.

Government does not understand how to fit Malta’s priorities into EU budget policies

Government does not understand how to fit Malta’s priorities into EU budget policies

The Labour government, unlike past PN administrations, does not have the ability to understand how to fit Malta’s priorities into the European Union’s budgetary headings and policies, PN MEP candidate Peter Agius has said.

Now that the end of the programme of EU funds that former Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi had negotiated is near, it is up to Labour to “sow the red strings” and secure a strong EU funding package for the upcoming period, Agius said.

“From the looks of it so far, Labour is not a good tailor,” he however lamented in an opinion piece published in The Malta Independent today.

“We secured strong EU funding packages in 2007 and 2013 because we understood how to fit Malta’s priorities into the Union’s budgetary headings and policies; That ability is now nowhere in sight”, he said.

Citing various projects such as the gas-fired power station, the Gozo tunnel, the “phantom” metro and the supposed drive for AI and the recently launched National Space Strategy, Agius said that “this government seems to still lack the ability to conjugate Maltese priorities with EU funding possibilities”.

He called for the government to plan ahead so to continue to benefit from EU funds, expertise and cooperation and to look more intensively towards direct funding programmes which award grants to private operators in a quality competition of projects submitted from all member states.

A brief look at statistics for the SME instrument reveals that Malta has the lowest success rate in Europe when it comes to these direct funding projects.

In the upcoming EU budget – which will cater for the period between 2021 and 2027 – more emphasis will be put on these direct funds, Agius said before adding that the government must empower Maltese businesses, civil society and educational establishments to be able to reap more fruit from this section of the next EU budget.


Article published on The Independent here.

EU funding and Gozo

EU funding and Gozo

Gozo has a special place in my campaign as a candidate for the European Parliament election. I strive to dedicate a good part of my efforts to visit interest groups on the island, including a Question & Answer event tonight in Marsalforn, and process concerns with research with a view to finding European solutions.

Other MEP candidates are doing the same and rightly so, as Gozo has specific needs which should be brought to the fore with specific attention before we choose our representatives in Europe on May 25.

The Nationalist Party came forward with a game-changing idea for Gozo in recent weeks – a Regional Council elected by Gozitans to truly represent Gozitan aspirations.

To my mind, the main sticking point in Gozo is the lack of autonomy for Gozitans to give strategic direction to the Gozitan economy. The thing is that while EU funds are allocated to Gozo as part of Malta’s EU funding, the projects to be done and their modalities are not decided by Gozitans but by Castille.

We know how Castille tends to decide on Gozo. More than 800 precarious jobs were given at the last minute before the last election putting several Gozitan businesses on their knees while trebling the workforce in government services not needing reinforcement. A tale I heard while touring the island has it that at one particular beach, attendants were increased eight-fold, with the only original beach attendant now refusing to work. The result: a dirty beach.

Back to the PN proposal. The government reacted to our proposal for a representative Regional Council in Gozo through the words of Parliamentary Secretary Aaron Farrugia who retorted that “Gozo as a region would be unable to apply for EU funds”.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary correct?

First of all, we need to define EU funds. Malta’s traditional reading of EU funds relates to money allocated to Malta in the seven-year budgetary period which is then allocated by the government to specific projects. In technical jargon, we call these ‘country allocations’.

If we want to help Gozo to truly catch up with its European aspiration, we can. If we don’t, we just keep on shooting the messenger

We all remember the glorious return of Lawrence Gonzi from Brussels in 2013 with an allocation of €1.128 billion to be used between 2013 and 2019. That kind of money allocated to member states is not however all the EU budget. A good 30 per cent of the EU budget is not allocated to member states but managed centrally by the European Commission to assign to projects submitted directly by civil society, regional authorities, businesses or other entities for projects in the community from educational campaigns to research, innovation and business projects.

This factor alone proves the Parliamentary Secretary 30 per cent wrong. I do not blame him for side-lining this possibility, given that Malta has an abysmal record in tapping into direct funds. That alone points to one possible vocation of a Gozo Regional Council.

Secondly, the Parliamentary Secretary’s statement is based on a formalistic reading of EU funding criteria.

These indeed excluded the possibility of an island with a population of 31,000 to become a NUTS 2 region for EU funding purposes given that the threshold minimum population is of 800,000. Yes, you heard it.

The current threshold would exclude the whole of Malta itself from being a NUTS 2 region, but Malta negotiated an exception before accession. So did Spain with much smaller territories like Ceuta and Melilla that have a NUTS 2 status notwithstanding their population of around 80,000. This demonstrates that a NUTS 2 status would not be, in principle, out of reach for Gozo. The Parliamentary Secretary’s outright rejection of the PN proposal on the basis of EU funding is hence incorrect and rash to begin with.

Sometimes I feel that the sweeping pessimism of Alfred Sant prior to 2003 still pervades this Labour government when it comes to making the EU work for the Maltese people. We did not get into the EU because it was easy or effortless to make it work. We joined because we are convinced in the Maltese and Gozitans’ ability to make the EU work through commitment and constant adaptation.

That adaptation should be the main task of myself and any of my colleagues elected to an MEP seat on 25 May. The Parliamentary Secretary’s rash reaction betrays that this kind of European ethos has not infiltrated Labour deep enough to this very day.

Finally, I am not personally proposing to apply for NUTS 3 status for Gozo.

With that would come particular administrative handling burdens. We need not however capsize the whole government administrative structures to include a significant role for an autonomous Gozitan entity to have a direct say in EU funding.

It would suffice to include a future Gozitan Regional Council in the programmation of the Multiannual Financial Framework with a specific chapter on Gozo and to assign to a subsidiary body under its political guidance the role of handling EU funding for Gozo.

If we want to help Gozo to truly catch up to its European aspiration, we can.

If we don’t, we just keep on shooting the messenger with categorical statements.

Peter Agius is a Nationalist Party candidate for the European elections, former head of the European Parliament Office and cabinet member of the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece. Article published on Times of Malta here.