MALTA ARGUES FOR FAIR APPLICATION EU FISCAL-STATE AID RULES
Minister for Finance Edward Scicluna stated that there is need for a fair and balanced approach to the application of EU rules governing the public finances in order to ensure that they work in the interest of citizens. Minister Scicluna was speaking to the press on the sidelines of a meeting of euro area finance ministers (Eurogroup) in Brussels. “There is a very thin line between unravelling the rules, [thus] making them ineffective, and being draconian [and encouraging] euro-scepticism,” stated the minister, as he pointed out that a balanced approach does not imply that the rules are ignored altogether. “Definitely there must be a middle way, but we [also] cannot just bend the rules for the sake of bending them”. Minister Scicluna pointed out that there is enough flexibility built into the rules to ensure that responsible fiscal policies do not rely exclusively, for their compliance, on draconian sanctions which could cause more harm than good to national economic reform programmes, at the cost of the livelihood of citizens. The same applies to state aid rules, which should be applied fairly. The Eurogroup meeting, which focused its discussions on the budgetary situations in Portugal and Spain, as well as the euro area’s general fiscal stance, was followed today, 12 July 2016, by a meeting of all EU finance ministers, known as the ECOFIN Council.
The meeting discussed an anti-money laundering proposal which will make it more difficult to finance terrorist activities through illicit means. Other issues which were discussed included the implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact, the fight against tax evasion and tax avoidance, and a proposal for a European Depositor Insurance Scheme. This scheme is expected to strengthen the guarantee given to citizens that they would not lose their savings should their banks collapse.
While in Brussels, Minister Scicluna held several other meetings, including those regarding preparations for Malta’s Presidency of the Council of the EU in the first semester of 2017. These included a meeting with the European Parliament’s Budgets and Economic and Monetary Affairs Committees, and a meeting with the current Slovak Presidency, the UK which is – to date – scheduled to hold the Presidency following Malta, together with the European Commission and the European Parliament
Minister Scicluna was accompanied by Ambassador Marlene Bonnici, Permanent Representative of Malta to the EU and the Permanent Secretary for Finance, Mr Alfred Camilleri, during the ECOFIN Council meeting. Preliminary fi gures show that Malta registered a trade defi cit of €256.3 million in May 2016, compared to €424.0 million in the corresponding month of 2015.