Minister for Gozo Anton Refalo and Parliamentary Secretary for the EU Presidency 2017 and EU Funds Ian Borg addressed the CPMR Islands Commission Annual General Meeting, which represents 23 island member-regions. Minister Refalo noted with pleasure that Gozo is hosting this important event.

The Ministry for Gozo has been an active member in this group for a number of years. “We strongly believe in its mission to ensure that EU institutions and EU member states take into account in their public policies the specific needs and issues faced by island territories as a result of their insularity”, said Minister Refalo.

Over the years the CPMR Islands Commission has continued to build on its expertise on island matters and has managed to extend its network, making it a unique and effective means through which islands can formulate their views and put forward their case to decision makers.

Minister Refalo emphasised two key points: the need to continue highlighting the peculiar circumstances of islands, and the need to continuing updating priorities given the dynamic environment.

Minister Refalo emphasised that “whilst sticking to our principles, we require a degree of adaptability to regularly adjust our short and medium term objectives and respond more quickly to crises. Our objectives need to be formulated clearly. Even if we share a lot, we are still not perfectly homogenous. We need to build on shared realities”.

The Minister noted that an increasing number of issues cannot be addressed unilaterally. Climate change and immigration are just two examples. In a world where borders are becoming more porous, regions must use all of their soft power to drive their agenda, build networks and have a say in institutions in order to address shared challenges and opportunities. He stressed that policy makers need to have a vision and achieve it by thinking globally, acting locally while having the appropriate tools.

The Minister for Gozo voiced his pride for Malta’s Presidency of the EU Council. Such an occurrence provides strong evidence that size neither dictates, nor is a barrier to one’s potential. It shows that being small can also mean being highly adaptable – an essential quality for entrepreneurship and development.

A spirit of entrepreneurship is a powerful driver of economic growth and job creation. It creates new companies and jobs, opens up new markets, nurtures new skills and capabilities and makes economies more competitive and innovative. Islands and other peripheral areas face challenges in this regard but can also offer opportunities for enterprise development based on their natural and cultural resources. This can be achieved by empowering youths and by providing a conducive environment and help in developing ideas.

Minister Refalo highlighted Gozo’s strengths – resilience, hardworking workforce, the ability to re-invent itself and making the most of limited resources. “This fills us with great courage to continue working and get more positive results, and passing on our enthusiasm to all of you during this event”, the Minister concluded.

Dr Ian Borg outlined the main issues dominating Malta’s Presidency of the EU Council and explained that although we are an ambitious Presidency, we will be realistic.

With respect to the Cohesion Policy, Parliamentary Secretary Ian Borg said that the objective of the Presidency is to continue to advance on the legislative work that is currently ongoing at technical level, specifically to the European Structural and Investment Funds provisions of the OMNIBUS regulation, where Malta is hopeful to achieve good progress. Dr Borg explained that there is also another legislation which is being discussed and which the Presidency is optimistic that it will succeed to close. The amendments will bring further simplification in the implementation framework for the shared management of EU funding, and Malta is attaching a lot of importance to simplification and its impact on beneficiaries, as well as the bodies implementing the programmes, reiterated Dr Borg.

Parliamentary Secretary Borg also remarked that it is necessary to address the needs and the aspirations of our citizens more effectively and in a timely fashion. He explained that given the existing deficit between ‘what we are actually doing’ and the perception of citizens, now, more than ever, we should focus on bridging the gap between the Union and its citizens in a tangible manner.

“Cohesion Policy should remain an integral part of the EU Budget and an important tool to strengthen and support the member states’ potential, and the success of the European project. We believe that Cohesion Policy can act as a forward looking policy which can address future challenges faced by the Union and enable the development of innovative solutions”, concluded Dr Borg.

Source: Government of Malta