The third of a series of Citizens’ Consultations, ‘Għid tiegħek dwar l-Ewropa’, organised by MEUSAC, focused on the future of industry and work in Malta within the EU. The consultation tackled workers’ rights and how the EU can drive forward and improve its policies on innovation. The discussion also delved into how the EU can change the way it delivers its information in order to better reach its citizens.
A number of local industry representatives attended the consultation. One of the first points discussed was the EU’s way of communicating information to the public. It was suggested that the EU should use easy-to-understand language when communicating its messages.. In fact, those present further remarked that the EU’s jargon is somewhat too complicated for people across the spectrum to be able to understand the meaning of certain pieces of legislation. Other issues brought up were in relation to the various challenges currently faced by the industry due to the recent technological advancements, such as contracts of service with unclear working conditions and benefits. Challenges being faced by the tourism sector were also brought up.
In his introductory remarks, Head of MEUSAC, Vanni Xuereb, referred to the 2018 State of the Union Speech by the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Junker. He mentioned that the EU has to be forward-looking in order to address challenges it is currently facing. Dr Xuereb emphasised that these consultations should serve as an exercise to really understand what changes the citizens want to see in the EU.
The Minister for European Affairs and Equality, Helena Dalli, remarked that these sessions are serving as a tool to meet with various people from different sectors in society and to understand better the disconnection between the EU and the citizens. Dr Dalli referred to the State of the Union speech and mentioned that the work that the EU is currently undertaking needs to serve as the basis for the needs of future generations, especially in the sector of innovation.
The Minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Businesses, Christian Cardona mentioned that the Government has a solid policy in the field of innovative industry. He remarked that the EU needs to be well prepared to face other emerging markets that are competing with its industry. This is done by investing continuously in research and innovation. He further elaborated that there needs to be a stronger link between the academic field and the world of work. He also announced that a start-hub for venture capitalists to invest in start-ups would be set up.
The Minister for Education and Employment, Evarist Bartolo, acknowledged that the EU needs to improve the way it delivers information to citizens, especially in relation to matters which affect their daily lives. This can only be achieved if the EU changes its approach from ‘top-down’ to ‘bottom–up’. This is not about what the EU can do for the citizens but what needs to be done to address citizens’ needs and concerns. He further remarked that the EU institutions are failing to agree on simple definitions, citing for example the failure to agree on the definition of a ‘worker’. He also referred to the fact that there needs to be further investment when preparing students for employment whilst also referring to creating the right environment for further skills attainment.
In his concluding remarks, Parliamentary Secretary for European Funds and Social Dialogue, Dr Aaron Farrugia, remarked that MEUSAC constantly works to disseminate information and bridge the gap between the EU and citizens. He noted that there needs to be further discussions and investment in the field of research and innovation. He highlighted that through EU funds covering the 2014–2020 funding period, the Government invested €30 million in start-ups and €20 million in research and innovation. He concluded by saying that the citizens’ consultations are serving as a tool to better understand what Maltese citizens really want from the EU.