‘Gozo, an island smaller than Malta, with its own special features and identity, lags behind due to its dual insularity.’ Alfred Sant stated this while he was explaining his reservations about his vote in favour of a motion in the Strasbourg Plenary about the Union’s GeneraI budget for next year. He stressed that in order for Gozo to develop, the island needs regional management. In an absurd comparison to Scandinavian islands, the Commission decided against Gozo being considered an island with such needs.
Alfred Sant said that in the execution of the EU budget and the use of EU funds, a basic principle of what shapes Europe was being forgotten – namely, the principle of a Europe of nations. That is why his vote was conditioned by the strongest reservations. The Maltese Euro Parliamentarian maintained that contrary to what was being stated in the motion, in the operation of aid funds set under the annual budget, the EU was implementing, ‘a one-size-fits-all approach.’
Alfred Sant referred to two examples from Malta’s experience, the smallest Member State, and an island. He said that after Malta, other countries joined the EU. This had the statistical effect of lowering the EU’s average GDP per capita and with that Malta lost its right to certain structural funds. To make-up for this new reality, the Maltese Government negotiated and obtained additional financing under the current budgetary perspective. However, the expectation is that EU State aid rules will prevent SMEs from benefiting from these funds.
The Maltese MEP said that allowing for common sense to prevail, the same rules would not apply to these funds.