As our attention span gets shorter and shorter, the battle for a place on the public agenda is often won not only on the measure of the sensational but also on a parochial view limited to matters closer to home.
Throughout this news item ratrace, we tend to overlook discussions we ought to have on the bigger picture. This can be seen in the way we mostly rely on foreign media when it comes to European affairs, even though they have a direct or indirect effect on Maltese issues.
The cursory way in which recent EU developments were discussed is a case in point: the Fiscal Pact, the establishment of a European Stability Mechanism, the European Semester, the list goes on.
In the background of these fast-paced processes, there is another one paving the way towards having a strong budget for the EU in the coming years up to 2020. Engaging the public, in particular the business community, in the ongoing discussions on the new EU budget is of utmost importance. The amounts and the way the money will be spent will have a direct bearing on the long-term economic development prospects of our country.
The benefits of a strong EU budget should not be considered exclusively in terms of direct funds landing on our shores. It is inevitable that the amount of EU cohesion funding allocated to Malta over the next seven-year period will determine the tone and tempo of the local debate.
However, we must nonetheless look beyond the direct financial gain and also consider the wider spectrum of spin-off benefits to our economy. The EU budget is not simply about the numbers underpinning the budgetary gains or losses made by individual member states.
The EU budget is first and foremost the most essential tool available to support the delivery of commonly agreed initiatives that add value across the EU27 member states in the long term. Its implementation requires the rigorous annual approval of the EU Council and the European Parliament. Along the way, political priorities are tweaked according to arising needs and circumstances.
For Maltese business, it is particularly welcome that the new EU budgetary arrangements covering the period 2014-2020 will focus particularly on competitiveness-related objec-tives, as laid down in the Europe 2020 Strategy. Therefore, fostering economic growth and improved competitiveness lie at the top of the agenda.
The initiatives being proposed by the European Commission in various key policy areas are all aimed at achieving a more competitive environment, allowing our industries to generate sustainable jobs. They envisage new programmes and critical investments. Examples are aplenty.
The fight against climate change, deployment of new green technologies, increased energy efficiency and tapping into innovative digital business practices are just a few. Not to mention key infrastructure relating to transport, energy and broadband roll-out.
Maltese businesses need to be well-equipped to further tap the potential of the European Single Market as part of their quest to internationalise their operations. Having more education and training opportunities, a solid standardisation mechanism, a stronger voice in international trade and more support in research and development is essential to maintain a healthy business environment.
It is our role to communicate the EU budget as an exercise that makes business sense insofar as it supports the effective implementation of polices that are conceived to facilitate things for enterprises, provide businesses with opportunities to expand their operations overseas and to enhance their operational set-ups.
The notion that the EU budget discussions are somewhat a mere accounting exercise pitting the winners against the losers is misguided. The discussions on the EU budget should lead to win-win solutions that achieve overall well-being for Europe and Europeans, including Malta and the Maltese.
(The Malta Business Bureau and the European Commission Representation Office have joined forces to improve the visibility of the debate on the future EU budget. An informative leaflet, entitled Why The EU Budget Makes Business Sense?, is being distributed with The Times today.)
Mr Huber is president of the Malta Business Bureau. Mr Bugelli heads the European Commission Representation Office in Malta.