Can you believe it? Malta has officially been a part of the European Union for 15 years! That’s almost as long as it’s been since we placed in the top 5 of the Eurovision Song Contest. In case you need a refresher, we placed 2nd in 2005 when Chiara sang her iconic track ‘Angel’.
And if you don’t remember that, then you’re probably too young to remember a time before Malta was part of the EU. And boy, have things changed since then
Here are 15 perks that Malta benefits from now that we’re part of the EU, that we definitely didn’t have 15 years ago.
1. We benefit from the four freedoms of the Single Market
Thanks to the Single Market people, goods, services and money can move around the EU almost as freely as within a single country. EU citizens can study, live, shop, work and retire in any EU country, and enjoy products from all over Europe.
2. Travel out of Malta has become so much easier
Not only has travelling become easier, cheaper, and safer – because of the common currency and no borders – but EU citizens also have access to more travelling rights.
Thanks to EU legislation, passengers now have certain entitlements when it comes to information about a journey, reservation, ticket fare, damage to baggage – or for the event of accidents, delays and cancellations, denied boarding, or difficulties with package holidays. For example, phone calls in Europe are much cheaper, airfares have fallen significantly and new routes have opened up.
3. Further access to consumer rights and quality of products
Consumer protection is a key benefit of the EU’s Single Market, with transparency and safety and quality of products guaranteed via the CE Mark.
This process ensures that products, from toys to cosmetics to edibles, are treated with equal care in terms of safety. The CE Mark is a guarantee of a high quality product.
4. We’re aiming towards higher environmental standards
With the help of guidelines and standards put in place by the EU, Malta is working hard at reducing the use of single-use plastic and the amount of CO2 emissions.
The EU and national governments have set clear objectives to guide a European environment policy until 2020 and a vision beyond that, with the support of dedicated research programmes, legislation and funding.
5. Increased levels of data protection thanks to GDPR
Stronger rules on data protection mean that you have the right to:
- Information about the processing of your personal data;
- Obtain access to the personal data held about you;
- Ask for incorrect, inaccurate or incomplete personal data to be corrected;
- Request that personal data be erased when it’s no longer needed or if processing it is unlawful.
Your data belongs to you primarily, and no one else.
6. We’re a part of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights
The key values on which the Union is founded are;
- Respect for human dignity,
- The rule of law, and
- Respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.
Respecting people’s rights one of the EU’s basic obligations. These rights must be respected by the EU when applying policies and programmes, by the EU institutions and by each of the Member States.
7. Better access to health care, both in Malta and internationally
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is the passport to free or reduced emergency cost for medical treatment in public hospitals needed during temporary visits in European Economic Area (EEA) countries and Switzerland.
So you’re guaranteed cross-border health care when you need it. And this counts for other Europeans in Malta too.
8. A better work-life balance
Malta has now paternal leave and flexible working arrangements, in accordance with the European Pillar of Social Rights.
The Pillar of Social Rights is about delivering new and more effective rights for citizens. It builds upon 20 key principles, structured around three categories:
- Equal opportunities and access to the labour market
- Fair working conditions
- Social protection and inclusion
9. Investment in infrastructure
The EU has provided funds that are going towards restoration of cultural heritage, as well as new infrastructure for the community in health and education. For example, Gozo’s Citadel was restored using European Union funds. And you might not remember, but the coast road was actually revamped using EU funds too!
Some areas of the university were refurbished with this funding. And our traditional rubble walls, or ħajt tas-sejjieħ, were given EU funds for upkeep too!
10. Local companies and NGOs can benefit from education and training
The EU has funds available to make investments in people – it offers education and training for better quality jobs and skills upgrading for employees and businesses. This means that companies and smaller organisations can all have equal access to opportunities for growth.
11. Local communities are invested in and supported on an international scale
Other than the EU providing funds to strengthen communities from an infrastructural standpoint, it also helps to strengthen communities holistically. One way they do this is through ‘town twinning’.
A good twinning partnership can bring many benefits to a community and the municipality. By bringing people together from different parts of Europe, it gives an opportunity to share problems, exchange views and understand different viewpoints on any issue where there is a shared interest or concern.
12. Opportunities for youth and the younger generations
Being a part of the EU allows us to take part in schemes and programmes such as Erasmus and Euroscola. These are short and long-term study exchanges that give young people the chance to explore life and education outside of Malta.
I mean, hands up if you know at least one person who’s been on Erasmus in the past 15 years.
13. They’re helping us with combating crime
The European Union helps all its member states with cross-country coordination and cooperation in the fight against crime. It also provides funds for new equipment for the local police force and customs.
For example, they recently invested in a Canine Unit for customs here in Malta.
14. We get to speak with one voice with some of the bigger countries
A single nation, Malta, in particular being the smallest Member State in the EU, sits around the table with all other Member States. They can speak with one voice in the global scene. We are given equal importance as part of the EU, despite our size.
15. MEUSAC was set up
The Malta-EU Steering and Action Committee is an agency established by Government to inform, consult on EU Policies & Legislation and other EU matters along with assisting organisations to tap into and apply for EU funding.
They’re here to help Maltese citizens make the most of the benefits that come with EU membership.
So with all of these benefits, I can’t imagine we’re be holding our own Malta-exit for a while. Malta la vista no more.