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Malta Business Bureau

Annual Report 2021

S P E C I A L 2 5 TH A N N I V E R S A R Y C O M M E M O R AT I V E E D I T I O N 1996-2021

Official Sponsors of the MBB Annual Report


Contents 20

Foreword by the CEO

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A look down memory lane

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25 years of service

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Enterprise Europe Network

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Embracing challenges and change to drive success

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MBB Projects

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Board of Directors 2021-2024

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Foundation for the Promotion of Entrepreneurial Initiatives

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A message from Prime Minister Robert Abela

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Executive Team

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A message from Leader of the Opposition Bernard Grech

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Calendar of Events

PUBLISHER

Content House Group 3, Level 2, Mallia Buildings Triq in-Negozju, Zone 3 Central Business District, Birkirkara, CBD 3010 T: +356 2132 0713 E: info@contenthouse.com.mt www.contenthouse.com.mt

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EU Policy and Lobbying

EDITOR: Joe Tanti

BRAND SALES MANAGER: Diane Scerri

EDITORIAL COORDINATORS: Sarah Abdilla, Sarah Micallef

OPERATIONS & CLIENT RELATIONSHIP MANAGER: Elena Debattista

DESIGN: Nicholas Cutajar DIRECTOR OF SALES & BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT: Matthew Spiteri

The Annual Report of the Malta Business Bureau is distributed to all the members of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, all the members of the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association and to leading public and private institutions in Malta and Brussels.

HEAD OFFICE: 64, The Exchange Buildings, Republic Street, Valletta VLT 1117, Malta Tel: +356 2125 1719

info@mbb.org.mt www.mbb.org.mt

25 years of strong alliances

REPRESENTING

BRUSSELS OFFICE: Malta Business Bureau, Rond-Point Schuman 6 Level 7, 1040 Brussels, Belgium Tel: +32 2234 7942

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Foreword It is my pleasure to present you the Malta Business Bureau Annual Report for the year 2021. This year’s Annual Report coincides with the celebration of our 25th anniversary. The organisation was set up 25 years ago, thanks to visionaries Chevalier Anthony Cassar and the late Joseph R. Darmanin. Unfortunately, due to his passing, Mr Darmanin is not able to celebrate this tremendous achievement with us, but his legacy lives on with the organisation. I had the privilege to meet and interview both of our founders on our 20th anniversary, and I would like to share something Mr Darmanin said then:

“I never imagined the Malta Business Bureau would grow so much and through its competent staff would be so capable of diversifying and building upon the original plan to this extent. I wish to see it grow even further – that is what encourages me to this day.” Dearest Joseph, we will strive to continue making this happen! Our role today is different from the one the MBB was originally set up for in 1996. While the organisation was founded to assist Maltese businesses prepare for EU membership, the experience acquired in the past years has equipped the MBB with the expertise required to inform and update local businesses on relevant EU-related matters, as well as to assist our business community to continue exploiting EU and Single Market opportunities. Ultimately, the MBB takes pride in being of service to the members of its parent organisations – The Malta Chamber and The Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association – on issues concerning EU affairs. This includes identifying upcoming EU policies and legislations that will impact businesses. The MBB works closely with several stakeholders and experts in various fields to gather information and data, and contribute to consultations by the European Commission or local entities at an early stage.

The MBB’s work continues to be effective through the attainment of EU funding and participation in EU programmes for the benefit of its parent organisations and the business community at large. Winning the National Enterprise Support Award recently in October 2020, with the Energy Ecosystem initiative, is a testament to the MBB’s work and commitment towards our goals. The work we do would not be possible without the support and cooperation of the numerous stakeholders, both local and international. I wish to express my gratitude towards successive governments, and currently Parliamentary Secretary Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi, whose assistance enables us to have a permanent presence in Brussels for the benefit of the Maltese business community. I would also like to thank previous MBB presidents, boards of directors and staff for their sterling work in contributing to the MBB’s success over the past 25 years! Additionally, I would like to thank outgoing president Simon De Cesare, who has led the organisation for the past three years, the present board of directors, and our parent organisations for their trust, guidance and support. I also extend a very warm welcome to our incoming President Alison Mizzi, who I am sure will keep on leading the organisation to even greater heights. Last but not least, a heartfelt thanks to our talented and dedicated team of people, which gives me all the reason to be excited about our future. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication, it does not go unnoticed. Looking ahead, I reiterate the MBB’s commitment to continue monitoring the developments in EU legislation and continue to support our businesses in tapping into opportunities offered by the EU. Joe Tanti CEO Malta Business Bureau

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A look down memory lane

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25 years of service Past MBB Presidents and CEOs have their say on the organisation’s role over the past 25 years, including at critical times in Malta’s challenging journey leading to EU membership and in the postaccession scenario.

Leonard Mizzi Director in 1996, MBB’s 1st year of operations My role as the first Director of the Malta Business Bureau just after summer of 1996 got off to a rocky start when Malta’s EU application was frozen following the General Elections of 26th October 1996. One of the tasks I was entrusted with was an options analysis of the costs of non-membership, which included a Swiss type of Free Trade Agreement or the European Economic Area. The uncertainty on the future of the office was resolved once the EU application was reactivated in 1999. The subsequent years were amongst the most intense, not only in terms of informing the

various sectors of the Maltese business community membership of what the EU body of legislation implied on say a particular economic activity – but also how to navigate EU policy making. In the first years as MBB Director, I was mentored by the Irish Business Bureau Director and staff (to recall that Ireland had benefited significantly from EU membership) and then we became fully autonomous as the office grew, in Brussels and in Malta. I cherish my formative years in Brussels with MBB until I joined the European Commission a decade later.

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Lino Mintoff Appointed as MBB’s first CEO in 2007 I am honoured to have participated as CEO in the development of MBB during a critical stage of transformation. Its initial phase coincided with Malta’s pre-accession strategy to join the European Union. The role of MBB focused on disseminating information about the EU and reaching out to the commercial community to explain the implications of an eventual Maltese membership. My term as CEO came at a time when Malta was already a member of the European Union and started to experience the full impact of opportunities and responsibilities of its membership. This development necessitated a change in strategy.

I feel privileged to have steered the new strategy, which focused more on the identification and evaluation of the needs and interests of Maltese businesses in relation to EU legislation and developments to the Lisbon Strategy. It became essential that the Maltese business community had a direct voice in Brussels to ensure effective feedback on the impact of EU policy on Maltese businesses.

Stefano Mallia President in 2008, when Malta adopted the Euro When I took over as President of the MBB in 2008, Malta had just joined the Euro Area and therefore it was a period of considerable change and transition. In light of this, the MBB had just played a very active role in preparing the Maltese business community for the transition to and adoption of the Euro, which formally took place on 1st January 2008. This was a key milestone that would transform the Maltese economy and I am proud that the MBB played an active and key role in this transition. During my presidency, we had also undertaken a ‘Business success stories project’ which identified entrepreneurs in various sectors of the economy who were making a success of EU membership. This brought to the fore in a very concrete manner how Maltese enterprise was taking full advantage of the EU’s Single Market. The tail end of 2008 was also the beginning of the global financial crisis and therefore was a period of significant uncertainty. Whilst the organisation’s role has continued to evolve, the main scope was and must still remain that of being the voice of Malta’s business community in Brussels.

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John A. Huber President in 2011, MBB’s 15th anniversary I had the honour and privilege to serve as President of the Malta Business Bureau between 2010 and 2012. This was the first time in the history of the Bureau that the term of President spanned over a two-year period. We had just moved to new offices at Floriana and immediately embarked on a rebranding exercise. We continued with our ‘Business meets MEPs’ which was originally conceived by my predecessor, George Micallef. During my tenure we also embarked on ‘Impact Assessment Studies’ through a collaboration agreement signed with Bank of Valletta plc, the first

being on the Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base which assisted to formulate the Maltese position at the EU negotiating table. A first for MBB during my presidency was also being awarded the LIFE+ EU Investing in Water project aimed at the reduction of waste and managing water consumption in business. I have very fond memories of my time at MBB, even recently serving as Vice-President, and cherish the friendships made and the successes we enjoyed.

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PHOTO BY INIGO TAYLOR

John Vassallo President in 2016, MBB’s 20th anniversary Having had the honour to serve as President of Malta Business Bureau for a few years, I join the Presidents who served before me and those who have followed to congratulate The Malta Chamber and the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association – the joint principals of the MBB. An organisation like the MBB was set up to represent the Maltese business communities at EU level, to keep them informed of developments and to pursue lobbying efforts on their behalf. My experience at the helm was a very rewarding one because the MBB is blessed with an excellent team of dedicated staff ably led by their energetic CEO, Joe Tanti. The energy and enthusiasm that the staff exhibited, as well as their dedication to the interests of Maltese business is hard to describe.

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One best way to recognise this during my tenure was to remember how the Maltese Government recognised the importance of working hand in hand with the business community during the run up and the exercise of the Maltese Presidency of the European Union. In fact, National Government found it wise to enter into a close relationship with the Brussels office of the MBB, even housing one of the team embedded within the presidency unit at the Embassy in Brussels. At the end of the presidency, this close relationship continues with funding by Government for staff reflecting the value of MBB’s lobbying expertise. My advice to Malta’s business community is to bring their problems, their legal or policy issues arising out of Brussels in as clear and practical a way as possible to the MBB staff. I assure you that the MBB will achieve great results for all of you through their dedication.


PHOTOS BY ALAN CARVILLE

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Embracing challenges and change to drive success As the EU and Malta work hard to recover and rebuild in a new, postpandemic reality, the Malta Business Bureau has a crucial role to play in bridging the two for the benefit of the local business community. Martina Said catches up with outgoing President Simon De Cesare and incoming President Alison Mizzi to learn of the organisation’s recent successes and future plans.

2021 is proving to be a transitional year for the Malta Business Bureau, with outgoing President Simon De Cesare’s term came to an end in May and handing over the reins to incoming President Alison Mizzi at a time of great change for many Maltese businesses as well as the EU bloc. Reflecting on his presidency since 2018, Mr De Cesare says he took on the role with the main aim of contributing towards the local business community and further sustaining its growth, while creating new opportunities for local businesses. “Over the past few years, the MBB has been instrumental in disseminating information relating to EU policy and legislation as well as being positioned to influence policy, and has strengthened its drive in implementing EU projects for the benefit of local businesses.”

Mr De Cesare says that participation in key areas which affect the local business community increased in Brussels, and the MBB has established itself as a strong voice in the Maltese business sector, further promoting EU values while striving to promote the opportunities available to them and the economy in general. “As the outgoing President, I wish to leave a solid foundation for further growth.” Throughout his tenure, the MBB has attained a considerable number of achievements, including the consolidation of its Energy Ecosystem, leading up to the winning of the National Enterprise Support Awards 2020 and placing as runner up in the European Enterprise Promotion Awards. “Work has continued on food waste reduction and energy efficiency campaigns. Various detailed

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studies were undertaken, covering diverse topics including the impact of working from home, improving access to funds by the private sector, as well as the effects of the European single market on Maltese businesses,” says Mr De Cesare. “Work on various projects like DIFME, LEADER and TAPROOM to mention just a few, which cover tourism, education and small business, is ongoing together with a number of seminars and webinars covering a wide range of EU policy of interest to business, including on the EU budget, European Green Deal, the Digital Services Act, tourism and trade.” His leadership of the organisation coincided with the most challenging time for many businesses, including for the MBB, that had to change the way it operates following the outbreak of COVID-19. Mr De Cesare says the organisation’s Brussels office was and continues to be crucial in providing the local business community with feedback and at times advance warning of matters of importance related to EU policy and legislation. “We have dealt with issues related to the pandemic as well as ongoing difficulties with Brexit, among others, providing real time updates on the way forward. Locally, the MBB has managed to adapt and maintain the high level of service it has always provided to Maltese businesses,” he asserts. “Looking to the future, the MBB’s role will be doubly important as we emerge from the pandemic and businesses look to the EU for funding assistance or even expansion. Opportunities that arise as well as the complexity of the EU funding and policy mechanism will position MBB as a key player to assist local businesses.”

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On a personal level, Mr De Cesare, who will remain on the MBB’s Board of Directors and assist with the transition within the capacity of Vice President, says his tenure took place during an exciting time for the organisation, coinciding with two major events at EU level: Brexit and the change in the Commission Mandate, and European Parliament Elections. “The latter led to a series of important debates, and proactive recommendations who are critical to Maltese companies to support further economic growth and increase employment,” he explains. “It has been rewarding to be part of the changes that have taken place over the last couple of years and witnessing the positive effects that these decisions have had on local businesses.” Indeed, the continued success of the MBB is a priority that incoming President, Alison Mizzi – whose years of experience in EU funding will prove invaluable to the role and organisation – is determined to carry on during her term. “As businesses and individuals seek to rebuild and make up for the past months, I am ready to take on the challenge of contributing, through my presidency of the Malta Business Bureau, towards bringing the EU’s relevance closer to the local business community to revive economic growth,” she asserts. “The MBB has already spearheaded the dissemination of advice and support to businesses on EU-related affairs. This is thanks to the work of previous leaders including my predecessor, Simon De Cesare, who continued lifting the role and profile of MBB.” Ms Mizzi adds that, as the organisation’s newly appointed President, “I am keen to further sustain its objectives and look


“The past years have seen MBB as being active in not only reaching the goals it set out but surpassing them.” SIMON DE CESARE

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“As President, I would like to ensure that the MBB capitalises on its close relations with the local business community.” ALISON MIZZI

for new opportunities to facilitate our businesses’ contribution towards the future of Europe, the formulation of new policies and the introduction and amendments to regulatory frameworks to make them work for the benefit of the Maltese business community. Furthermore, I shall be supporting the MBB’s ever increasing success in implementing EU projects and promoting opportunities that add value to MBB’s mission.” The President explains that, while building on previous successes, she is also focused on building a post-pandemic strategy to remain relevant and effective in achieving the MBB’s mission and vision. “The last months have placed extraordinary demands on business leaders and employees alike. Our schedules have become more unpredictable than ever before, making it increasingly challenging for us to respond effectively and efficiently. At the same time, the EU has recognised the need to transform itself to remain relevant in the post-pandemic reality,” she asserts.

existence of EU direct funding opportunities, but also encouraged to take the plunge if they foresee a boost in product or service quality.” Looking towards the post-pandemic scenario, Ms Mizzi says that the shaping of EU policies and legislation will continue to play a huge part in the way the local community emerges from the present crisis brought on by the pandemic, whilst also responding to the EU’s priorities, including environmental and digital challenges. “Never has the local business community had to face parallel economical disruptions and pressing priorities that demand immediate and concrete actions for a better world,” she explains. “In this regard, the MBB aims to adopt a climate that sustains adequate support which keeps abreast of these developments and provides timely information so that, together with its partners, it contributes towards policies and regulatory frameworks that are tailored to businesses’ needs to transit to the post-pandemic chapter.”

Going forward, the MBB will focus on the themes set at EU level, including climate change, the environment as well as digital transformation. It will contribute, through an informative process, to the changing dynamics that are expected to directly impact local businesses.

Sharing her hopes and aspirations for her term as President, Ms Mizzi says she believes that the people within an organisation play a critical role in shaping its success and so, hopes to leave her mark on the MBB team by supporting it to grow professionally.

While the MBB will continue making the best use of its network to support its Brussels policy team on pipeline EU legislation, it will also exploit new support incentives for businesses, most of which are reflected in the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027.

“MBB already has a team of highly competent and committed individuals that have contributed towards the achievements gained so far. I am looking forward to connecting and working with the team, whilst building further on the collaborative and professional drive that already exists,” says Ms Mizzi. “Investing in the team’s professional growth goes in tandem with this approach. I believe that this will not only make MBB more successful but will leave a bigger impact in the future where all stakeholders will gain.”

“As President, I would like to ensure that the MBB capitalises on its close relations with the local business community by having more entrepreneurs not only made aware of the

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Board of Directors 2021-2024

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Alison Mizzi President

Simon De Cesare Vice-President

Richard Cleland Director

Malcolm Jones Director

Marthese Portelli Director

Sergio Vella Director

Brian Muscat Director

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A message from Prime Minister Robert Abela:

‘We must renew our long-term political commitment to the Single Market’ 17 years of EU membership have enabled us to widen our horizons through a continuous transformation of our economy and the way we do business as a country. The rise in real GDP since membership has been 50 per cent higher than that experienced in the 17 years before accession. Besides fostering greater prosperity, membership improved governance levels following the sharing of experiences and best practices at an EU level, which led to enhanced competitiveness. Joining the Single Market fulfilled Malta’s potential as a trading nation. Whilst we believe that there is room to enhance the Single Market even further, it lies at the very heart of Malta’s success. The free movement of goods, services, persons and capital inside the world’s largest economic area (over €15 trillion GDP) means that businesses and consumers are able to benefit from enormous opportunities, greater choice of goods and services, as well as lower prices. This has facilitated opportunities for Malta, including our SMEs and microenterprises, as access to the Single Market not only increased their prospects but also allowed the local business community to trade more freely with other member states. Malta also benefits from the numerous international agreements with third countries which cover broad

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and complex areas such as trade, cooperation and development, as well as specific policy areas. It is no coincidence that our nation’s exports are three times the size they were in 2004. Mindful that Malta is a small island member state with inherent natural constraints, we have stepped up our efforts in investing EU funds in our human capital and infrastructure in order to leverage more local investment and attract more foreign direct investment. Over the years, Malta’s legislative framework, together with its business-centric mindset, have turned us into a natural choice for investors. In July last year, following long and intense negotiations on the EU Budget, Government exceeded expectations by bringing home the largest ever allocation for Malta. We are working tirelessly to translate this outcome into programmes and projects to consolidate further investments in our economy, our citizens and our businesses. Indeed, the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis brought about new realities which require fast thinking and decisive action. At this delicate juncture, whereby the EU is countering the effects and immediate challenges of COVID-19, we must renew our longterm political commitment to the Single Market to better reflect the current economic reality.


The focus on strategic autonomy is in response to the realities that emerged during the initial outbreak of the pandemic, whereby member states enforced restrictions in free movement, which has negatively impacted economic activity and industrial supply chains.

new approach to policy-making to succeed. Through various strategies and coordination efforts among member states, this new approach should deliver more concrete results. A wellfunctioning and competitive Single Market is vital for sustainable growth in Europe and its member states.

Moving forward, the green and digital transitions must remain central to our short- and long-term commitments to ensure that our citizens tap into the vast range of opportunities of the Single Market to skill and re-skill, and for our micro-enterprises and SMEs to thrive.

In the end, I would like to congratulate the Malta Business Bureau as it celebrates its 25th anniversary and convey my gratitude for its ongoing support to the business community. The MBB’s assistance and guidance on EU funding, together with its strong ties within the European network through its Brussels Office, have proved vital for local companies and enterprises keen on exploring further business within the EU.

The continued deepening of the Single Market, which entails removing the remaining barriers and obstacles, requires a

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PHOTO BY RENE ROS SIGNAUD

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A message from Leader of the Opposition Bernard Grech:

European opportunities ahead The Maltese have long harboured an entrepreneurial spirit, which saw us trading with foreign partners since time immemorial. We are programmed to seek opportunity in adversity, let alone in times of peace. European accession provided Maltese business with the long-sought platform of unfettered trade within the most affluent consumer market in the world, not to mention the springboard for world trade within the network of EU international agreements. The Nationalist Party saw this very early in the day. For my predecessors, the drive towards European Union membership was fuelled first and foremost by the eagerness of Maltese businesses to compete, to explore wider trading options and open new horizons. We believed in the abilities of the Maltese as creative people who can build bridges through commitment and integrity. With accession, those ambitions started transforming into concrete deliverables for Malta, with clear trickle-down effects of quality employment, wider consumer choices and increased activity in B2B opportunities on the island. We created a virtuous cycle of additional growth thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit of the Maltese and the political vision inspired by it. The figures simply corroborate what is very clearly felt on the ground. In the first years of accession, our trade figures basically doubled. Moreover, over one billion euro spent in EU funding gave another spin to the economic wheel, translating into further growth. Our experience of EU membership in the first years is testimony to our potential, and now equips us with more know-how to tap into the four freedoms of the European Union. We must however not take our past success as a guarantee of future endeavours.

On the contrary, with Brexit now putting new hurdles to previously free trade channels and with the pandemic stressing several sectors of the market on the demand side, we must garner all our energies to chart the way for Malta to continue making a success of EU membership. This will require, now more than ever, a coordinated effort into market and regulatory foresight, as well as the ability to mould forthcoming EU initiatives to better adapt to Malta’s interest. The Malta Business Bureau, being the only Maltese representative institution to have its offices in the heart of European decision-making, is certainly best placed to be a main actor in this ongoing challenge. The Malta Business Bureau’s role will become even more central in the coming years, as Malta realises the importance of adapting EU legislation rather than lamenting on its negative impact after its adoption. Cases such as the new European trucking rules which penalise peripheral and island regions like Malta need to be anticipated and avoided if we are to continue making a success of Union membership. Similarly, the EU funding allocation for Malta for the years 2021-2027 needs to be deployed through adapted EU legislation and consequent local implementation, effectively allowing Maltese interests to fit within EU objectives. As a government in waiting, the Nationalist Party certainly intends to bolster collaboration with the Malta Business Bureau and other representative organisations to see to the above objectives. We also believe that representative organisations which serve the public good should be better resourced through foreseeable public funding reserves and hence pledge to devise systematic formulae to allow business representation initiatives to grow in efficiency and capabilities once in government.

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25 years of strong alliances This year, the Malta Business Bureau celebrates a quarter of a century of service to the business community, providing support and guidance on European Union policy and legislation, as well as representing The Malta Chamber, and the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association on a European level. Here, Rebecca Anastasi speaks to Malta Chamber and MHRA Presidents, Marisa Xuereb and Tony Zahra, about the strength of their solid collaborations with the MBB. Established in 1996, the Malta Business Bureau (MBB) has been central to the prosperity of local businesses, providing a link between Malta’s corporate communities and the European Union, while also representing The Malta Chamber, and the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA) on an EU level. Indeed, over the past 25 years, the MBB, through its head offices in Valletta and Brussels, has connected its members – Maltese companies and entrepreneurs – to opportunities, training and new horizons afforded by the bloc, becoming a crucial node towards internationalisation, particularly in the wake of Malta’s EU accession in 2004. “Over the years, the MBB has developed a team of capable policy experts who have built networking relationships with policymakers in Brussels, and who are, therefore, able to act as lobbyists for the local business community,” Malta Chamber President Marisa Xuereb affirms, praising the MBB’s capable team and noting their vital function post2004. “Ever since Malta’s accession to the European Union, local policy development has been very much EU-driven.

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The role of the MBB in anticipating policy developments, communicating them to the Malta Chamber and advising on possible outcomes, as well as assisting in the consultation process on the implications of such developments for local businesses, is of crucial importance,” she continues. “The main goal of the Malta Chamber is to help local businesses improve their competitiveness and grow, not just locally but also beyond our shores, and the MBB is a key partner in achieving this.” This collaboration between the two entities has been thrown in sharp relief over the past 18 months, with the MBB providing support in helping local businesses operate in a new COVID-inflected environment. “The MBB was one of the first organisations to embark on a study on the implications of remote working for businesses and for the environment, and this study provided some very pertinent insights into how the future of work could be in those sectors that lend themselves to remote working,” Ms Xuereb says. Moreover, “the MBB has also been following closely policy developments related to gender equality, adequate minimum wages in the EU, the Energy Tax Directive and


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“The main goal of the Malta Chamber is to help local businesses improve their competitiveness and grow, not just locally but also beyond our shores, and the MBB is a key partner in achieving this.” MARISA XUEREB, MALTA CHAMBER PRESIDENT

the Digital Services Act – policy areas that have become more pertinent over the last couple of years,” the President says, affirming the bloc’s policy priorities of digitalisation and environmental sustainability, and insisting that the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) – which could see Malta receiving up to €316 million in recovery funds – be directed towards achieving Malta’s goals in these areas. “Digitalisation and environmental sustainability are dominating the EU’s policy agenda, and meeting the ambitious goals that are being set as part of the EU Green Deal will require businesses to implement significant changes in the way they operate. The RRF funds need to be directed at public investments that provide the necessary infrastructure for Malta to be able to meet its ambitious targets and at schemes to incentivise and support the private investment required to make the transition.” Underpinning these efforts is sustainability in the areas of energy, transport, waste management and building quality in Malta, which, ultimately affects energy consumption. “Businesses should be helped to finance additional investment in such technology” directed towards these areas, she says. “With regards to mobility, we are lagging behind many European countries in terms of electrification of vehicles when the relatively short distances we cover make us ideal candidates for electrification, at least on paper. The issue here is lack of investment in the charging infrastructure and in the required competence to handle electric vehicles.” Moreover, “on waste management, the approach has been one of firefighting. A clear strategy needs to be adopted and the private sector needs to be roped in, not just in the generation, separation and disposal of waste, but also in its recycling and commercialisation. Major investment is required in the waste handling infrastructure and this needs

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to be financed sustainably as well. When it comes to the quality of buildings, we need to make a major leap and, unless we show national commitment to it, with clear incentives for developers who want to put on the market net-zero buildings and for people who want to renovate their existing buildings, we won’t make it by 2050. And let us be clear: within the current EU mindset, those who won’t make it will have to pay for their shortfalls. So, we cannot afford to be complacent,” she says. However, beyond the RRF, particular sectors also need direct attention in order to bounce back post-COVID, the President insists. “We also need to find ways of regenerating our tourism industry by repositioning it for higher valueadded through a combination of product innovation and service quality upgrades that would improve the overall customer experience. We need to support our manufacturing industry to maintain a competitive advantage within the EU, particularly as rising transcontinental freight costs are seeing the return of some manufacturing business to Europe – those European locations with the more competitive cost base will get to secure this.”


Internationalising will also remain key to local enterprises. “We need to identify overseas markets for homegrown businesses to tap into, while attracting new innovative businesses that can help us rebalance our economy and provide us with niches that we can harness and establish ourselves as a hub. The latter requires some local public investment in the infrastructure to house start-ups and experimental development and some innovative financing models,” she says. Looking ahead, and on the topic of the EU’s minimum wages proposal, the Malta Chamber sees this as an infringement on Malta’s national prerogative to set wage standards, and a threat to local company growth. “In Malta, the minimum wage is not a wage level that people generally get stuck in but more of a peg on which salary scales are calibrated. What this means is that the moment you touch the minimum wage, everyone’s wage shoots up to maintain relativities. When that happens, you get cost-push inflation whereby local businesses become less competitive internationally while the purchasing power of local workers remains virtually unchanged.”

Over the next few months, Ms Xuereb sees the Malta Chamber and the MBB continue to work together for the good of the business community. “The immediate priorities are making sure that every business that has a feasible business model survives the pandemic and that every opportunity created by the current disruption is exploited to its full potential by local businesses. The key to survival is liquidity and the key to exploiting opportunities is agility – or being able to react quickly,” she says, stressing the need to work pre-emptively.

“The MBB continued its usual sterling service in keeping us and our members up to date at what is being discussed at European level.” TONY ZAHRA , MHRA PRESIDENT

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“While the rapid vaccine rollout has provided us all with a lot of hope, the uneven handling of the pandemic globally leads us to believe that the world will be in the midst of a pandemic for some time longer, and all the disruption that we’ve seen in everything from logistics and work organisation, to education and healthcare, to retail, entertainment and travel, is likely to persist to a greater or lesser extent, until every part of the world that matters in terms of trade, labour supply or tourism, has brought the situation completely under control. This will require the Chamber to remain very close to its members and to be vigilant on all developments to ensure that businesses are adequately supported and always mindful of the risks and opportunities of the moment,” she concludes. MHRA President Tony Zahra echoes these sentiments. “Amid a fall in COVID-19 cases, now is not the time to let our guard down and act as if everything is back to normal. The pandemic is still among us and the risk remains if we do not stick to the appropriate safety measures,” he asserts, pointing to the support provided by the MBB in such a challenging time for Malta’s tourism sector. “The MBB continued its usual sterling service in keeping us and our members up to date on what is being discussed at European level,” he says. Indeed, the collaboration between the entities, which stretches since the organisation’s inception, “was doubly important during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the MBB upholding our representation at HOTREC [the umbrella Association of Hotels, Restaurants, Pubs and Cafes in Europe] proved crucial in ensuring we were aware of industry developments in other member states. In addition, this year has also been tricky with a plethora of new EU legislation that will likely affect the tourism industry, and the MBB has been at the forefront pushing for the interests of Maltese businesses during discussions on these issues,” Mr Zahra says. Indeed, the MBB has, the MHRA President continues, “been working on the frontlines to ensure that businesses are kept informed about the digital and green transition, which have been sped up during the pandemic.” Along the

same lines, Mr Zahra also makes reference to the MBB’s study on remote working which, he says, “provided a window into post pandemic employer-employee relations”; furthermore, he continues, the MBB has embarked on a plethora of other initiatives aiming to support the local business community operating in a COVIDenvironment. “The MBB has also spearheaded initiatives which looked into food waste management in the hospitality sector. In addition, the organisation timely study on EU funds, coinciding with the introduction of the new Multiannual Financial Framework, is pushing for administrative burden reduction for businesses applying for EU funds – a crucial source of financing for so many in the tourism industry aiming to increase the sustainability of their operations,” he outlines. Turning to the future of the tourism industry – and initiatives being touted by Brussels, also being introduced locally – Mr Zahra points to the EU Digital COVID Certificate as “a good step forward”, in that it will provide peace of mind and a “a harmonised level of recognition as to whether visitors are vaccinated, received a negative test result, or recently contracted COVID-19.” However, he cautions that this certificate “does not preclude Member States from introducing further restrictions, based upon scientific evidence and the epidemiological situation. It is important that this is introduced swiftly, and in an equitable manner whereby all bearers are treated the same way, with no discrimination. Any added restrictions should be proportionate and not go beyond what is necessary to ensure public safety.” Over the next months, while this balance between safety and economy will continue to be of concern to policymakers, governments and stakeholders in the tourism industry, the longterm sustainability of Europe’s tourism product must also take centre stage through, for instance, safeguarding heritage sites, Mr Zahra insists. “Natural and cultural resources need to be better preserved, and negative environmental impacts

“We need to identify overseas markets for homegrown businesses to tap into.” MARISA XUEREB, MALTA CHAMBER PRESIDENT

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at tourist destinations, such as waste, pollution and over-use of natural resources, need to be limited. Long-term planning, involving all stakeholders is needed to ensure that businesses and the national government are able to make tourism more sustainable. There is no doubt that the green transition is coming sooner rather than later, and businesses need to understand this and start preparing from now,” he insists. Thus, over the next few years, the key issues to look out for, in relation to Malta’s business relationship with the EU, “will be initiatives surrounding sustainability reporting and corporate governance, where the EU is pushing for more social responsibility to be borne by companies.” Moreover, on a related note, the President underscores to extend the notion of sustainable practices in business models, particularly with the

rise of online service platforms, for “the relationship between companies and online platforms is also under the spotlight, with the Commission targeting unfair practices by platforms towards companies and consumers.” Despite these challenges, the MHRA – aided by the MBB – is also committed to liaising with all stakeholders to keep the island’s tourism industry flourishing. “These are challenging times and the MHRA pledges to keep working together with the authorities to ensure that the tourism, hospitality, and travel sector remains an important element in the Maltese economy. These are times of seeking synergies and not divisions in the best interest of citizens, employees, and employers,” he concludes.

“These are times of seeking synergies and not divisions in the best interest of citizens, employees, and employers.” TONY ZAHRA , MHRA PRESIDENT

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EU Policy and Lobbying

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A new EU legislature and a new European Commission The past year proved to be a busy one, with the Von der Leyen Commission keen to make its mark early on in its mandate. Many new legislative proposals were brought forward, mainly focusing on the green and digital transitions, with the Commission keen to future-proof European businesses in terms of digital competence as well as environmental and financial sustainability, ensuring the EU competes with the likes of the United States and China with regards to its economy. The MBB’s Brussels office kept Maltese businesses updated with issues of pressing concern and weighed in on discussions by promoting the interests of Maltese businesses on priority issues. It worked closely with several stakeholders and experts in various fields to gather information and contributed to consultations by the European Commission or local entities at an early stage.

EU Legislative Update Digital Services Act (DSA) The DSA was published, bringing with it proposed EU-wide harmonised obligations that will apply to all digital services. The DSA is seen to build upon the principle-based approach of the 20-year-old E-Commerce Directive by bringing with it more specific obligations fit for the boom in online provisions of goods and services. The key obligations include procedures for the removal of illegal content, safeguards for users whose content has been erroneously deleted, rules on traceability of businesses on online marketplaces, and an innovative cooperation process among Member States’ enforcement authorities, among others. The European Parliament and the Council are currently negotiating their internal positions on the Commission’s proposal. Positions from both institutions are estimated to be revealed in the opening months of next year, upon which trilogue negotiations to find common ground can start. Once an agreement is reached, the final text will be adopted and directly applicable across the EU. The MBB is working hard to ensure that the interests of Maltese businesses are respected within the negotiations and is strongly pushing for the countryof-origin principle to be respected, so that small businesses can continue doing business across borders, under the same rules of the country of their establishment. Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) The Commission also published its proposed revision of the CSRD (formerly known as the Non-Financial Reporting Directive), which lays down the rules on disclosure of nonfinancial and diversity information by large companies, employing more than 500 people. The revision now expands the scope of the Directive to all large companies employing more than 250 employees, and all companies including SMEs listed on regulated securities market. These undertakings will

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PHOTO BY EUROPE AN UNION

be required to report information pertaining to sustainability factors and the impacts of the undertaking on society and the environment, and its strategy and policies in relation to sustainability factors. Reporting will be required on risks to sustainability factors, how the company plans to take into account the interests of stakeholders, the impacts on supply chains, as well as information on intangible assets, including information on intellectual and human capital. The obligations will not apply to non-listed SMEs, however the Commission will publish a set of voluntary standards for those companies. The proposal was very recently adopted and has been communicated to the Parliament and Council for negotiations to commence.


EU Digital COVID Certificate In light of restarting cross-border movement following the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission has also proposed the EU Digital COVID Certificate, which will be an authentic document that would be verified across the EU. This is known colloquially as the ‘vaccine passport’, however it must be pointed out that this will not work in the same way as a passport in practice and will not serve to hinder free movement. It will serve as digital proof of whether an EU resident has been vaccinated, received a negative COVID-19 test result, or recovered from COVID-19. Given the urgency of the matter, both Council and Parliament used fast-track procedures and came to an agreement within a matter of a few weeks. They will now negotiate for a final

agreement, estimated to be reached in June 2021, in the hope that the digital certificate will be used to facilitate tourism for the 2021 summer season. Adequate Minimum Wages In October 2020, the European Commission issued a Directive on Adequate Minimum Wages that builds on the European Pillar of Social Rights. Among others, the Directive proposes to introduce common criteria within the framework of how statutory minimum wages are calculated in Member States, which include at least the following elements: the purchasing power of statutory minimum wages, considering the cost of living and the contribution of taxes and social benefits; the general level of gross wages and their distribution; the growth

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rate of gross wages; and labour productivity developments. Member States would also be required to ensure that minimum wages are updated in a regular manner to preserve their adequacy. Reference is made to international standards indicating that adequate minimum wages would be around 60 per cent of gross median wages and 50 per cent of gross average wages in a country. The proposal aims also to increase collective bargaining coverage in Member States and where this is less than 70 per cent calls for an action plan to promote this practice. Pay Transparency The European Commission presented an EU Pay Transparency proposal in March 2021, with the objective of strengthening

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the application of the principle of equal pay for equal work or work of equal value between men and women through pay transparency and enforcement mechanisms. This Directive fits in the wider policy framework of the EU’s Gender Equality Strategy for 2020-2025 pioneered by European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli. Some of the provisions of the Directive include the right for workers to receive information (on request) on individual pay level and the average pay levels; information on pay to be included in job adverts or provided to candidates before the interview; reporting obligation for companies with more than 250 employees on pay gap between male and female workers; and in case where the reporting highlights a pay gap of at least five per cent, the employer is obliged to carry out a detailed pay assessment in cooperation with workers’ representatives.


EU Non-Legislative Update Better Regulation Moving on to the Commission’s strategy for the coming years, a Communication on Better Regulation was published, laying out a plan to improve the law-making process. The aim of this is to set out a plan for EU institutions to ensure that legislation being drafted internally adequately addresses the needs for citizens and businesses, and are future-proof. The Commission has appealed for cooperation with European, national and local authorities to increase the drive to remove administrative burden and red tape, and ensure that laws are fit for purpose. The Commission has also committed to introducing a ‘one in, one out’ principle, whereby when laws are introduced, their effect in terms of administrative and financial burden is quantified, and reduction of equivalent burden from past laws is achieved through repeal or revision wherever possible. New Industrial Strategy A communication on updating the Industrial Strategy was also published, outlining the EU’s commitment to ensure that its industrial policymaking learns lessons from the COVID-19 crisis and helps drive the transformation to a more sustainable, digital, resilient and globally competitive economy. A number of proposals were put forward, including for a Single Market Emergency Instrument, a structural solution to ensure free movement during future crises; enforcing the Services Directive to ensure that Member States comply with their obligations to not introduce disproportionate requirements on foreign companies; strengthening market surveillance of products by supporting national authorities to increase capacity; and mobilising investment to support SMEs, including addressing payment delays, providing measures to address solvency risks and implementing Alternative Dispute Resolution schemes. The MBB welcomed this communication, particularly as some key issues raised in the MBB’s 2019 report, The Impact of the European Single Market on Maltese Businesses, were taken up, specifically the commitment for greater enforcement on the obligations of the Services Directive which will ensure that Member States do not introduce protectionist requirements, also providing support to member states’ market surveillance authorities to increase their capacity to better be able to go about their duties and ensure a fair level playing field for all companies.

Other important strategies issued during this period were the Action Plan for the European Pillar of Social Rights, Europe’s Digital Decade; Renewed Partnership with the Southern Neighbourhood (Mediterranean); Review of the EU Trade Policy; and Business Taxation for the 21st century. Conference on the Future of Europe During this period, the Conference on the Future of Europe was also launched. The aim is to give EU citizens a greater say in the EU’s future direction, including vis-à-vis the institutional and governance structure of the Union with the possibility of Treaty changes where necessary. The EU’s vision on policy topics, including climate change, economic and social issues, and the digital transformation will also be examined. This will be a year-long process, with the goal of finalising the process before summer 2022. European citizens may submit feedback directly via a public portal that has been made available online. The MBB plans to contribute its vision for the EU on behalf of Maltese business. For more information, contact MBB Brussels Office on +32 2234 7942 or infobrussels@mbb.org.mt

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Enterprise Europe Network Despite the new reality which engulfed the 2020-2021 years, the MBB used the pandemic as an opportunity to increase its digital presence, client advisory, business mentoring, industry consultation and publications, among others. This adaption bridged us closer to our priorities as part of EEN, which is that of supporting local small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Business Advisory, Support and Internationalisation MBB continued to develop numerous opportunities which emerged from the Cork Company Mission organised in collaboration with Cork Chambers, in December 2019. Since then, three dynamic start-ups in the IT industry, under the guidance and mentorship of MBB CEO Joe Tanti, have converged their services into a one-stop-shop. MBB, apart from providing these companies with several business mentoring sessions, has also guided them into forming an official Consortium. Through the EEN, MBB has connected this Maltese IT Consortium with prominent entities from Ireland, such as the Munster Technological University. MTU opened up numerous paths of opportunity for the Consortium – in fact, all three member start-ups acceded into the IT@Cork Cluster, connecting with over 220 technology companies in Ireland. MBB is confident that in

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joint efforts with the MTU and Cork Chambers, it will continue boosting the international exposure of this Consortium, introducing the companies to more opportunities beyond the Maltese islands. MBB is also supporting and guiding other local businesses in exploring avenues for alternative finance, such as local grants and schemes for business development, research, and innovation, among others. Furthermore, MBB managed to facilitate numerous business partnership agreements between local SMEs and foreign partners from Europe, enabling the growth and internationalisation of Maltese companies. Thanks to the EEN partner profile platform connecting SMEs from over 70 countries globally, MBB has continued to publish business profiles for its business clients to increase their international outreach and promote transnational collaborations, extending clients’ horizons whose services were previously limited to local consumers.


SME Feedback & EU Policy Events As part of its EEN activities, MBB contributed to several European Commission consultations in several policy areas thanks to the input received from companies that have specific business interest in prospective EU legislation. In the area of sustainability, feedback was contributed to consultations relating to the European Green Deal, including the upcoming revisions of the Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy and Energy Performance in Building Directives, as well as the Sustainable Products Initiative. In the area of tax policy, the MBB submitted feedback to consultations on the VAT scheme for travel agents and collaborated with the Institute of Financial Services Practitioners (IFSP) to submit feedback on the upcoming EU Digital Levy and the VAT reform for Financial and Insurance Services. In the area of trade policy, feedback was submitted to a consultation on current deliberations for the development of an EU anti-coercion instrument. Other feedback was provided to broader Commission policy strategies such as the New Consumer Agenda and the European Way for the Digital Decade. During these consultations collectively, MBB obtained feedback from over 235 companies. Additionally, MBB hosted numerous information sessions on the above-mentioned policies, reaching over 240 local SMEs. MBB frequently engaged members of the European Parliament for their invaluable insight and contribution, granting both the MEPs and the local participants an opportunity to voice their opinions. Following the recent publication of the MBB Report entitled Improving Access to EU Funds by Private Enterprise in the Programming Period 2021-2027, MBB aims to realign its business support efforts by providing more assistance to companies when accessing EU and alternative funds, acting as a liaison office between the aspiring companies and the respective local authorities. This EEN-supported report garnered in-depth feedback from over 100 Maltese companies, resulting in exceptional practical insight on the primary issues at hand. Communication During the past months, MBB continued to lead EEN Malta’s communications efforts by increasing visibility of the Network services and activities to attract and support SMEs with international ambitions. A communication campaign on ‘EU Open for Business’ launched towards the end of 2020 visually explained the portfolio of the Network’s services, exposing Maltese client testimonials success stories and showing EEN impact outcomes. Finally, MBB ensured that EEN has a steady digital presence through constant updates and sharing of information on its online platforms, keeping present and future clients abreast of numerous activities, business news and changes in EU policy. For more information, contact EEN Project Executive, Michele Agius on magius@mbb.org.mt

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MBB Projects

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Supporting businesses with green initiatives The aspect of going green has increasingly become a priority for most companies, not simply to improve their corporate social responsibility, but also to remain relevant in the future business environment. With that said, the MBB has been all the more determined to promote ‘green business’ through the following projects.

LIFE FOSTER In February 2019, the MBB announced its participation in the EU funded LIFE FOSTER project, targeting food waste reduction in the food services sector. This project brings together several partners from Malta, Italy, France, and Spain with the objective of developing an educational model for chefs and kitchen staff to help them reduce food waste in their kitchens. This model was developed by the project’s scientific partner, the University of Gastronomic Sciences of Pollenzo (Italy) and has now been gradually integrated into courses offered in participating Vocational Education and Training centres.

has also reached out to professionals already working in restaurants and hotels through seminars and webinars, reaching around 100 professionals directly through these events. In the first half of 2021, MBB and ITS designed a series of online training webinars targeting chefs, to serve as a more practical demonstration on how restaurants can assess the sources of food waste in their kitchens and appropriately address them. This training will be offered in the second half of this year. Visit www.lifefoster.eu to find out more.

In Malta’s case, MBB is working closely with the Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS), also partners in the LIFE FOSTER project, and have trained multiple lecturers so far. Aside from the educational approach, the project

For more information, contact Senior Executive Gabriel Cassar on gcassar@mbb.org.mt

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Business Against Food Waste While restaurants can go a long way to reduce waste in their own kitchens, a significant amount of food waste in restaurants is generated by the consumer. In this respect, the MBB launched an awareness-raising Business Against Food Waste campaign about food waste in October 2019, targeting businesses and their employees. This is being led by the MBB, in collaboration with ITS and the HSBC Malta CSR Institute, and supported by Wasteserv, the Malta Tourism Authority and the Ministry for Tourism. A series of seminars and webinars were held in 2020, featuring speakers with different expertise in areas such as composting, sustainable seafood and waste separation. These sessions have reached over 300 participants, with further sessions to be organised in 2021. For more information, contact Senior Executive, Gabriel Cassar on gcassar@mbb.org.mt

Turkey-EU Business Dialogue The MBB is supporting the Turkish Chambers through the allocation of an expert to help develop an energy efficiency outreach for Turkey. The outreach consists of creating an energy efficiency toolkit: a set of hands-on technical tools for consultants, and management tools for coordinators within the Turkish Chambers, delivering training to 30+ Turkish Chamber representatives on the use of the toolkit, support in using the toolkit with circa 250 Turkish businesses, and the preparation of a report including policy recommendations. The toolkit will stem from the methodology tested under the EU Funded Support and Training for an Excellent Energy Efficiency Performance (STEEEP) project. The objective is to develop a range of checklists and tools which will allow the Chambers’ members to reduce

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their energy consumption and increase awareness of energy efficiency. The MBB is represented by Geoffrey Saliba, working with Sonja Stanberger from Energieinstitut der Wirtschaft and Javier Cervera from the Valencia Chamber of Commerce. The Turkey-EU Business Dialogue (TEBD) is a project co-funded by the European Union under its IPA II programme with Turkey. TEBD is managed by EUROCHAMBRES, through a grant contract with CFCU, in close cooperation with TOBB, as the end beneficiary institution of the project. The TEBD activities are implemented through the European and Turkish Chambers of Commerce and Industry. For more information, contact Energy Efficiency Advisor, Geoffrey Saliba on gsaliba@mbb.org.mt


Promoting soft skills development Amidst all of the changes that the world has experienced over the last months, renewed focus is being placed on the development of appropriate soft skills, especially amongst young people seeking to enter the labour market. Soft skill proficiency, which includes but is not limited to communication, teamwork and listening skills, are sought by employers more than ever before. MBB has therefore strived to build on this renewed focus by fostering soft skills development in its EU-funded projects.

INCOME As an Erasmus+ Knowledge Alliances Project, INCOME Tourism has, since 2018, brought together 13 partner organisations based in Croatia, Germany, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain, and the Netherlands to develop and incorporate soft skills into higher education curricula and to strongly cooperate with businesses, ensuring that learning opportunities in the ‘real’ world are provided to tourism graduates. Over the first half of the project’s implementation, the partners successfully structured a cooperative learning model, founded upon months of research and consultation with the three main beneficiary groups (students, academics, and in-company tutors) in all partner countries. Following the implementation of preparatory workshops and the formulation of learning trios (one student, one academic and one incompany tutor per trio) in each country, the model’s pilot activity kicked off in November 2019. Halfway through the pilot activity – in March 2020 – the learning trios were supposed to be brought together in Ravensburg, Germany to directly learn from the dual German model and network with fellow students, academics and in-company tutors, thus maximising the learning exchange. With the outbreak of COVID-19 in Europe, however, the INCOME Team was left with no choice but to shift its learning programme to one of a virtual nature, for the safety and well-being of all partners and participants. A webinar series entitled Skills for Today and Tomorrow: Tourism Education, Employability and Industry-University Cooperation ran between the end of March and May 2021, to wrap up project activities and simultaneously contribute to the discussion on the challenges and opportunities that the tourism sector is presently facing. In times of rapid change, professionals with the right set of skills stand to thrive, thereby increasing the relevance of Industry-University cooperation initiatives. Visit www.income-tourism-project.eu to find out more.

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LEADER Since October 2019, the MBB has been collaborating with six partner organisations based in Denmark, Romania, Spain, and the Netherlands on the implementation of LEADER. This is an Erasmus+ project aiming to support students in Vocational Education and Training (VET) to develop appropriate soft skills, allowing them to take control of their careers. Soft skills refer to the competencies needed to communicate, cooperate and work productively. In most competitive job markets, employers do not only look for technical ability and specialist knowledge. Instead, they seek candidates who can become leaders, and leadership itself depends on both technical and soft skills. Exposing students and young employees to a comprehensive skill set thus increases their chances of professional success. Training in soft skills is, however, far from straightforward, as these competencies tend to be complex and vary from one situation to another. This is where the trainee’s motivation becomes an increasingly important factor, coupled with the employed training method and delivery. Keeping all of this in mind, LEADER partners are currently finalising the development of an innovative serious game – which has already been tested by over 60 trainees from

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across Europe – serving the purpose of demonstrating how specific soft skills apply in different work situations. This game will be made available alongside a Toolbox for Teachers and Trainers, complementing more traditional forms of education through the inclusion of 50 practical ‘classroom’ activities that can be applied to both the classroom context and to workbased training, and can be adapted to different age groups and educational topics. All of these resources will not only make training fun and engaging, but will also provide a flexible learning experience, depending on the trainees’ strengths and weaknesses. In June 2021, a three-day digital learning activity was held for a selected number of teachers and trainers based in the partner countries. Its aim was not simply to raise awareness about the importance of soft skills, but also to provide the opportunity for teachers and trainers to be the first to test the developed LEADER e-learning platform and serious game, and subsequently provide feedback for final improvement. Visit www.leadertheproject.com to find out more. For more information, contact Project Manager, Marija Elena Borg on mborg@mbb.org.mt


Fostering digital and financial literacy In an age when technology is reshaping our lifestyles, both financial and digital skills are essential to help individuals progress and prosper on a personal and a professional level. For this reason, the MBB has sought to boost financial and digital literacy through the following European projects.

DIFME DIFME, standing for Digital Internationalisation and Financial Literacy for Micro Entrepreneurs, is an Erasmus+ Knowledge Alliances Project that brings together universities and businesses from Malta, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, and the Netherlands. Led by the Malta Business Bureau, the project aims to identify the existing skills gaps in the financial and digital literacy of microentrepreneurs, and to subsequently develop online training and resources to address these gaps and enable entrepreneurs to expand their business locally and internationally. Following several consultation sessions with microentrepreneurs, the project partners have now finalised an online, on-demand training source that meets entrepreneur needs, and offers an easier understanding of financial literacy as well as digital internationalisation skills. The training is available in English, Italian, Greek, Bulgarian and Dutch.

A series of online piloting sessions and thematic workshops were scheduled in the beginning of 2021 targeting micro entrepreneurs. Participants were given access to the e-learning platform and valuable information sources. Access to the learning platform and signposts to other valuable information sources will be made available through an online SME Hub which serves as an open repository of solutions oriented to startup entrepreneurs and experienced entrepreneurs, helping them seize new business opportunities. The intention is not to re-invent the wheel but to facilitate access to relevant information on a national and European level. Visit www.difme.eu to find out more. For more information, contact Project Manager Marika Huber on mhuber@mbb.org.mt

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INVEST+ In September 2019, MBB together with the HSBC Malta Foundation launched INVEST+, a project seeking to improve the levels of financial literacy in Malta through mentoring sessions and workshops on finance, business planning, accounting, savings and investment. The objective has never been to turn participants into financial experts, but to give them an understanding of crucial concepts, therefore allowing them to become financially independent on a personal and a professional level. Since the project’s launch and prior to March 2020, the INVEST+ team organised multiple mentoring sessions led by knowledgeable and experienced HSBC employees. All sessions – which specifically enabled the participation of small groups of people to ensure that individual attention could be provided – were well-received by participants coming from all walks of life (i.e., students, entrepreneurs, employees, and society at large). With the outbreak of COVID-19, the INVEST+ team felt that it was its duty to revise the project’s work programme, not just to abide by the restrictions in place, but also to explore other opportunities and

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reach out to participants via different means. Virtual workshops and campaigns were primarily implemented, followed by a mini web-series that was released online in an episodic form in April 2021 and had a total of 30,000+ views to date. With a duration of five to eight minutes per episode, the web-series looks into the following topics: 1. How to create a Business Plan in 12 Steps 2. How to differentiate between a Balance Sheet, an Income Statement, and a Cash Flow Statement 3. How to build a Savings Plan 4. How to distinguish between Stocks and Bonds The web-series can be viewed on the Malta Business Bureau’s YouTube channel. For more information, contact Project Manager, Marija Elena Borg on mborg@mbb.org.mt


Supporting and educating on niche markets A niche market is a fraction of a broader market that can be determined by its own specific needs and interests, distinguishing it from the market at large. Whilst it does not necessarily mean that a niche market is a small market, it is true that it does involve specific target audiences with a specialised offering. In this regard, MBB has been working hard to educate itself on and support businesses operating in certain niche markets, such as brewers producing organic and craft beer.

TAPROOM In January 2021, the Malta Business Bureau, in collaboration with four other partner organisations based in Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany and Italy, launched TAPROOM – a project co-funded by the EU’s Erasmus+ programme. The project’s ultimate aim is to develop a multidisciplinary, interactive and comprehensive training programme in the production and marketing of organic and craft beer. It goes a step further to ensure that more is done in terms of promoting beer as part of the intangible cultural heritage of the European Union. Over the last few months, project partners have continued researching and building upon the knowledge they already possess on the needs and demands of TAPROOM’s target audience. Desk research is being complemented by means of a survey that has been disseminated across all partner countries, as well as the implementation of national focus groups with key stakeholders in each participating country.

Malta’s focus group was held virtually in April, and saw the participation of local organic and craft beer producers, trainers, experts and retailers. Their underlying collective message revolved around the need for increased education on the production and marketing of organic and craft beer, primarily amongst consumers, followed by aspiring brewers. The more correct knowledge is disseminated, the better the chances for an increased appreciation of the organic and craft beer culture. Final research results will be fed into a comprehensive European report that will form the foundation of the TAPROOM Learning Model. Partners will then set out to work on the compilation of TAPROOM’s training content. Additional information will be provided shortly on the project’s website. For more information, contact Project Manager, Marija Elena Borg on mborg@mbb.org.mt

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The Foundation for the Promotion of Entrepreneurial Initiatives Founded by the Malta Business Bureau and the University of Malta, the Foundation for the Promotion of Entrepreneurial Initiatives has continued helping Malta’s entrepreneurs not only to survive the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also to thrive, both locally and internationally. Established through a collaboration between the Malta Business Bureau and the University of Malta, the Foundation for the Promotion of Entrepreneurial Initiatives (FPEI) serves to promote and support all forms of entrepreneurship, from high tech or high growth ventures to social enterprises. By working with local and international partners, the FPEI establishes new initiatives and provides the tools and resources needed to sustain local entrepreneurs in their business journey.

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ZAAR As the Foundation’s first offering, Malta’s reward-based crowdfunding platform ZAAR has once again exceeded all expectations throughout the past months. Beyond offering a vital means of financial support to local start-ups and SMEs as they tackled the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic, ZAAR implemented various measures to support their campaigns throughout the difficult time. By making alternative finance more accessible to the local community, ZAAR’s growing popularity culminated in 2020 with 26 projects being published onto the platform from over 140 project leads, raising a total figure of more than €80,000. Compared to an average success rate of around 53 per cent by similar reward-based crowdfunding platforms abroad, ZAAR registered an 82 per cent funding success rate in 2020 – an achievement made more impressive by being recorded in a year synonymous with the hardships of the pandemic. While increasing promotion of its campaigns through boosting marketing initiatives, social media and newsletters, ZAAR also organised various crowdfunding workshops and ZAAR Clinics whereby individuals could learn more about crowdfunding and share ideas. Also in 2020, the ZAAR team shared their insights at the Women Mean Business conference as part of the Malta SME Week, and mentored young entrepreneurs as part of the Company Programme at JAYE Malta Foundation. ZAAR also represented Malta as Country Patron at the EU Commission’s Fintech and Alternative Finance workshop, and formed part of a European Crowdfunding Network (ECN) working group on crowdfunding and blockchain.

Meanwhile, ZAAR was approved to participate in two projects following a successful application process. The first, a local project with Arts Council Malta, entails ZAAR implementing various activities to instil a more entrepreneurial mindset in participants from the creative and cultural sectors. As a longstanding gold member of the European Crowdfunding Network, ZAAR will also contribute to a second, ECN-led project by raising awareness and offering training regarding crowdfunding among disadvantaged groups in the community. In 2020, ZAAR also continued work begun the year before to set up the ZAAR Investor Club. Following a survey carried out by the FPEI in 2019 to garner the local investor appetite for other types of crowdfunding, preparations to establish a club that seeks to educate and raise awareness about investing in start-ups began. While ZAAR was established to address the financial barriers to entrepreneurship through offering an alternative means of finding finance, the FPEI continues to offer holistic support to local entrepreneurs via other initiatives.

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The Three Questions Model of Developing Social Entrepreneurs

Creating Opportunities for Adult Learners

2020 saw the conclusion of a second initiative by the FPEI as part of a project funded by the Erasmus+ programme together with five European partners, named The Three Questions Model of Developing Social Entrepreneurs (T3QM).

Another EU project named Creating Opportunities for Adult Learners (CORAL), likewise continued for FPEI and ZAAR throughout 2020.

Launched in 2019 with new or would-be entrepreneurs in mind, this online tool aims to help them transform an idea into a sustainable and profitable business enterprise by asking them three key questions: what they are selling, who is in their target consumer base, and what is the proposed price of their product. While developing both soft and hard social entrepreneurial skills, this innovative methodology has also been proven to create jobs. The T3QM project additionally offers useful materials for adult educators or mentors, to enable them to offer high-quality business coaching to start-up founders.

Launched in 2019 and funded by the EU together with another eight European partners from the adult education arena, this project aims to develop various training tools based on the key skills and competencies of self-employed entrepreneurs, to assist adults considering self-employment or embarking on entrepreneurship. 2020 marked the successful completion of the research phase by ZAAR and the FPEI, which jointly deal with five of the 15 training materials for the EU Commission’s Entrecomp Entrepreneurial Competency framework. Meanwhile, work started on the implementation of the self-assessment tool for young or new entrepreneurs to test their existing skills and knowledge. Through the tireless efforts of the FPEI and ZAAR in Malta, local entrepreneurs of all levels and experience can access the guidance, training or funding required to help them launch an impactful business enterprise, sustaining Malta’s economy both today and for many years to come. More information about the FPEI can be found online at www.fpei.mt

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Executive Team

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Joe Tanti Chief Executive Officer

Daniel Debono EU Affairs Manager & Head of Brussels Operations

Mark Seychell Senior Policy Advisor Internal Market & Legal Affairs

Marija Elena Borg Manager EU Programmes & Projects

Gabriel Cassar Senior Executive Sustainable Development

Sarah Abdilla Senior Executive Marketing & Communications

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Project-based team members:

Michele Agius Executive Business Advisory & Support

Cynthia Grech McCormick Office Coordinator

Marika Huber DIFME Project Manager

Geoffrey Saliba Energy Efficiency Advisor

Martina Spiteri and Margot De Cuniac were engaged as Interns in 2021.

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Calendar of Events January – June 2021

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January 14-15th January: Kick-Off Meeting for TAPROOM Project

March

3rd March: Webinar on Alternative Sources of Finance for Entrepreneurs

MBB launched TAPROOM, a project co-funded by the EU’s Erasmus+ programme, in collaboration with four other partner organisations based in Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, and Italy. This project aims to develop a multidisciplinary, interactive, and comprehensive training programme in the production and marketing of organic and craft beer. It goes a step further to ensure that more is done in terms of promoting beer as part of the intangible cultural heritage of the European Union. By adopting a blended learning approach, the TAPROOM partnership expects to develop a tailored training programme that is suitable for anyone who does not have the time or the possibility to attend formal academic courses, which are generally of a longer duration.

February 23rd-24th February: MBB Senior Executive attends EEN Communication Champions Workshop As part of her role as a Communication Champion within Malta’s Enterprise Europe Network consortium, Sarah Abdilla attended the EEN Communication Champion’s workshop. This was an intensive two-day online workshop focusing on the achievements of 2020 and identifying the needs and priorities for 2021 as a year of transition for the business community.

MBB hosted a webinar on Alternative Sources of Finance for Entrepreneurs as part of the Erasmus+ DIFME Project, with the participation of The Edward de Bono Institute (from the University of Malta) and partners in Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, and the Netherlands. The webinar provided a deeper understanding of alternative finance opportunities and their adoption in EU regulation. These alternative financial instruments sit outside the traditional banks and capital markets, and provide an unconventional yet equally well-founded business opportunity for micro entrepreneurs to embark on. The event also highlighted what finance investors look for in a business finance request. This webinar was organised as part of a series of online thematic events hosted by the DIFME project partners in 2021. Some of the topics discussed included cybersecurity, digital marketing in self entrepreneurship, online networking for entrepreneurs, business intelligence, and data analytics.

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10-11th March: MBB participates in EU-Turkey High Level Business Dialogue The EU-Turkey High Level Business Dialogue brought together private sector organisations in Turkey and the EU, Turkish public bodies, and EU institutions to discuss challenges and opportunities in view of the EU Green Deal and to draft recommendations from the business community towards policymakers, with the aim of improving EU-Turkey relations and economic cooperation, and thereby contributing to the further development of the Customs Union and to moving Turkey’s EU accession process forward. The MBB is supporting the Turkish Chambers through the allocation of an expert to help develop an energy efficiency outreach for Turkey. 11th March: Launch of INCOME Tourism Project Webinar Series

17th March: MBB publishes report on Improving the Access to EU Funds by Private Enterprise MBB published a report on the impact of EU funds on the Maltese economy and the opportunities and challenges that businesses face when applying for EU funds. The report, entitled Improving Access to EU Funds by Private Enterprise in the Programming Period 2021-2027, found that while businesses need further facilitation to apply for EU funds, most of the businesses that do apply manage to obtain funds.

The Erasmus+ INCOME Tourism Project organised a fourpart webinar series titled Skills for Today & Tomorrow: Tourism Education, Employability and Industry-University cooperation, as a way to contribute to the discussion and reflect about the challenges the tourism sector is going through. Industry professionals need to have relevant skills in times of rapid change, hence it is even more critical now to discuss how Industry-University cooperation initiatives, namely dual education systems, can answer these questions. The INCOME Tourism Project is addressing these challenges, proposing a new learning approach, linked to the development of soft skills and based on a cooperative learning process that brings together higher education institutions and businesses in the tourism industry.

The report was launched in a webinar entitled Unlocking Business’ Capacity to Access EU Funds, where it was also explained that EU funds during the 2014-2020 programming period were estimated to have contributed €662m to Malta’s GDP and 1,920 new jobs during that seven-year period. The report also featured a survey with responses from over 100 Maltese businesses that have either already applied for EU funding or are considering doing so, to be able to evaluate businesses’ experiences and expectations, and what more needs to be done to facilitate access. Earlier that month, the report was also presented to the Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi, in a meeting where the key findings and recommendations were highlighted. MBB and the Parliamentary Secretariat have committed to working together to encourage more businesses to apply for EU funds.

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22nd March: MBB and HSBC Malta Foundation launch Financial Literacy Web Series

26th March: MBB publishes study on Working From Home in Malta In collaboration with the HSBC Malta Foundation, MBB launched a four-episode web series aimed at breaking down core financial concepts, including creating a business plan; differentiating between a balance sheet, an income statement, and cash flow statement; building a savings plan; and distinguishing between stocks and bonds.

MBB published a study looking into the economic and environmental effects of working from home by businesses in Malta. This study was presented by MBB President Simon De Cesare and Economist Marie Briguglio in an online event hosted by the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development (MCESD), also addressed by Minister Carmelo Abela, Minister Aaron Farrugia and MCESD Chairperson James Pearsall.

In these challenging times, understanding how to manage your money has become even more critical. These brief, targeted episodes are especially relevant to those people who are willing to enhance their financial knowledge in order to start up a new business or to contribute further to the running of one that is already established.

The objective of this study was to examine the economic and environmental implications of working from home, including online, remote, and flexible measures, so as to identify measures that businesses could efficiently introduce into their daily operations.

The production of this series, released online in an episodic form throughout the month of April, was brought to life thanks to the INVEST+ project, which has delivered mentoring sessions and workshops on finance, accounting, savings and investment since the end of 2019. The episodes can be accessed from the Malta Business Bureau’s YouTube channel.

This research was commissioned against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, which introduced a new reality for businesses having to promptly ask employees to work from home where possible. This unfortunate situation brought to the fore several potential opportunities for businesses, employees and the environment. Going forward, the gradual easing of restrictions would then allow this research area to be expanded into other areas such as remote working more generally. Later in May, MBB Senior Executive, Gabriel Cassar presented this study to EUROCHAMBRES’ Skills and Entrepreneurship Committee.

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26th March: Introducing TransFormWork Project

14th April: TAPROOM Project Focus Group

The Malta Chamber and MBB have joined a European consortium of social partners to collaborate on digital transformation of the world of work. The TransFormWork project focuses on the implementation of the European Social Partners Framework Agreement on Digitalisation (June 2020) in seven EU member states (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Ireland, Malta, Romania, and Sweden). The project also seeks to raise awareness on how, with the implementation of the right strategies, digital transformation may bring about clear benefits and added value for employers and workers by providing new labour market opportunities, new ways of organising work, as well as an improvement of working conditions.

April 13th April: LIFE FOSTER Project hosts Student Food Waste Hackathon

An online focus group was held bringing together home-brewing and craft beer experts from the local scene, including lecturers, lobbyists, and actual producers. This was organised as part of MBB’s EU-funded TAPROOM project, which aims to develop a training programme in the production and marketing of organic and craft beer. The focus group provided crucial insight into the needs of the local (beer) brewing community, in addition to proposals and ideas on how the community can be supported by local and national authorities. 20th April: Webinar on EU Pay Transparency Directive MBB organised a webinar aimed at creating more awareness among the Maltese business community on the recent European Commission EU Pay Transparency legislative proposal, whose objective is of strengthening the application of the principle of equal pay for equal work, or work of equal value between men and women, through pay transparency and enforcement mechanisms.

The international gastronomic competition organised by the Italian Federation of Chefs (FIC) took place in April, as part of the EU LIFE Foster Project. The competition involved 15 participants between the ages of 18 and 23 selected by the international partners of the project from among the best students of the training centres of Enaip Net for Italy and of Afpa National Agency for Adult Training for France.

The webinar was addressed by keynote speaker European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli. MBB also invited several guests representing local social partners to share their initial views on the proposal, including Fabianne Ruggier, Chairperson of The Malta Chamber’s HR Committee; Norbert Grixti, Council member of the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association; and Josef Bugeja, Secretary General of the General Workers Union. In his address, MBB CEO Joe Tanti reiterated that MBB plans to consult more closely as it studies the proposal in more detail to determine the impact of the EU Pay Transparency Directive.

The theme of the food competition was the reduction of food waste and sustainability in the kitchen. In particular, the young competitors were asked to prepare an artichoke-based dish live on stream. Participants competed to create a recipe that, in addition to being well prepared and served, was able to use as much artichoke as possible and/or reuse its various components.

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May 4th May: MBB Participates in TEBD Energy Efficiency Training

12th May: MoU Signed Between FPEI and the Ministry for Economy and Industry Minister for the Economy and Industry Silvio Schembri presided over the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which is to enhance the collaboration between the Ministry and the Foundation for the Promotion of Entrepreneurial Initiatives (FPEI) to further encourage new ideas from prospective entrepreneurs. Through the MoU, the Ministry is investing in FPEI to (1) continue promoting new and existing business and social proposals aimed at increasing added value towards the Maltese economy, (2) to pursue its research to strengthen platforms using new emergent technology, as well as (3) for the Foundation to continue with its day-to-day management. In 2020 alone, ZAAR crowdfunding platform, established through the FPEI, was crucial to springboard 26 new projects onto the market.

MBB Advisor (Energy Efficiency), Geoffrey Saliba participated as an Energy Efficiency Expert in the Turkey-EU Business Dialogue Energy Efficiency Training that took place during the month of May. This training hosted 35 Turkish representatives from 29 Turkish Chambers of Commerce and/or Industry & Commodity Exchanges. The training aimed to develop capacity and knowledge within Turkish Chambers and Commodity Exchanges, which allows them to advise SMEs/members on how they can reduce their energy consumption, and thus become more competitive and raise awareness on Energy Efficiency. The MBB is supporting the Turkish Chambers through the allocation of an expert to help develop an energy efficiency outreach for Turkey. 10th May: MBB CEO Addresses Webinar on EU-life Post-COVID-19 MBB CEO Joe Tanti was invited to speak at a webinar hosted by CORE Platform entitled ‘How can the EU drive a post-COVID recovery?’. Organised to launch Europe Direct’s CORE Platform and to celebrate Europe Day, this webinar delved deeper on two of the EU’s recovery tools, including the EU Green Deal and the mechanisms making ‘Europe Fit for a Digital Age’. It is increasingly clear that clean, green and ground-breaking technology will be fundamental for Malta, the EU, and indeed, humanity to not only survive post-crisis but to navigate and thrive for the decades to come.

18-19th May: INCOME Tourism Project Final Conference In 2018, 13 partner organisations from six EU countries started the INCOME tourism project, coordinated by Instituto Politécnico de Viana do Castelo (Portugal). This project has now come to an end. The main aim of this project was to develop a new learning approach based on a cooperative learning process joining Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and tourism businesses, applied to soft skills learning. To present the project’s key results, a virtual two-day conference was held in May 2021. Discussion revolved around the future of higher education in tourism, as well as the main challenges and the advantages of closer cooperative learning between HEIs and businesses from different perspectives, namely students, academia, and businesses. MBB CEO Joe Tanti and Project Manager Marija Elena Borg addressed this conference on behalf of MBB.

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26-28th May: EU Open for Business International Conference

June

10th, 16-17th June: LEADER Project Online Training Activity On 10th June, the LEADER project partners initiated a three-day digital learning activity for selected teachers and trainers. Its aim was not simply to raise awareness about the importance of soft skills, but also to provide the opportunity for teachers and trainers to be the first to test the developed LEADER e-learning platform and serious game, and subsequently provide their feedback for final improvement. The original plan was to hold this learning activity in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands. However, owing to COVID-19 restrictions which are expected to limit travelling for at least some more months, it was decided that this activity will be held virtually.

Following last year’s national EU Open for Business Info Day, the European Commission organised an international virtual conference, EU Open for Business – A New Compass for SMEs. This was designed to help entrepreneurs and business intermediaries navigate through the various EU support tools and mechanisms for SMEs. This event also put forward ways SMEs can recover after the COVID-19 pandemic and make the transition to a more sustainable and digital economy. Participants had the opportunity to not only hear about the SME strategy for a sustainable and digital Europe, but also to receive practical tips and advice on doing business in the EU Single Market; EU financial support for SMEs; intellectual property and how to protect it; Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme; access to new markets in the EU and beyond; and the CASSINI Initiative and how SMEs can use space data in a down-to-earth way.

23rd June: MBB kicks off a Lunchtime Web Series on Working From Home MBB organised a three-part lunchtime live web series focusing on working from home and remote working. This comes in the context of an in-depth study carried out by MBB and economist Marie Briguglio to assess the potential of working from home in Malta, as well as its benefits and shortcomings. Almost 350 replies were gathered from business owners, senior managers and employees. In its first webinar, the MBB presented the study findings, in comparison to the global context. Two other webinars took place on 30th June and 7th July for a discussion with business leaders and a discussion on the policy environment.

On 23rd May, the local business community mourned the passing of Joseph R. Darmanin. Mr Darmanin was the President of The Malta Chamber in 1996 and was one of the founders of the Malta Business Bureau in the same year.

From left to right: The late Mr Joseph Darmanin, MBB co-founder Chev. Anthony Cassar, and MBB CEO Joe Tanti

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Mr Darmanin will forever be remembered for his instrumental role in the setting up and running of the MBB in its earliest days. He believed that by setting up the Brussels office, it became possible for Maltese businesses to be better represented in the EU, and rightly so. The MBB sends its condolences to Mr Darmanin’s family and relatives.


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The Malta Business Bureau Annual Report 2021  

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