BUSINESSAgenda THE OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE MALTA BUSINESS BUREAU ISSUE 34 | SUMMER 2018
M A L TA â€™ S B U O YA N T E C O N O M Y CONTRIBUTING TO CUT IN EU FUNDS Meet new MBB President Simon De Cesare who reveals his upcoming priorities
Exclusive interview with European Parliament President Antonio Tajani
OFFICIAL SPONSORS OF BUSINESS AGENDA
Ambassador Victor Camilleri shares highlights from his 45-year diplomatic career
CONTENTS ISSUE 34 | SUMMER 2018
12 COVER STORY
Martina Said asks the experts what a cut in cohesion funding could mean for Malta.
In light of Malta’s ever-growing tourism sector, the focus has now shifted to its long-term sustainability. Rebecca Anastasi finds out what’s next.
HOW WILL A CUT IN COHESION FUNDING AFFECT MALTA FROM 2021?
TOURISM INDUSTRY STAKEHOLDERS CALL FOR A LONG-TERM STRATEGIC VISION
EMBRACING EU CHALLENGES
New Malta Business Bureau President, Simon De Cesare, chats to Jo Caruana about his priorities, and how the MBB can help businesses embrace EU challenges and opportunities. 24 MEET THE MEPs
THE ART OF BEING A USEFUL DIPLOMAT
With a diplomatic career spanning 45 years, Ambassador Victor Camilleri tells Marie-Claire Grima about the ins and outs of being a diplomat.
EP PRESIDENT TAJANI: “A FORWARD-LOOKING POLITICAL EUROPE NEEDS A CLEAR VISION”
57 BUSINESS PROFILE
In an exclusive interview with Business Agenda, President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, shares his thoughts with Rebecca Anastasi on the greatest challenges facing the bloc.
Lewis Pitcher meets Keith M. Azzopardi, one of the founders of Thought3D, to find out about the company’s breakthrough discoveries in 3D printing.
THE JOURNEY FROM A JAR TO THE INTERNATIONAL MARKET
The Malta Business Bureau’s latest business and news updates. 87 CULTURE
VALLETTA’S MAJOR RESTORATION PROJECTS: PUZZLE PIECES IN THE CAPITAL’S STUNNING REVIVAL
Sarah Micallef meets Norbert Gatt, Director of the Restoration Directorate, to find out about the revival of some of Valletta’s most iconic landmarks. 93 FOOD & DRINK
BRINGING SOMETHING NEW TO THE TABLE
Marie-Claire Grima meets the creators behind three successful recently-opened eateries to find out the secret behind their success. 111 EU POLICY A NEW DEAL FOR CONSUMERS
Following the EU Commission’s proposed new deal on EU consumer rights and their enforcement, Jo Caruana finds out what this will mean for consumers and businesses.
COVER ILLUSTRATION Cover illustration by Moira Zahra, created exclusively for Business Agenda SUMMER ISSUE | 9
I am pleased to present to you a revamped edition of MBB’s longstanding Business Agenda publication. Moving towards a high quality bi-annual business magazine allows us to expand on new features with the aim of creating additional value for our readers. Tying in with the publication’s new look, you will also notice that there is an overarching theme in this issue – change. In this regard, I take the opportunity to welcome the recent change in our Board, which is now headed by new MBB President, Simon De Cesare. His term as President happens to coincide with an exciting time for the organisation but also with testing times for the EU. I invite you to read more about the major developments on the EU stage that will define and most definitely steer the MBB’s work in the upcoming months on pg18. These budding developments are coupled with the expected relocation of the MBB office this summer to the historical Exchange Buildings in Republic Street, Valletta. On the subject of Valletta, in this issue, our Culture feature on pg87 takes a closer look at the major restoration projects that have embellished our capital city as Valletta continues on its yearlong journey as European Capital of Culture 2018. 10 | SUMMER ISSUE
“Moving towards a high quality bi-annual business magazine allows us to expand on new features with the aim of creating additional value for our readers.”
In our Tourism feature on pg33, we can see that it is not just Valletta’s attractiveness which is bringing millions of visitors to Malta. Now that Malta has reached and surpassed the milestone it set a decade ago – that of managing to attract two million tourists each year – what’s next for our tourism sector? Industry experts present their views on whether or not Malta is reaching saturation point or whether we should be looking to set new benchmarks instead. Malta also remains under our lens in the Cover Story for this issue on pg12, where Business Agenda takes a close look at how the country has benefitted from major EU cohesion funds for a good number of years. Now that the country’s economy has developed, cohesion funds will decrease as is the norm in other developed states. However, alternatives do lie on the horizon, such as access to other programmes and direct-funding opportunities that still remain widely untapped. In our new European Parliament corner, Business Agenda looks towards Brussels in an interview with President Antonio Tajani on pg24. He shares his views on the political year ahead of us with the Juncker Commission soon coming to an end, the UK’s plans to leave the EU next March, the forthcoming European Parliament
elections in May, the Multiannual Financial Framework and the completion of the Internal Market. On pg57 we shift our focus towards dynamic local entrepreneur Keith M. Azzopardi, who reflects upon the challenges and opportunities his business encountered within the internal market. This new Business Profile feature seeks to inspire our entrepreneurial readers to cross our borders and explore new platforms for their own business. In this issue, we also turn to experts from BusinessEurope and the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority (MCCAA) for their insights on the latest developments in the business world and related EU legislation. This time, our EU Policy segment delves into the expected impact of the New Deal for Consumers package. Last but certainly not least, Malta’s most seasoned and experienced veteran diplomat, Victor Camilleri, colours our Society feature on pg44 as he recounts some of the greatest highlights and unforgettable experiences from his extensive 50-year career in diplomatic and multilateral affairs. I do hope you enjoy reading this issue. Joe Tanti MBB CEO
Mallia Building, 3, Level 2, Triq in-Negozju, Mriehel BKR3000 Tel: +356 2132 0713 email@example.com www.contenthouse.com.mt
Malta Business Bureau Cornerline, Level 1, Dun Karm Street, Birkirkara BKR 9039 Tel: (+356) 2125 1719 firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com www.mbb.org.mt As of September 2018, the MBB’s address will be: The Exchange Buildings, 64, Republic Street, Valletta, VLT 1117 The Malta Business Bureau is a non-profit making organisation acting as the European-Business Advisory and Support Office of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, and the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association. The MBB has two offices, the Head Office in Malta and the Representation Office in Brussels.
EDITOR Joe Tanti EDITORIAL COORDINATORS Ana Vella and Martina Said DESIGN Nicholas Cutajar EDITORIAL TEAM Jo Caruana, Marie-Claire Grima, Rebecca Anastasi and Sarah Micallef HEAD OF ADVERTISING SALES Matthew Spiteri DEPUTY HEAD OF ADVERTISING SALES Jessica Catania BRAND SALES EXECUTIVE Estelle Duca ADVERTISING SALES COORDINATOR Elena Dimech Business Agenda is the bi-annual magazine of the Malta Business Bureau. This issue covers the period July-October 2018. Business Agenda is distributed to all members of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, all the members of the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association, and to all other leading businesses. Business Agenda is also distributed by the Malta Business Bureau to leading European and business institutions in Brussels. Articles appearing in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of Content House Ltd or those of the Malta Business Bureau. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission of the publishers is strictly prohibited.
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BUSINESSAgenda COVER STORY
HOW WILL A CUT IN COHESION FUNDING A F F E C T M A L TA FROM 2021?
Malta may experience a significant cut in EU cohesion funds for the next period spanning from 2021 to 2027 â€“ but other EU funding opportunities abound. Martina Said speaks to the experts to find out what the cut would mean for Malta, and the prospects that lie ahead.
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Malta’s economy has been on an upward trajectory for some time now. In the first three quarters of 2017, real GDP grew sharply, reaching 7.2 per cent, and is expected to have reached 6.9 per cent for the whole year, according to the European Commission’s Winter 2018 Interim Economic Forecast. The same report predicts that economic growth will slow down to 5.6 per cent in 2018, but it will still be the highest growth rate among all EU member states. Despite the many plusses of prosperity and a thriving economy, however, there are some down sides – one being a cut in EU funding. In the last EU budget for the period 2014-2020, Malta secured a favourable €1.12 billion deal, including about €800 million in cohesion funds. For the 2021-2027 period, following the Commission’s proposals for the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), cohesion funding for Malta might be cut by 24 per cent, amounting to around €597 million – around €200 million less than the previous round. According to the Financial Times, however, the cohesion funds programme at large has been cut by 10 per cent in real terms for the upcoming period, in part due to the massive gap left in the EU’s annual budget caused by Brexit – approximately €13 billion annually – as well as the Commission’s desire to broaden the criteria for allocating money, supplementing gross domestic product with pressing areas such as carbon emissions and migration. Aaron Farrugia, Parliamentary Secretary for EU Funds and Social Dialogue, says cohesion funding has been one of the drivers that contributed towards Malta’s economic development, through the funding of strategic infrastructure and investments in the areas of transport, the environment and education. “We are of the opinion that all regions and member states should remain eligible for resources under this policy, including those regions that have attained a degree of
PHOTO: DOI - JASON BORG
“We believe that Cohesion Policy has not done its job yet, not even for those member states that seem to have been reasonably successful.” AARON FARRUGIA
convergence,” he says, asserting Government’s position on the cutback to Malta’s cohesion funding deal. “This is especially important in instances where maintaining and sustaining convergence is a continuous challenge and, in particular cases, where permanent vulnerabilities, such as those arising from geography, exist.” Mr Farrugia asserts that Government is still assessing the impact of the Commission’s proposals for the next MFF. “The cuts that are being proposed by
the Commission require further study. In this regard, we will be guided by two main principles: the overall objective of fairness and the fact that each member state has its peculiarities and specific situations that need to be factored in,” he explains. “On cohesion funding specifically, we are not too happy about the cuts that are being proposed. Cohesion Policy has proven itself in the past and we consider that if we want to sustain and consolidate results, Cohesion Policy will continue to be necessary in the future. We believe that Cohesion Policy has not done its job yet, not even for those member states that seem to have been reasonably successful.” In light of the cuts, Mr Farrugia adds that Government’s aim is to take a more focused approach that is adapted to the emerging needs on the ground. “The objective of cohesion funding is to reduce disparities between regions, however, it should also take into account the specificities and socio-economic structures of member states in the process.” Meanwhile, Malta still remains eligible for other streams of funding, namely direct funds and special purpose investment funds, which Mr Farrugia would like to see increased use of. “The experience that Malta has gained so far under these programmes is being assessed with the aim to increase our capacity to participate more effectively in these programmes, and therefore to improve our record of takeup. In the future we would like to see the private sector in Malta accessing more direct funds, and I am looking at ways we can assist businesses in this regard,” says Mr Farrugia. “The new regulations published by the Commission will also enable more effective coordination and complementarity between different funding instruments.” The Chief Executive Officer of the Malta Business Bureau, Joe Tanti, says there appears to be a misperception regarding Cohesion SUMMER ISSUE | 13
BUSINESSAgenda COVER STORY
“Malta still qualifies for direct funds, which remain to be tapped. This presents an opportunity for the local business community.” JOE TANTI
Policy and the aim behind it, leaving many, including businesses, concerned about the future plans of the EU. “Cohesion funds are one of the key financial tools which the European Commission uses to achieve a priority goal – cohesive development of all EU member states, to create a more level playing field and consistent crossborder development. Cohesion funds are therefore prioritised for regions that are under-developed when compared to the EU average. They are there to facilitate infrastructure investments, to facilitate the upgrading of national education systems, the environment, and innovation, among others.” Strong economic growth and 14 years of EU Cohesion Policy investment have contributed significantly towards Malta’s development, adds Mr Tanti. “Since joining the EU, Malta’s economy was one of the fastest-growing and best-performing when compared to other EU member states. Along with national funding, EU Cohesion Policy has made a remarkable contribution to Malta’s economic development and competitiveness. Now that the country and the economy stand strong, it should come as no surprise that there will be a decrease in EU cohesion funds allocated to Malta.” Mr Tanti asserts that any decrease in Malta’s EU cohesion funds should not be perceived as a setback for the country, or for local businesses. “We are not losing our 14 | SUMMER ISSUE
cohesion funds; the EU is simply pulling the reigns on Malta’s development aid because we are in a position to no longer need it. Malta still qualifies for direct funds, which remain to be tapped. This presents an opportunity for the local business community.” Direct funds are applied for directly to the European institutions, instead of being allocated to national governments, and will remain available to Malta. Mr Tanti asserts that they are key to contribute to growth, job creation, research and innovation; benefitting companies and the Maltese economy in general. As part of direct funds, there are numerous funding streams to tap into. The budget for programmes such as Erasmus is set to be doubled, enabling it to become more effective in supporting key political objectives such as building a European Education Area by 2025. For the next long-term EU budget, the Commission is also proposing to increase funding by
almost 60 per cent for LIFE, the EU programme for the environment and climate action. Building on the achievements and success of Horizon 2020, the new European research programme, Horizon Europe, will help Europe deepen its innovation capability and ensure the necessary investments through the development of prototypes, intangible assets, knowledge and technology transfer. “On a national level, the MBB had provided training to improve the readiness of companies to tap EU direct funds, namely Horizon 2020, Erasmus+ and Creative Europe. In addition, the MBB is well posed to promote the benefits of tapping direct funds and to manage support schemes aiding companies to apply for EU funds,” says Mr Tanti. “In this regard, we will be proactive and continue building on this. We will continue to help increase access to direct funding and encourage the business community to manifest its ideas through European funded projects.” Over the years, Cohesion Policy has contributed towards positive changes in Malta’s socio-economic development and has led to considerable growth. “Indeed, in Malta, economic and social conditions are improving and so is employment. Additionally, it has enabled important structural changes which would otherwise have been very difficult or even impossible to implement, such as the Esplora Interactive Science Centre at Bighi – a state-of-theart visitor attraction which brings science and technology closer to the Maltese people – and the Fort St Angelo restoration project in Birgu, a UNESCO World Heritage site, among others.” Vice-President of the Employers Group within the European Economic and Social Committee, Stefano Mallia, is of the belief that island states should be treated differently to those that are not, as they face specific and permanent challenges which require permanent solutions. “Malta and
BUSINESSAgenda COVER STORY
“The EU has to acknowledge that islands face very specific situations – I personally don’t think it is right to ignore the difficult realities faced by so many citizens of the EU.” STEFANO MALLIA
any island state within the EU will face challenges which relate to distance from mainland Europe, cost of transport to and from mainland Europe, the small size of our own market, the cost of energy, the lack of natural resources, and brain drain of the best talent. These challenges need to be taken into account when designing policy or taking EU-wide decisions. The EU has to acknowledge that islands face very specific situations – not bearing in mind the UK and Ireland, there are about 23 million people living on islands in the EU. I personally don’t think it is right to ignore the difficult realities faced by so many EU citizens.” Mr Mallia asserts that beyond Article 174 of the EU Treaties – which refers to the specific challenges faced by islands – no other EU policy addresses such challenges concretely; standard European Commission replies on the subject point towards the value of Cohesion Policy to help address some of the key issues. “We cannot and should not refer to Cohesion Policy as the only instrument to address the difficulties and problems faced by islands. There is much more that can be done at EU level, namely flexibility within key policies such as the transport, state aid and trade policies. I, for example, cannot accept that we treat the airline industry concerning its operation with or in an island in the same way we treat an operation in mainland Europe,” says Mr Mallia. “This is especially true for those
islands found on the periphery of the EU, such as Malta. If Malta, Cyprus or any other island loses a key airline service provider, it could have a devastating effect on the island in question, leading to a poorer quality of life for the people who live there.” He adds that examples of such flexibility already exist within the EU. “The so-called outermost regions of the EU, islands such as the Azores, Martinique and Reunion, have specific instruments and policy measures which were designed to assist their development and are permanent in nature. This is where I would like the EU to go, although it is clear that the Commission has so far been reluctant to do so.” While each country will be given the chance to negotiate its quota of funding with the EU, Mr Mallia believes that, one way or another, Malta is likely to experience a cut. “Two factors come into play here: additional pressure on the financial resources of the EU due to Brexit, and the fact that Malta’s GDP per capita has continued to improve. These alone would lead one to conclude that we will indeed face a cut in the amount of cohesion funds for the period 2021-2027.” However, Mr Mallia asserts that the impact on Malta may be mitigated if other factors come into play, namely that the average GDP taken into consideration by the Commission is that for the period 2014-2016, and not the latest
economic figures, which could have resulted in even greater cuts. “There are also emerging threats, such as border security, to which the migration issue is linked – Malta could argue for specific additional funding to address this challenge. The Maltese economy is one of the most exposed to Brexit, and an impact on trade and industry is likely to occur. One could therefore argue that some form of additional compensation would be required to make up for this.” While the benefits of EU membership go well beyond the funding received so far, Mr Mallia concludes that there is no doubt Cohesion Policy has had a huge impact on Malta, without which certain key investments over the years would not have been possible. “Would we have been able to undertake the investments in our key arterial roads? Would we have been able to close down Maghtab and invest in the environmental infrastructure concerning waste management costing tens of millions? Would we have been able to offer our SMEs millions in grants to assist them to become more competitive? Would we have been able to invest the considerable millions which have gone into preserving and rehabilitating our cultural assets? All of these have been largely funded by cohesion funds, and have been key to the progress recorded over the past 11 years.”
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PHOTOS: ALAN CARVILLE
EMBRACING EU CHALLENGES
18 | SUMMER ISSUE
In his first interview since taking on the role of President of the Malta Business Bureau, Simon De Cesare tells Jo Caruana why the next couple of years are going to be a challenge for the EU, and explains how the MBB plans to help local businesses navigate through them.
Simon De Cesare is a well-known face on the local business scene. As CEO of the Eden Leisure Group, he has extensive experience running one of the largest companies on the island – experience he now hopes to call upon in his new role as President of the Malta Business Bureau. When he first joined the MBB Board, Mr De Cesare admits he was unaware of the extent of the organisation’s achievements for Maltese businesses. “I quickly learned that the work that they’ve done at EU level over the last few years has been impressive,” he explains. “The MBB has established itself as a key stakeholder to advise and support businesses on EUrelated affairs.” Now, while presiding over the organisation, the new President says his aim is to further sustain its growth and do his best to achieve more results, as well as usher in new opportunities for the benefit of Maltese businesses. “In the meantime, I will continue to support MBB’s drive to implement EU projects, as I believe that this is one of the best ways of disseminating information on EU-related issues, as well as of promoting opportunities with local business.” Mr De Cesare brings a wealth of experience to the role through his background across various sectors,
“The Malta Business Bureau is a promoter of the EU values and principles that matter most.”
including telecoms, hospitality, sports and entertainment. “While I have not had much experience with the EU or EU affairs, I have been dealing in the Maltese business world for the last 20 years and have been running a large organisation for some years now,” he says. “There are many similarities that are common in running any business – from its human resources and communication, to its general management and many other areas. The MBB has a strong Board of Directors, and an excellent team in Malta and Brussels who run the show expertly.” He explains that he was drawn to the organisation because it represents the industrial and commercial base of the smallest EU member – one that is mostly made up of SMEs. “Our voice is a small one but, for our members, it is an essential voice. It is our task at the MBB to make that voice heard in the most efficient manner.” “The MBB is also a promoter of the EU values and principles that matter most. There are very few organisations that actually have their own resources in Brussels to assist with the complexities of EU institutions. It is essential that we have people who know what is being proposed, and how and where it affects our local businesses. Then it is important to get feedback from local companies and put our case forward in SUMMER ISSUE | 19
“Ours is a small organisation with limited resources, but it will continue punching above its weight to have a stronger impact at EU level.”
Brussels. In Malta, our resources are limited, so any lobbying effort is essential to the country.” However, the MBB does face its own challenges – many of which Mr De Cesare looks forward to overcoming. “Ours is a small organisation with limited resources, but it will continue punching above its weight to have a stronger impact at EU level and to deliver more services to the business community. The hardest part of what we do is communicating to our local businesses how legislative changes affect them, and getting them to advise us on how they would like us to lobby on their behalf to amend proposals at EU level. Local businesses must participate in these processes, otherwise the agendas of larger countries will prevail over ours and we will simply have to adopt legislation that they decide on. The EU has given us a voice, but it is up to us to use it.” With that in mind, Mr De Cesare explains that there will be two key focuses for the MBB in the years to come. “Firstly, as mentioned before, the lobbying on behalf of local businesses is vital,” he says. “Secondly, there’s the creation of EU-funded projects that create value for the country and its businesses. Through these projects, we can extend the services offered to local businesses and to the Maltese economy in general. It is our aim that, through the support of these projects, Maltese 20 | SUMMER ISSUE
enterprises can become more competitive and sustainable.” While talking about what he hopes to achieve during his tenure, Mr De Cesare explains that, since the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association joined as partner in the governing structure of the MBB back in 2001, it has extended the organisation’s EU policy remit to the hospitality sector. “As MBB’s new President, I envision that the scene is now set for enhanced collaboration between MBB and the MHRA with a special focus on the interests of tourism businesses. Through its EU policy and legislative work, advisory support to businesses and the implementation of EU-funded projects, MBB will also continue to support and create new opportunities for the members of its parent organisations and the business community at large. Beyond that, I hope that I can improve the communication and link between the local businesses and the EU for the betterment of the local business community.” Looking specifically at the priorities for his term, Mr De Cesare says these are currently dominated by Brexit and its implications, the European Parliament elections next May, the end of the Juncker Commission next year, and the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). “Over the course of this year and the next, we can expect to see quite a few changes and developments within the EU. The
MBB will of course continue to harness specific legislation that will impact the Maltese business community.” “My time as MBB President happens to coincide with an exciting period for the organisation, but also with testing times for the EU. The Commission’s proposal for the EU MFF will comprise a comprehensive programme for the future of the EU budget beyond 2020. This is the first of the two major developments within the EU scene that will define and most definitely steer the MBB’s work in the upcoming months.” However, he asserts that one of the most interesting aspects in this whole process will be the impact of Brexit on the future of the MFF. “To date, the UK’s contribution to the EU budget has been significant, and we will have to see how this financial gap will be mitigated. This is particularly intriguing, especially at a time when the EU is under increasing pressure to do more to boost employment and growth, improve the governance of the Euro area, strengthen security and military cooperation, manage migration flows into the EU and tackle climate change, while also continuing frameworks such as the Common Agricultural Policy and cohesion funds.” “Moreover, my term will also coincide with the end of the current Commission mandate and the European Parliament elections
BUSINESSAgenda SECTION TITLE
“The EU has given us a voice, but it is up to us to use it.”
in May 2019. The upcoming legislature of the EP will present considerable opportunities for Maltese MEPs to participate in debates, vote and decide on a series of legislation and reports of critical importance for Maltese companies in the medium-to-long term. In this regard, the MBB will be developing its own agenda and shaping thoughts as to what the next legislature should be focused on to sustain further economic competitiveness, growth and creation of employment.” Finally, Mr De Cesare stresses that the EU is in desperate need of real structural reforms. “Considering a reduced EU budget after the UK’s withdrawal, more optimal use of
EU funding needs to be made through targeted investments in youth training and life-long learning, among others,” he continues. “Time is of the essence, and we need to act now through the implementation of structural reforms when they are affordable rather than too painful and designed to avoid crises of the future, not react to them. “To conclude, and while looking ahead, I believe that the MBB has and will continue to take on the opportunity to increase its relevance to the Maltese business community through both its Malta and Brussels operations. Above all, this will be my focus.”
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BUSINESSAgenda MEET THE MEPs
E P P R E S I D E N T TA J A N I : “ A F O R WA R D - L O O K I N G POLITICAL EUROPE NEEDS A CLEAR VISION”
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BUSINESSAgenda MEET THE MEPs
In response to the challenges currently facing the bloc, President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, calls for an increase in the EU’s budget – to 1.3 per cent of its GDP – further investment in innovation, and a ‘Marshall plan’ for Africa. He speaks to Rebecca Anastasi about the details, in the first part of a series featuring exclusive, high-profile interviews with MEPs.
“If we are to secure a budget commensurate with the challenges facing us, we need to be bold and ambitious,” asserts President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, who came to office in January 2017. “A forwardlooking political Europe needs a clear vision and the means to put that vision into practice. We therefore need a political budget endowed with sufficient resources and geared to citizens’ priorities.” President Tajani’s call comes amid tumultuous changes in geopolitics, socioeconomic inequalities and the humanitarian tragedy of migration which have all put pressure on a European Union struggling to adapt to rapidly evolving developments, with many doubting its ability to pass the test. But, President Tajani stresses that these trials can be met – and overcome – with further investment and an increase in the bloc’s budget. “It must be stated loud and clear that the figure of 1.1 per cent of the EU’s GDP, which is being proposed, is nowhere near enough. Parliament will therefore exercise its co-decision powers to the full by calling for a figure of 1.3 per cent.” He stresses that this increase “must not come out of the pockets of EU citizens, who already pay too much,” but should be sourced from alternative avenues. “The web giants, banks which engage in speculative financial transactions, companies which
pollute our environment with non-biodegradable plastic – they must all pay their fair share,” he emphasises. President Tajani sees this as key to a stronger Europe, one which places its citizens at the front and centre of all decision-making. “I was elected with a very clear perspective – that of bringing Europe closer to the people,” he asserts. “And, there is only one way to do this, and that is to deliver concrete results on citizens’ expectations. They are concerned with migration flows and security, and consider both to be a priority. They also want Europe to deliver on its promise of prosperity. We must do more.”
“A Europe which is incapable of showing solidarity towards refugees risks losing its soul.”
He refers to the European Commission’s resolutions, introduced in March, concerning the EU’s long-term budget and its own resources, which included the prioritisation of increased funding for innovation, research, defence and SMEs, as well as the doubling of resources for Erasmus and migration management. He specifically points out that increased investment in research and innovation is a necessity to consolidate Europe’s leadership in the areas of science and technology. He also stresses the urgency of instituting such change, specifying that it is important to “reach a framework agreement during the current Parliament on the size of the budget and its main headings,” with the aim of an operational budget taking effect in 2021. “This funding, together with investment in training, is the basis for a competitive industrial policy which will enable us to seize the opportunities offered by the digital revolution. It is also fundamental to increase energy sustainability and security. Defence, security, border control, migration management, the development of Africa, the Western Balkans – all these are crucial challenges which can only be met with the right resources,” President Tajani says. He emphasises the cumulative power of a united EU, in terms of spending power, stating that “one euro spent at EU level has SUMMER ISSUE | 25
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“If there is a lesson to be learnt today, it is that globalisation has radically altered our understanding of sovereignty.”
a much greater multiplier effect than one euro spent at national level. If each member state had needed to develop its own GPS or earth observation satellite system, it would have cost 20 times more than Galileo and Copernicus.” According to President Tajani, this potential can be harnessed to create a Europe which delivers on citizens’ concerns, while adhering to the core values of the bloc. “Only by changing Europe for the better can we respond to the calls of those advocating for the return to borders and fruitless nationalisms. Anyone who advocates a retreat behind national borders is spinning a lie. Anyone who blames European integration for our problems is aiming at the wrong target.” Indeed, the response to these threats, according to President Tajani is “to demonstrate with concrete facts that citizens are better off with more freedoms, with more choices, with more protection from a Europe which listens to them. In fact, the European Union is part of the solution.” In order to ensure this, the President of the European Parliament states that Brussels needs “to communicate much better the achievements that Europe has already brought towards the citizens, from the freedom to work, study and live in 28 member states, to the wide opportunities for businesses and small enterprises to explore beyond their border, to the safety of products in our markets and a healthier environment. If we manage to do that, then I am sure 26 | SUMMER ISSUE
that citizens will put everything in the balance and choose Europe again, as they did recently in the Netherlands, France and Germany,” he states. President Tajani sees in Malta proof of the faith invested in these core values of the EU, stating that since accession has been a more recent event, “the people of Malta can attest to the beauty of the European project more clearly. Malta can show the way, also thanks to its very high turnout in European elections, demonstrating a direct engagement with the European project.” This direct engagement includes moving away from unilateralism, in favour of a shared response to the challenges arising from increasing divisions and inflammatory rhetoric. “Walls, borders and nationalism ostensibly offer an illusion of an antidote to a globalisation process in which ordinary people seem to have no say whatsoever. Trump, Brexit and the emergence of authoritarian movements which harp on the importance of sovereignty and populism in Europe are symptoms of this malaise. The only counter to this is policy-makers who are capable of listening and providing effective responses through the work of a strong and cohesive Union.” According to President Tajani, this also means unity in the face of a humanitarian crisis which has become one of the defining tragedies of our times. “A Europe which is incapable of showing solidarity towards refugees risks
losing its soul,” he emphatically states. And, while last month’s EU summit on how to handle irregular immigration may have left many dissatisfied, President Tajani sees collaboration between all member states as imperative to solving the issue and addressing the seeds of dissent fostered by populist politicians. “We cannot leave states that – for geographical reasons – are bearing the brunt of international humanitarian crises alone on the front line. All the EU member states, without exception, have a duty to uphold the values which underpin our Union, one of which is that we take in those fleeing war, violence or persecution,” President Tajani stresses. He refers to the Dublin Regulation, which determines which member state is responsible for examining asylum applications, and mentions its overhaul last November, “designed to ensure that European asylum arrangements are based on fairness, solidarity and consistency.” The bloc, according to President Tajani, must also “be resolute” with those who have no right to enter Europe, but insists the solution to the migration crisis “needs to be addressed at its roots.” This, in his view, can only be done by considering the wider picture and effecting a diplomatic strategy which addresses economic and security concerns through investment. “All the Mediterranean routes need to be shut down in the same way as the Balkan route was, on the basis of investment in and agreements with third countries. Europe must invest at least the same level of resources in Libya,
BUSINESSAgenda MEET THE MEPs
“It is only by working together, by speaking with one voice, that the countries of Europe can protect their own citizens.” Tunisia, Morocco, Chad, Niger and Mali as it has in Turkey and Jordan, as part of a robust diplomatic process in the areas of economic and security policy.” He says what is needed is ‘a Marshall Plan for Africa’, referring to the state aid given by the United States to a flailing Europe following the World War II. This financial investment would aid countries in Africa prosper, resulting in a safer and more productive environment. “Under the new budget, we are calling for at least €40 billion to be set aside, money which would generate a leverage effect of €500 billion to attract more investment in infrastructure, technology transfer, resource efficiency and training; to help develop a manufacturing base and a modern farming industry; and to create major opportunities for European companies as well.”
in the almost 300 regions of the European Union,” he explains. President Tajani asserts that “Cohesion Policy is fundamental not to leave anyone behind and counts among the Union’s most important success stories. We must defend this achievement and see that it remains effective.” He points out that this commitment towards greater cohesion between regions has accompanied the Union since its foundation. “Already at the Messina conference, back in 1955, the theme was on the table of the founding fathers. They knew that without the growing cohesion between its territories and its regions, the Union would not have succeeded. Today, the economic and social disparities between our regions are still too big. The differences in competitiveness between territories are still relevant. Today we need more cohesion, not less.” He refers to the benefits the policy has had on Malta, “having deployed massive investments in infrastructure but also on the social front with investments in schools, higher learning projects like MCAST, and in health as with the oncology centre.”
He also believes that “the provision of certain types of funding should be made conditional on compliance with key principles and on the honouring of undertakings given,” thus linking adherence to the values of the European project with the benefits of membership. “It is unacceptable that some states should ask for solidarity with their most disadvantaged regions and at the same time refuse to show solidarity with the countries which are bearing the brunt of the migration crisis.” He recognises, however, that the policy may need adapting to current scenarios. “This does not mean that you do not need changes. We need to make Cohesion Policy more effective, easier to use, flexible and less bureaucratic; targeted to the needs of the territories and more directed to strategic investments that look to the future of the new generations,” President Tajani explains. Yet, Britain’s decision to leave the EU may have dented confidence in this vision and in the unity of the bloc to address current challenges. On a practical level, Brexit has also left a €12 to €13 billion hole in the
Addressing disparities between European member states is also a priority for the President of the European Parliament – he refers to the bloc’s Cohesion Policy, which aims to strengthen economic and social cohesion by reducing inequalities between regions. “Cohesion Policy is a tool to bring economic and social progress everywhere in Europe, from capitals to the last village, without leaving anyone behind, SUMMER ISSUE | 29
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Union’s budget. President Tajani points out that this, together with pressures on national budgets, are “raising doubts on the financing of Cohesion Policy today,” but that in “its resolution for a post-2020 Cohesion Policy, the European Parliament has made it clear that we will not accept the weakening of Cohesion Policy.” Attention turns to some of the domestic issues which have been making the headlines in Malta for the past few months. Europe’s smallest member state has been under the spotlight on issues relating to corruption, the rule of law, and freedom of expression, with an MEP delegation travelling to the island to report on its findings. “The rule of law is the basis of our democracy,” President Tajani asserts. “The European Parliament monitors situations in member states in this regard to see that member states implement the values to which we all subscribed to in the Treaty. It is for this reason that we hold regular debates in plenary with a focus on one or other member state. For this reason, we have also mandated an ad hoc delegation to study the situation and present a report on the rule of law in Malta. Recently, we also set up a working group to examine the respect of the rule of law, with particular attention to Malta. We will keep on monitoring the situation. All member states must respond to the values in the Treaty.” The future of the bloc is dependent on ’joint instruments’, with the multifarious challenges in the areas of internet and political security, migration, unemployment, environmental depletion and financial crime being addressed at supranational level. “If there is a lesson to be learnt today, it is that globalisation has radically altered our understanding of sovereignty. It is only by exercising some aspects of national sovereignty jointly that we can protect EU citizens in an ever more complex global environment. No European
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state acting alone can compete with giants such as the USA, China, Russia or India. If Italy were part of China, it would be the eighth-largest province in terms of population.” But, this does not mean complete centralised control. “A European super state is not the answer. There is no need for the EU to take responsibility for every last detail of every policy; the Union is stronger when it focuses on the areas where it can really make a difference.” The European Union was built to make a difference to ordinary citizens’ lives, and to provide unity in the face of the horror and widespread destruction following
World War II. And, these values need to be upheld even today, in order to guarantee a conflict-free and prosperous future, according to the President of the European Parliament. “The state of the Union, and the welfare of all the EU citizens in 10 years’ time depends on the decisions we take today. It is only by working together, by speaking with one voice, that the countries of Europe can protect their own citizens. Only a different Europe – one that is more political, more democratic and more firmly based on solidarity – can close the gap between citizens and its institutions,” President Tajani concludes.
TOURISM INDUSTRY S TA K E H O L D E R S C A L L FOR A LONG-TERM S T R AT E G I C V I S I O N
With a consistent and exponential increase in tourist numbers, attention has recently turned to ensuring sustainability in the sector. Rebecca Anastasi asks three captains of the hospitality industry – MHRA President Tony Zahra, Deloitte Financial Advisory Leader, Raphael Aloisio, and tourism entrepreneur Alan Arrigo – what’s next?
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Malta’s tourism industry is booming. According to figures announced recently by the National Statistics Office (NSO), 2,273,837 tourists visited the Maltese islands in 2017, an increase of 15.7 per cent when compared to 2016. Moreover, the numbers for the first four months of 2018 (January-April) show that this upsurge shows no sign of abating, with over 640,000 visitors arriving on the archipelago over the period, an increase of 18.1 per cent from last year. But with this continuous drive towards increased numbers, many have been asking: what lies ahead for tourism in Malta? An industry stakeholder who has been vocal about the importance of addressing this question is the President of the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA), Tony Zahra. During the association’s presentation of the performance survey for the first three months of the year, he highlighted the positive results being achieved by the tourism and hospitality sectors but expressed concern that overcrowding was becoming an issue. “The time has come to have a longer-term, strategic vision of where we want our tourism industry to be in 20 years’ time,” Mr Zahra says, speaking exclusively to this publication. He praises the “well thought-out and, at times, ambitious tourism policies and plans,” instituted by successive administrations, which, he believes, have encouraged concrete growth in the sector. He specifically mentions the “2007-2011 tourism policy which paved the way for the low-cost carriers’ revolution” – indeed, NSO figures show that more than half of all tourists (52.1 per cent) coming to the islands travel using low-cost airlines – but he notes that by “their very nature, policies and plans are short- to medium-term.” As a consequence, he emphasises the need for a new strategic plan. “Government has to be the catalyst of a planned economy with sectoral master plans for the major sectors of the Maltese economy including, but not
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limited to, tourism. The tourism sector in Malta has flourished in the past on the basis of goodwill and commitment by both major political parties when in government and in opposition. Political goodwill leads to economic stability,” he asserts.
“If we are not careful enough with our product and service delivery, if we do not deliver a positive price/quality ratio, people will stop coming.” TONY ZAHRA
Change should be forthcoming, but there is no need for upheavals in the system, according to the MHRA President. “We do not need to re-invent the wheel,” he emphasises. “The 1989 master plan, or to give it its exact title, The Maltese Islands Tourism Development Plan, contained a number of ‘Planning Areas’ that are still valid today. That master plan included such areas as marketing, physical planning, capacity building, economic, environmental and socio-cultural impacts, accommodation and transport analyses, human resources, and, moreover, priority area rehabilitation plans starting with Paceville and Qawra/Bugibba areas. A revised version should put emphasis on defining disruptive ways of how our tourism sector can maintain and further develop an edge over competition, using tools that go beyond the traditional ones of price and ‘sun and sea’ strategies. Gozo should also be treated for its own merits,” Mr Zahra explains. Accommodation, moreover, needs to be “well planned by the introduction of policies that can facilitate replacing existing, outof-date accommodation with accommodation that satisfies the requisites and demands of the market and trends of the future,” he states. And, a carrying capacity assessment (CCA) is integral to this vision – and, indeed, needs to precede such a master plan – since it will enable a critical assessment of “our prime scarce resources, namely land and human resources,” as well as “bed capacities in hotels and residential accommodation, airport infrastructure, and basics such as whether our sewage system can cope with 700,000 inhabitants made up of local residents,
“Malta’s tourism growth strategy cannot be formulated in a vacuum and must reflect the country’s broader inherent infrastructure limitations.” RAPHAEL ALOISIO
foreign residents and tourists.” The CCA would also “assess how the local community is coping with the pressures associated with increased numbers. Most importantly, a CCA would identify, in precise terms, the country’s limiting factors that could constrain or prohibit further growth, which need to be heeded,” the MHRA President asserts. Alleviating pressures on infrastructure and resources is the first step towards sustainability, according to Mr Zahra. “Malta needs to accept that we attract tourists from some of the most advanced countries and consequently we need to adjust our offer to their expectations if visitor satisfaction is to be sustained,” he declares, underlining that “capacity building must take place.” This means empowering the relevant authorities and agencies to act. He refers to the set-up of the Tourism Zones Foundation (TZF) within the Ministry of Tourism two years ago, “established to improve the coordination amongst the public authorities charged with the cleaning and maintenance of public areas,” but states that, unfortunately “over the past years, it has not been resourced adequately in order to leave high-impact results.” Mr Zahra also emphasises that Malta must offer a high-quality product and service – “which, frankly, we are not delivering at the moment” – to attract higher-
spending visitors. He underscores the MHRA’s commitment to the free market economy, which hinges on competitiveness and sustainability. “I believe in the basic principle of a free market economy namely the interplay of demand and supply. If we are not careful enough with our product and service delivery, if we do not deliver a positive price/quality ratio, people will stop coming,” the MHRA President stresses. “It is useless brandishing around such claims as being a ‘seven-star destination’ and a ‘quality destination’ when we are not even delivering the basic requirements for luxury travellers. This involves a soulsearching exercise and a modest understanding of what quality and high net-worth travellers seek in a destination,” he concludes. Raphael Aloisio, Financial Advisory Leader at Deloitte Malta, a partner of the MHRA, also believes a clear strategy is essential, saying that the tourism sector “warrants a vision which goes beyond the impressive and consistent growth in tourist arrivals and tourist expenditure.” He highlights the danger of overlooking “unavoidable industry cyclicals” and assuming “that numbers can continue to grow without consequences,” stressing that Malta needs to continually evolve its offering. He also advocates for a revised tourism master plan “which clearly maps out where we want to be in 10 years’ time and what needs
to be done to get there,” as well as “to mitigate the risk of ‘killing the goose’. It would be foolish to push for unsustainable levels of accelerated growth which will place further pressure on our already stretched infrastructure resources,” he asserts. Indeed, according to Mr Aloisio, Malta’s tourism strategy must be contingent on an awareness of the current – and future – resources, with stakeholders understanding the perils of pushing beyond sustainability limits. “Malta’s tourism growth strategy cannot be formulated in a vacuum and must reflect the country’s broader inherent infrastructure limitations. Until our infrastructure capacity has been satisfactorily upgraded to handle further volume increases, it may be wiser to consolidate and focus our short/medium-term objectives on improved quality, sustainability and profitability rather than volume,” he explains. He goes on to add that “a higher average spend per capita should be a major objective for tourism stakeholders,” but that this shouldn’t be “driven solely by pushing up prices,” stressing that if prices go up, so should the quality. “Our value proposition needs to SUMMER ISSUE | 37
“Our guiding principles should be based on profitability within the context of sustainable tourism.” ALAN ARRIGO
improve and mirror the targeted increase. We need to ensure that the target tourism profile mirrors the realities of our product offering – we cannot have first division tourists in a second division destination. The increased spend should be achieved by increasing the proportion of tourists in the higher spending quartile and not by a complete change in tack in target markets,” he states. Sustainable tourism, in his view, can also be achieved through an “all-year round connectivity and a strong national carrier,” as well as ensuring that Malta builds on its “strengths and achievements without radical changes.” It is also imperative to address the challenges in keeping tourist areas clean, roads properly maintained and beaches offering sufficient hygienic facilities. “Unless we are able to implement a holistic national approach which has the teeth to cut across the apparently impenetrable boundaries of traditional ministry and local council domains, the challenges will undoubtedly continue to plague us,” Mr Aloisio states. Alan Arrigo, Chief Financial Officer at Robert Arrigo and 38 | SUMMER ISSUE
Sons, an incoming travel agent and destination management company, also underlines the need for sustainability, through raising standards, in order to attract higher net-worth visitors. “We should strive to develop the industry, including the quality of our product, infrastructure, and services, in a manner that meets the expectations of those whom we seek to attract to our islands, all the while ensuring that such development improves, not burdens, the quality of life of Maltese taxpayers. To this end, the performance indicator we should look towards should not be how many tourists we attract to the islands but the yield we get from each tourist,” he states. Thus, success should be measured according to this yield, and not according to numbers, says the entrepreneur. “By yield, I don’t mean simply how much each tourist spends but also all the costs stakeholders and public authorities put towards the sector.” These costs include the money spent in marketing Malta as a destination, as well as the expenses related to ensuring general cleanliness, strengthening infrastructure and the maintenance of standards
throughout the country. “It is superfluous to attract more tourists, if the country is worse off in the long-term,” he asserts. He outlines concrete ideas to ensure greater yield and higher standards, for both visitors and locals, saying that “the country doesn’t have enough beds, drivers, minibuses, coaches and tourist guides to service what we have now,” and calls for longer-term economic strategies. “Government should prioritise raising the standards of the lower category of accommodation; raise the standards of the taxis, cars, minibuses, and coaches that travellers use; educate more prospective workers to choose to become drivers; and increase the amount of tourist guides in the market to service the increasing demand. The authorities need to give incentives to the various operators to raise these standards, as operators are currently lost in the day-to-day running mayhem. Only once the supply side is geared for a higher-level product can the country truly go for the even higher quality of demand and thus a robust, sustainable tourism industry,” he emphasises. Adopting this approach would mean there would be no need to limit numbers, Mr Arrigo states. “Our guiding principles should be based on profitability within the context of sustainable tourism. If our performance indicator is truly pegged to these guiding principles, we will have no need to limit numbers as the market will work itself out,” he continues. Echoing Mr Zahra, the CFO of Robert Arrigo and Sons also emphasises that Malta does not need to re-invent the wheel. “We just need to tweak our strategies in the markets we currently already serve and, more importantly, execute the agreed plan. We can’t expect better spend per capita if our core product and service is not in line with the expectation of the prospective traveller that is willing to spend,” he concludes.
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C E L E B R AT I N G 40 YEARS OF KEEPING BIRDS IN THE AIR While all those living in Malta are more than familiar with the drone of aircraft populating the skies above us, it is perhaps less common to consider the scale and complexity of work that goes into keeping them in the air at all. Daniel Galea, Head of Maintenance at Medavia, speaks with Lewis Pitcher about 40 years in the aviation industry and the plans in place for years to come. On a small island dotted with beautiful beaches and almost yearround sun, it’s natural that tourism quickly becomes a major industry. With that industry comes an influx of long-distance travellers and the air transport that brings them. Where you have such large and complex machines, including the hospitality and logistical aspects contained within them, a support structure naturally must evolve around them to cater for the dayto-day issues that inevitably spring up. One of the most prominent service providers, Medavia, has been handling aircraft in Malta for 40 years, and Daniel Galea, Head of Maintenance at the company, discusses developments past, present and future. “Mediterranean Aviation Company Ltd had its beginnings in 1978 –
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marking its 40th anniversary this year – and was originally set up as a dedicated link between Europe and the remote airfields of the oil and gas industries in Northern Africa,” says Mr Galea. “Today known as Medavia, it has evolved into a world-leading specialist aviation organisation. In addition to offering second-to-none costeffective maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) works, the company provides a variety of other services, including aircraft charter brokerage, aircraft operations, and ground handling.” “Medavia Technics, comprised of Part 145 Maintenance, Part 21J Design and Part M CAMO,” Mr Galea elaborates, “works to provide a wide range of services to cover every aspect of the industry at its state-of-the-art hangar facility.”
It is within the Medavia Technics division that the company has seen the greatest expansion over recent years and in which there is clearly a great deal of pride. “Medavia Technics’ wide range of services within the aircraft maintenance industry include, among others, base and line maintenance, backed up by a number of workshops that cover overhaul capabilities such as wheels, batteries and non-destructive testing. Additionally, we also focus on the design organisation by offering tailored services such as external liveries, special mission equipment installations, flight conditions and permits to fly, including engineering support. Our 7,000sqm maintenance facility based in Malta is supported by a highly skilled workforce. Our location and expertise allow us to be highly responsive to each and every request, giving us the ability to react quickly and effectively to each and every customer, project and company demand.” Mr Galea attributes a large portion of the company’s current success to the experience accrued across these decades. “The greatest strength of Medavia Technics has always been the experience derived from its own resources and assets complementing each other. We have been aggressive in breaking into a pre-existing market, namely maintaining those aircraft types that we were already experienced
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with beforehand. On top of this, we have been able to diversify into new aircraft types like the Bombardier Q400s and the ATR series, creating a new maintenance concept for the regional turbo prop market in Malta. Due in part to this, Medavia Technics cultivated a production-hours increase of 80 per cent year on year for the past two years. Our biggest areas of growth have been within the aircraft maintenance sector, with sales revenues registering an overall increase of 180 per cent, and positive results within the Ground Handling section.” It is natural as well that the constant increase in air traffic over recent years would have an effect on the business too. Official statistics from Malta International Airport (MIA) show that passenger traffic in 2017 went up by 17.5 per cent over the previous year, amounting to six million passengers in 12 months. MIA forecasts that it will register further growth in 2018, to reach a total of 6.5 million passengers. Similarly, aircraft movement increased to 15 per cent in 2017 over the previous year. While Mr Galea believes the company isn’t affected as much as other industries by the yearly flow of tourists, he does believe there is a benefit linked to airport growth. “Our core business is a niche market so there is no direct relationship with tourism seasonality and air traffic variations. However, indirectly, it certainly helps having the Maltese islands well-connected with many other cities, mainly for logistical purposes and the like.”
As with many other local companies, particularly those that have an international outlook, Medavia has recognised the rising concerns regarding the balance of foreign and local workers in the Maltese labour market. However, there is more of a focus on building up talent and skilled workers from within the country than immediately looking abroad. “The two main challenges that we’ve experienced so far in Malta are recruitment and maintaining our competitive edge. The current situation in the country is leading to increased demand for foreign skilled employees. This needs to be coupled with sufficient training and increased motivation for the established local workforce base. Attracting young newcomers to the job market through apprenticeship schemes and internships will help to address future challenges, allowing them to grow within the company and fit well with the team.” It is the prospect of these future challenges which the company is most focused on, whether with old staff or new, and Mr Galea talks at length of the many developments in the pipeline for the business. “Medavia in general aims to continue providing its services at a high level of standard, whilst widening and further developing them. From the technical perspective, the Part 145 Maintenance just recently added a new aircraft type to its scope of approval, the ATR series, raising the number of aircraft approvals to 10. In the near future we will focus on developing additional
capabilities within the workshops in order to be able to support more effectively such products whilst under maintenance. Moreover, we are working to expand our international footprint by opening line maintenance stations abroad to support our customers. From the design point of view, we will also strive to develop and further strengthen our existing scope whilst giving special attention to specific projects with additional focus on research and development.” Overall, there is a strong sense of optimism that comes from every one of Mr Galea’s remarks. “Given the likelihood that the positive projections for 2018 will continue well into 2019, it is predicted that increased business will continue to affect all areas of the company. There is likely to be more direct focus on the new and existing charter market, and for the MRO to develop further into the regional turbo prop market. In general, Medavia seeks to invest further in the workforce and the required technical training to be well versed for the upcoming challenges.”
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SHARING I N M A L TA ’ S CULTURAL AND CULINARY HISTORY Fort St Elmo
Heritage Malta’s many initiatives aimed at attracting the local public to its museums and sites are paying off and bearing fruit. Martina Said meets the agency’s Ryan Vella to discover Heritage Malta’s current and future plans aimed at raising awareness of our islands’ history. Heritage Malta has been experiencing steady annual growth for a few years now, and in 2017, the national agency for museums, conservation practice and cultural heritage witnessed another record year. Last year, an unprecedented 1.3 million visitors headed to the agency’s various cultural sites across the islands, which resulted in another record of €7 million in ticket sales. “Similarly to what happened in 2016, Heritage Malta’s 2017 admission figures hit another all-time high. The majority of our museums and sites recorded an increase in the number of admissions,” says Ryan Vella, Senior Executive in Marketing and Sales at Heritage Malta. “Despite the closure of the National Museum of Fine Art, and limited access to the Palace State Rooms and Armoury due to Malta’s EU Presidency, we still managed to attract more visitors, with total admissions increasing by 12 per cent, and numbers are
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looking even more promising this year.” Mr Vella asserts that the agency set a new and important objective this year – that of reaching out to the local audience. “To this end, we embarked on a series of open days with the main aim of attracting the local visitor, and admissions have shown that this objective is being reached. So far, more than 30,000 admissions were registered during the Heritage Malta open days – the response was, to say the least, impressive,” he asserts. “Heritage Malta also runs an extensive education programme for school children that includes school visits and other educational programmes.” The agency’s initiatives to reach the local audience don’t end there, however, and recently the agency introduced the concept of renting some of its museums and sites as venues for private functions. “The museums and sites
offer visitors an experience, while also displaying Malta’s rich history and culture. Museums and sites are an important element of our society which act to reinforce our identity, however, they are also buildings, assets that are otherwise left idle after hours,” says Mr Vella. “For our operations to remain sustainable, we came up with the concept of offering appropriate areas within our museums and sites as venues. The availability and use of these venues is limited, and has to reflect the agency’s core values of ‘protecting the cultural heritage entrusted to it’ in order to safeguard these assets.” Mr Vella adds that the renting of venues has resulted in great support to Heritage Malta’s operations, not only through income generation but also by improving accessibility to those who choose to host an event at one of the agency’s exclusive sites. “The types of events which can be hosted are extensive. We offer several indoor venues that are ideal for conferences, team-building sessions and lectures. We also have numerous outdoor locations that can host weddings, product launches and fashion shows, among others,” he explains. “The most popular venues are those located in the Grand Harbour area, mainly Fort St Elmo, Fort St Angelo and the Malta Maritime Museum – all of them offer a unique setting for a memorable event.” Besides offering a variety of fairly new services under its commercial arm, namely conservation consultancy, exhibition design, setup and logistics, IT systems, web development for other museums and more, Heritage Malta also recently launched a new concept that speaks to the hearts of many Maltese: Taste of History, which marries Maltese gastronomy with the country’s history and culture. What inspired this new concept? “A rich culinary history discovered in historic documents and artefacts, including receipts, recipe books and kitchen inventories, inspired a number of Heritage
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Malta curators to research recipes, some of which had been lost for centuries prior to their rediscovery,” says Mr Vella. “Heritage Malta is collaborating with local farmers to bring ethical and sustainable food to those who wish to ‘taste history’, the food of our ancestors. Our curators are meticulous on the subject, making sure that food is prepared in the manner used back in the day, thus offering a unique, historical culinary experience. The Taste of History brand has now taken off and is registering significant feedback.” A professional team of curators and chefs combine their expertise to recreate a range of dining experiences, from the paupers’ frugal snacks and the corsairs’ celebratory dinner to the Grand Master’s wine list, the Inquisitor’s Lent dinner and the merchant’s decadent dessert. One tried-andtested menu, inspired by a corsair expedition conducted by Captain Michele Picasso in 1791, includes chickpea and broccoli soup, slowcooked mutton served in pecorino and vegetable stew, and goat’s milk, cinnamon and lemon icecream, followed by coffee infused with blossom water. “The initiative’s new website, www. tastehistory.org, and Instagram profile, tastehistorymt, offer a glimpse of the experience typically offered through a sample menu, however menus can vary depending on the client’s request and preferences,” Mr Vella explains. “Those interested are encouraged to get in touch for further details.” Such initiatives organised by Heritage Malta are a means of
“Similarly to what happened in 2016, Heritage Malta’s 2017 admission figures hit another alltime high.”
revenue generation for the agency, which goes directly towards the many sites’ general maintenance and upkeep. Mr Vella states that costs are high – Heritage Malta’s annual expenditure for the upkeep of over 35 museums and sites reaches nearly €13 million. “Paid admissions during 2017, as well as profit from our museum shops, generated over €8 million. The Maltese Government subsidises the rest, which amounts to around €5 million.” “To maintain our sites and collections, restoration and conservation works are constantly ongoing. Fortunately, Heritage Malta can rely on its employees, who are dedicated professionals and whose love for their profession makes it possible for the agency to adapt to external factors that influence the business Taste of History
environment we operate in,” Mr Vella adds. “At the beginning, the venue rentals and the Taste of History brand were just experiments, concepts. Nowadays, they contribute significantly to the income generated by the agency, which is essential to sustain our operations. Our museum shops are also a major asset, contributing a decent yearly income and expanding via product development and publishing.” Heritage Malta has arrived to this stage in its lifetime by adopting various business models to sustain itself, and by constantly trying to understand customer needs and demands in order to better position its services and products to meet such demands. “This is the most difficult model, especially getting to know what our audience wants, but of course it’s the most effective. We use our statistics to generate analytics and business intelligence, and make sure that our investment generates a return. We have started looking at marketing as an investment rather than a cost and have just skimmed the surface of metering our marketing initiatives to make sure our investment generates a sustainable and effective return,” Mr Vella explains. He adds that the agency has changed the way it operates on many levels, for instance by doing cost-benefit reports of its own events before investing or giving a go-ahead on such events. “This has fostered a sense of awareness of costs and benefits in what we do, and departmental management accounting and cost centres are being introduced to the agency,” he asserts. “Such information will give important snapshots of museum performance to our curators and managers, and also allow management to set performance targets according to these reports. Many other methods are being tested, however, our greatest asset is our people. We invest in our people to achieve more and excel in whatever we do. And that should be our brand promise – excellence.” SUMMER ISSUE | 43
PHOTO: ALAN CARVILLE
THE ART OF BEING A U S E F U L D I P L O M AT
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Ambassador Victor Camilleri knows a thing or two about diplomacy. As one of the chief negotiators of Malta’s membership of the European Union, he has seen Malta go from a newly independent state that was still finding its feet, to a successful and prosperous member of the EU. He tells Marie-Claire Grima all about ‘being a tabula rasa’, the dangers of European federalism, and the technological tools that are changing the diplomatic landscape.
“If you have fixed ideas about how the world should go, then you should be a politician or a priest – but not a diplomat,” says Ambassador Victor Camilleri. It’s an idea that’s almost antithetical in our opinion- and ego-driven modern age, but if anyone can say what a diplomat should be like, it is he. Currently serving as Advisor within the Ministry for European Affairs in Malta, President of the Board of Administrators for the non-profit DiploFoundation, and has recently been nominated as non-resident Ambassador to the IMO (International Maritime Organisation), Ambassador Camilleri has occupied numerous senior administrative and diplomatic posts throughout his career which spans 45 years – only 10 of which were spent in Malta. These positions included Permanent Secretary, twice High Commissioner in London, Ambassador in Brussels – forming part of the Maltese team which negotiated Malta’s membership of the EU – and Chef de Cabinet to Malta’s Foreign Minister (and later President) Prof. Guido de Marco during his Presidency of the 45th Session of the UN General Assembly. “To be a useful diplomat you have to come without a pronounced ideology,” Ambassador Camilleri continues. “You have to be receptive. Essentially, you have to represent somebody else’s ideas and views, in a convincing
and genuine way. You have to be able to pick up positions, not as somebody else’s, but as yours – without them necessarily being yours. Over the years I’ve had to represent many things which were contradictory to each other, because people change, times change, and governments change.”
“Over the years I’ve had to represent many things which were contradictory to each other, because people change, times change, and governments change.”
One of the starkest examples of this is when Malta had a volteface about joining the European Union in 1998. “I went to Brussels in 1996 when there was a change of government. The Labour Party’s Alfred Sant, whom I knew because we had joined the Foreign Service together, had just become Prime Minister, and he asked me to go to Brussels. Of course Malta’s policy then was not to pursue membership of the European Union, but a close relationship with it – Sant used to call Malta ‘Switzerland in the Mediterranean’.” After two years of this, there was a change in government, and the Nationalist Party rose to power, with a vastly different agenda – and Ambassador Camilleri found himself totally changing tack. “I had to do something which was completely different to what I was doing before. Independently of what it meant to me personally, as a job to do, it was quite a task, even psychologically. To shift from doing one thing, to doing quite the opposite, and to do it convincingly, both to the people back home and the people within the EU – I have always considered this to be my biggest challenge. But as I said, from my experience, to be a diplomat – to be a useful diplomat – you have to be a tabula rasa, and allow yourself to be written on.” He pauses, thoughtfully, digesting the implications of what he has said. “Does that mean that you SUMMER ISSUE | 45
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Brexit, and the political currents in countries such as France, Italy and Austria. Some of the undercurrents have not yet come to the surface – but if they keep pushing to this effect, they will cause fractures, doing the opposite of what the EU hopes to accomplish.”
Ambassador Victor Camilleri presenting his credentials to Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director General of the UN office in Geneva (2003)
have to do everything that others tell you to do? No, I don’t think so. But whatever we think about our own internal way of doing things in Malta, we are essentially a very democratic society. The different views are strong, and sometimes they are very powerful, but they are within the limits of acceptability. There have been difficult moments – and the situation in Malta is what it is – but I’ve personally never reached a stage where I had to say, ‘no, I cannot do this’.” It has been 14 years since Malta became a member of the European Union, and looking back on its influence, Ambassador Camilleri highlights three pillars where membership truly helped the island, starting with the economy. “Becoming part of the EU strengthened our economy, because it integrated us into a much larger economy. Having the Euro as our currency helped us. It doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t have done well in a different context, in our own way, but I think being a member state of the Union gave us a big boost.” The EU also helped Malta with its infrastructure, in more than one sense. “It gave us what we needed – in terms of regional funds, structural funds, and cohesion funds – to build ourselves into a modern economy, both in terms of physical infrastructure, and in terms of how we conduct business, and how we regard our relationships with other countries. With that input, Malta has been 46 | SUMMER ISSUE
able to move ahead and progress much faster than it would have done on its own.” Finally, the EU gave a tremendous hand to Malta’s young people. “The way the EU has opened up the world and increased the number of opportunities for our young people, is nothing short of exceptional. We haven’t yet achieved all that we can achieve – far too many of our young people leave school early, and much of the middle-aged generation ends up lacking higher education qualifications – we still have far to go. But we certainly have accomplished a lot in many areas,” Ambassador Camilleri says, fervently. “I believe that the positive impact that the EU has had on Malta shows in the way that the EU is regarded in Malta, compared to everywhere else.” Indeed, a survey carried out by the European Parliament published last October showed that around 89 per cent of Maltese people believe that the country’s decision to join the EU has paid off. Ambassador Camilleri is far from a European federalist though, and says plainly that there are risks involved in being part of a bloc of countries which has its own objectives, and its own finalité. “There has been debate about where the Union is going, and I am one of those who believe that integration is not the solution for the EU. Many bureaucrats in Brussels are of course convinced that it is, but it goes against popular sentiments – just look at
“The future does not lie in being a unified entity, because the people of Europe – including the Maltese – cherish their own national identity too much. There must be a middle way where we can work together as countries, without becoming one. In terms of wealth and population, it can match China and the US, but it cannot become a China or a US in terms of strength, because it is not ‘one’, and it cannot be so. Those who think it can be so are dreaming too far beyond reality. We cannot become a United States of Europe.” He adds that in terms of safeguarding Malta’s interests, “allowing ourselves to be integrated might hurt us quite badly. So far, being small has helped us negotiate in a way which is advantageous to us.” In 2017, Ambassador Camilleri was appointed head of the political pillar of Malta’s tenure as President of the Council of the EU. “We were responsible for helping the legislative machine move forward for six months. During those six months, you have to put aside national interest – without keeping it out of sight, of course – to make sure that legislation is moving ahead in an objective way, even if it’s a piece of legislation your country is not particularly keen on. Without the rotating Presidency, the Union would find it much more difficult to move ahead, and in our time there, I believe we performed our role quite well. The diplomats we have in Brussels did their job very well. We had a good team of people – they all have a strong sense of commitment and discipline.” I ask if he has seen any particularly striking changes in diplomatic life throughout his career, and
he replies in the affirmative. “Diplomatic life has changed completely. In Malta, we started out as a small office within the Office of the Prime Minister and now there are two ministries handling Malta’s diplomatic strategy – Foreign Affairs and European Affairs. And nowadays, in the younger teams there are more women than there are men – in my day, there was only one woman on the entire team. Of course, there certainly still needs to be more attention paid to the number of women at top ambassador levels, which is still lacking. People my age always say that the past was better, but I don’t necessarily agree.” IT as a tool of diplomacy is an area of particular interest to Ambassador Camilleri, who for some years served as Chairman of the Working Group on Informatics at the United Nations in New York. “IT has made a tremendous change in how we do our work. Back in the day, I used to handwrite all my reports, then my secretary would type them, then I would correct them, then she would type them again – I still don’t know how we managed to work that way, but somehow, we did! Communication is such an important aspect of diplomacy, and computers made life so different.” However, he does think that it can be unhealthy when taken to illogical extremes. “I’m not a great believer in the use of Facebook and Twitter for diplomacy. I think diplomacy, a lot of it, has to remain private, and behind closed doors – not because it’s secret, but because things have to mature before they come out into the open. Even a baby takes nine months until it’s ready to be born. Of course, President Trump is teaching us an entirely different way of doing things – if it works, I am ready to learn,” he quips about the infamously Twitter-happy US President. He also comments on Blockchain, an area where Malta is going to great lengths to position itself as the regulatory trailblazer.
“In diplomacy, you have to use information for very specific ends. You have an objective, you get information about it, and you see how they relate to each other. Much of this now is being done electronically – machines do a lot of the background work that we need to help us think. The way I see Blockchain technology is as a repository of information in a secure way; the next step is to analyse it in a secure way. We’re still at the beginning of that, and it’s an exciting thing. Of course, if you put that analysis into the hands of machines exclusively, you’re going to run into problems. But as a tool for us to think more comprehensively about what we’re doing, it’s certainly an asset.” When it comes down to it, however, the job itself has not changed all that much. “Most diplomats aren’t ambassadors. Most of the time, you’re somewhere in the middle, not at the top. You don’t meet important people every waking moment, you don’t have the chance to change the world – you’re just trying to do the best for your country, and being directed by political leadership, which defines what the objectives are. Those tasks have not changed tremendously. In many ways, being a diplomat is like any other job – sitting at your desk, in your office, doing what you’re supposed to do. The tools have changed, but the objectives haven’t – we’re still doing the best we can for Malta.”
He also adds a caveat; while the field of diplomacy has its attractions – working abroad, getting extra allowances, encounters with the world’s movers and shakers – it can be a very heavy burden for the diplomat’s family to bear. “I met my wife when I was still a student at Birmingham University. She always accompanied me on my postings, except my final posting in Libya, but it was a huge demand on her and the children. And of course, even for me. I always have had to be ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice, and go where I am sent.” He rounds off the interview with some sage words of advice for young people – whether they want to pursue a diplomatic career or not. “Make sure you like what you’re doing; otherwise do something else. You have to like what you’re doing, otherwise it’s not worthwhile. Yes, there are bad days in every line of work, but the positive has to outweigh the negative. If that’s not the case, look for other options. And there are always options – even if some are more difficult than others. Things are changing fast, and you have to watch what the younger people are doing. Listening to us old people, and the way we did things – it’s always good to know, but not necessarily to copy. You have to be very attentive, and understand what is happening at this point in history, in time – right now.”
Ambassador Victor Camilleri receiving the Maltese Order of Merit (Gieh ir-Repubblika) in 2003
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T H E R I G H T S PAC E for BUSINESS Business is booming in Malta, but in order to survive and grow, companies need adequate space for their employees to work. Are they finding the kind of property they need? Marie-Claire Grima speaks to four experts in the field of commercial property to get a better picture of the market in 2018. key international organisations, as well as to see growth in domestic enterprise, which means that demand for high-end office developments of quality is set to grow.
CATHERINE HALPIN, CEO, THE QUAD What does the commercial property market in Malta look like in 2018? Maltaâ€™s economic growth remains one of the strongest in Europe and this translates directly to a demand for commercial property. In general, although the commercial property market is reasonably supplied, the Tumas and Gasan Groups have identified a specific need for purpose-built, high-end office developments such as The Quad Business Towers. Malta looks set to continue to attract and retain
What are the pros and cons of renting vs buying commercial property? Generally speaking, when a company is considering the option of buying vs renting, the three main determining factors are asset base and financing, future plans, and corporate structure. Investing in an own office requires a significant initial capital outlay which renting does not. Furthermore, if the property is being bought via debt financing, the interest and loan repayments would tend to be fixed for the longer term. Finally, if a company/commercial entity is inclined to frequent changes in ownership, then consideration needs to be made for the scenario of partners leaving and joining. The Quad has both purchase and lease options available in its various towers, which allow prospective clients to see the whole picture and evaluate the impact on their business fully. What kind of demands are made by companies seeking commercial space in Malta? We are definitely seeing a trend in Malta for more functional, flexible working spaces. The modern office needs to provide a positive
atmosphere, with natural light and fresh air, temperature control, wellplanned layouts, and efficient and secure access from the entrance right to your desk. Importance is also being placed on associating with sustainably-certified buildings, and employee retention is becoming extremely important to the company directors we are speaking to. How will The Quad stand out over other commercial spaces in Malta? The Quad Business Towers will be an iconic commercial development of over 44,000sqm in the Central Business District, Mriehel, with Grade A office space supported by ample on-site parking facilities. Sustainability is core to The Quad Business Towersâ€™ mantra and we are projected to achieve LEEDÂŽ Platinum Certification, the highest such attainable certificate. It will be accessible, conveniently close to the airport and other business hubs around Malta, and will provide first-class facilities with a mixed commercial area, and areas for meetings and conferences. The Quad Business Towers have also been granted an SDA status, essentially allowing non-Maltese purchasers the same rights as Maltese citizens within the development. It will provide a highprofile business address capable of fulfilling the requirements of the most discerning business organisations. SUMMER ISSUE | 51
a strong growth in the flexible office sector across Europe. While some may see these changes as disruptive, new operators and providers of flexible office space have taken advantage of the evolution and begun introducing new products.
MAURO MORDINI, REGUS COUNTRY MANAGER FOR ITALY AND MALTA What kind of commercial property is most in demand in Malta right now? UK companies are currently showing a strong interest in Malta, due to Brexit. In addition, the approval of three bills on DLT and Blockchain by the Maltese parliament on 26th June will attract Blockchain and cryptocurrency companies to the country. We are also noticing
JEAN CAMILLERI, DIRECTOR, BELAIR NAXXAR LTD What price ranges can buyers or renters expect to find within Malta’s commercial property market? Commercial office premises in finished form range from a rental price of €100 per sqm to €600 per sqm, depending on the locality and the level of finish within the development. Sale prices start from as low as €1,500 per sqm to circa €5,000 per sqm. Warehouses and industrial business outlets have been doing very well and this reflects quite clearly with new industrial parks that are being constructed, which, more often than not, are reserved before 52 | SUMMER ISSUE
What are the pros and cons of renting vs buying? The way in which businesses think about working and how they structure their real estate portfolio is changing dramatically. Corporations are actively looking at how they can build flexibility into their long-term real estate strategy and renting allows more flexibility than buying. Our business model provides corporations with a possibility that differs from traditional renting: no need to worry about maintenance and managing costs, or about paying utility bills, since with Regus, you can pay one all-inclusive price. Our business model represents, for all kinds of companies, a real revolution that will create a competitive advantage, cut costs and help attract and retain talent. What does Regus currently offer to clients in Malta? Regus’ offer in Malta currently
they are actually built. A modern warehouse with industrial permits will have a general rental price of circa €75 per sqm, depending again on the locality and development structure. Sale prices would generally start at €1,500 per sqm. What kind of commercial property is most in demand in Malta right now? I would have to say that office premises in the North Harbour areas are in the highest demand due to an influx of foreign business set-ups complemented by a foreign workforce that generally wants to be in the vicinity of the most sought-after leisure amenities. Central localities have been increasing in demand also as North Harbour prices have soared,
includes two business centres: we are celebrating the first 10 years of our Swatar Centre, whereas our St Julian’s Centre opened only a year and a half ago. In addition to our Regus offer, we are close to securing the first SPACES Centre in the country. IWG, the parent group of leading workspace companies with approximately 3,300 centres including Regus and SPACES, hopes to open this new large centre in Q2 2019. The key to success lies in understanding exactly what the clients’ exigencies are; large customers are mostly seeking lower costs, while small companies and start-ups seek an easy way to enter the market and ignite their business. How do you think the commercial property landscape will change over the coming years? By 2025, flexible spaces will account for 30 per cent of the total real estate footprint of a large company and, according to international real estate firm CBRE, the flexible office market is growing at 13 per cent per annum. Businesses want outsourced, ondemand and cost-effective spaces. They are searching for the same flexibility that employees are asking of their employers.
offering more beneficial rent or sale prices to companies. Furthermore, retail outlets in high streets or popular shopping complexes are on a par with prime location office premises. These have been and will always be in demand as both local and international brands seek the most visible locations. What’s your strategy for ensuring that your clients find the perfect commercial property for their business? We train our staff to listen to and absorb the business fundamentals
STEPHEN PACE, COMMERCIAL PROPERTY SPECIALIST, MALTA SOTHEBY’S INTERNATIONAL REALTY
of the client. As people living in Malta, we are more aware of what tends to work and where a business premises is best suited. We use this knowledge and combine it with helping to service the clients’ requirements not only in locating the property but also in obtaining the necessary services that they would require. Naturally, it also follows that we guide our clients to make sure that they rent or purchase at realistic market prices.
What commercial property trends do you see on the horizon? I believe that if the country retains the same rhythm in attracting foreign investment, business structures will cover more localities than what currently exists today. The south of the island, for example, will continue to see growth in commercial office activity which will help to entice more leisure amenities that in turn would increase the demand for more residential rentals and sales.
How would you describe the current commercial property market in Malta? The market overall is strong; on one hand, we see existing businesses seeking to expand their operations and move into larger and open spaces which will suit today’s working environment and lifestyle balance, and on the other, Malta persists in attracting various businesses including hedge funds, payment institutions, iGaming operations and more recently, Blockchain and cryptocurrency businesses. These will keep creating thousands of jobs, hence creating further demand for real estate. Whilst generally there are various options out there with a number of upcoming business centres, the challenge is finding areas larger than 1,000sqm with an openplan set-up. Prices vary anywhere starting from €150 per sqm up to €500 per sqm.
What are the most in-demand types of commercial spaces right now, and how do you ensure clients find the right property for them? The commercial properties that are highly in demand right now are offices with large open spaces, within an area offering flexibility, where one may also have access to facilities such as shopping malls, restaurants, cafés, and gyms, in order to create a dynamic environment. At present, the rarest are the quality properties in prime areas; there are many listings that are expecting too much for what they are offering. So far, we have had best results from the clients that have answered our questions and been open with us from day one; where they have given us the benefit of the doubt and discussed with us what they thought they may want from a property.
What are the pros and cons of renting vs buying? Most times clients that ask to rent don’t ask about purchasing, so this is usually a question I like to put to the client. In the long term, a purchase makes more sense than a rental due to capital appreciation of the property. Buying rather than renting normally works most in the areas where the property appreciation is guaranteed, such as in Sliema and St Julian’s, but other areas are worth considering for the right price.
How do you think the commercial property landscape will change in the coming years? I believe that the service and maintenance support given by landlords leasing commercial property will have to smarten up and really compete on quality, besides efficient work space, as otherwise they will not survive. This will also change the sales aspect of commercial properties, as the market will be dominated by the landlords whose business will offer a complete quality rental service.
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BUSINESSAgenda BUSINESS PROFILE
THE JOURNEY FROM A JAR TO THE I N T E R N AT I O N A L M A R K E T 3D Printing has, in a short space of time, become something of a standard feature across multiple industries worldwide, while still effectively in its infancy. Dr Keith M. Azzopardi, one of the founders of Thought3D, speaks to Lewis Pitcher about the hard work, support and hint of luck that led to success in this developing market.
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Starting any business in this period of uncertain financial futures and rapidly shifting markets would prove a challenge for even the savviest entrepreneur. In order to help fledgling businesses over the first few hurdles, the TakeOff Business Incubator programme at the University of Malta acts as a major source of support. One of the success stories of this programme is the company Thought3D, most commonly associated with its ground-breaking innovation, Magigoo, a product that, according to its creator and company cofounder, Keith Azzopardi, had something of a strange start to life. “The first product we developed was a filament extruder, which lets you create your own ‘ink’ for 3D printers – it would have reduced costs about tenfold for the material. We then started developing our own 3D printer and bought several printers to help the prototyping process, while offering 3D printing services to generate some revenue. One thing we noticed when we tried to print was that, every time, the prints would warp and deform. With my chemistry background, we developed an adhesive internally to deal with this problem – but didn’t realise its commercial potential initially,” Dr Azzopardi explains.
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The team, which was based at the University incubator at the time, as part of the TakeOff programme, was soon visited by one of the biggest manufacturers in the industry. “We had several prototypes to show, but when the agent came over, she was most interested in the adhesive, which we had stored at the time in a chocolate spread jar,” says Dr Azzopardi. “Even in follow-up e-mails, this was pretty much all she asked about. At the time, we were only a two-man team, myself and Thought3D co-founder and engineer Edward Borg. With the help of our mentors from TakeOff, Simon Azzopardi and Andrei-Andy Linnas, we shifted our focus onto the ‘goo’. This adhesive seemed to be the best market entry point as it would be an industry-wide product.”
“We developed an adhesive internally to deal with this problem – but didn’t realise its commercial potential initially.”
The reason the manufacturer’s representative took such a great interest in the adhesive is that it filled a major hole in the industry. “Essentially, in printing, you’re building up layers of plastic on a bed which naturally cools at different rates. This then leads the plastic to pull away from the bed, which deforms the shape of the item. This can waste days or even weeks of project time in some cases. On top of this, you can end up with a molten ball of plastic which inevitably damages the machine. Obviously you cannot just use conventional adhesives as, at some point, the item needs to be removed cleanly.” This, according to Dr Azzopardi, is what makes Magigoo something special. “Magigoo had to be easy to apply for all users but also easy to remove, so we created a heatdeactivation feature; as soon as the bed cools down, it automatically releases. This means you don’t have to scrape the machine and potentially damage it every time. It also needed to be universal for all materials, low-cost and most importantly, non-hazardous. Magigoo is completely safe, making it possible to use any type of transport required – land, air or sea – and good for use by anyone from a lab engineer to an office architect or even a child in a classroom.” The road to building a marketable product, however, was just as hard as the one many other small-team start-ups experience. “The beginning is always tough; no one listens to you until you have something to show, no one believes you on the basis of just a story. Our initial funding came completely out of pocket; Edward was working full-time as a software engineer while I was finalising my PhD and working a part-time job to put extra cash into the project. Using those funds, as well as funding from several awards we won, we went from that original jar of adhesive to launching within three months, at which point we built our own production facility. We got our packaging in order, as well as our branding, and launched
BUSINESSAgenda BUSINESS PROFILE
“Magigoo is completely safe for use by anyone, from a lab engineer to an office architect or even a child in a classroom.”
our product at one of the biggest 3D printing fairs in the UK. We only had a small 1mx1m stand, but some of the biggest players in the industry were coming to us.” With an established market interest, the company had to fill two final gaps. Firstly, the team had to grow to cover the essential skillsets to form a successful growth company. With the addition of Etienne Camilleri, who is a real asset in 3D printing, design, product testing and packaging concerns, and Andrei-Andy Linnas, the former manager of TakeOff, who handles business development, general management and sales, Thought3D was ready to take its next steps. With a strong team, it began its first significant round of seed capital financing and several stages of rebranding and redesigning, the latter being, Dr Azzopardi says, the biggest stumbling block. “Our first viable packaging had a number of issues, and we went through several full cycles to re-do our packaging, launching three totally newly sourced containers within one year. The biggest challenge is watching things go wrong time and time again, but being strong enough to overcome them.” Other issues came from stepping away from the somewhat limited Maltese market and into the international market that is, even now, still in the earliest stages.
“Malta’s population being what it is was a limiting aspect, and even to date, we’ve barely sold anything locally; virtually our entire market is international. The formulation only needed to be tweaked once for regulatory purposes. Being void of biocides and hazardous chemicals meant that we could benefit from freedom of movement between countries without restrictions.” Although Thought3D had intentions of going international from the get-go, the move was, and still is, supported to a degree by a relationship built early in the company’s life with the multinational start-up BIGREP, rated as one of Europe’s top 40 start-ups and boasting partners on the scale of giants Airbus, BMW and worldwide chemical industry leader BASF. “We were put in contact with them back when we still had our initial product. We updated Magigoo several times to meet their standards, but they were always open with us and willing to talk to us when issues arose. This open relationship that we developed with them led directly to the creation of the larger bottle which we now produce.” On the success of Thought3D, Dr Azzopardi has a few pieces of advice for the up-and-coming Maltese entrepreneur. “First of all, just try it. Get professional advice on protecting your idea, and discuss as much as you can
with as many people as you can. Without that jar luckily spotted by the representative who visited us at the beginning, Magigoo wouldn’t even exist. We hadn’t even thought of mentioning it to her, so make sure to speak up. Second, don’t over-engineer the product: get something on the market and take as much feedback as you can. Find someone willing to try it. Even internationally, speak to whoever you can and find the best way to get attention and critique – in our case, it was fairs in different countries with the largest gathering of industry people that worked. “Third, find out about the kind of help you can get. Help is available locally through funds and advisors – through TakeOff and the Business Incubator at University, we had private mentors, some of whom even stayed on with the company after those initial stages. We received funding through the University’s Seed Fund as well as through Malta Enterprise, which is enough to get you to the product stage where you can prove yourself. Lastly, and very importantly, build a strong team with different skillsets, and with people you trust and are comfortable enough fighting and screaming over problems with. At the end of the day, everyone has to have the same goal: if you’re passionate, you will clash at some point, but you have to get there together in the end.”
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MAKE EXPRESS TRAILERS YOUR WA R E H O U S I N G AND LOGISTICS PA R T N E R 62 | SUMMER ISSUE
Express Trailers is about to take third-party logistics to the next level as work on its new 2,800sqm warehouse is in its final stages. Located centrally in Qormi, this new warehouse centralises all Express Trailersâ€™ managed warehousing activity in one depot to cater for the increased business in this sector. â€œExpress Trailers has always worked very closely with Maltese retailers and few understand the needs of these retailers as we do. We know that to operate and to remain competitive, one needs to be backed up with the right logistics set-up and a robust IT platform. This is where Express Trailers can come in with its third-
BUSINESSAgenda BUSINESS UPDATE
party logistics and warehouse management solutions,” explains Franco Azzopardi, Chairman and CEO of Express Trailers. “We ask businesses one simple question: how much more efficient would you be if you could focus on the core operations of your business without the hassle of having to manage inventories, storage and deliveries? It is a fact that so many companies have a lot of capital and human effort locked up in inventory management. We are proposing an innovative ‘payas-you-use’ system where Express Trailers provides companies with a fully-managed central warehousing facility and distribution operations, supported by a robust IT system to handle all their imports, exports, storage, deliveries and distribution requirements. Express Trailers is currently finalising an IT platform that, whatever the commercial activity being operated, will be able to ‘talk’ to the retailer’s e-commerce software and handle all the orders and deliveries in real time. Through Express Trailers’ warehousing and distribution services, businesses are being offered a total solution where the stock, stored at Express Trailers’ warehouse, is managed by a Warehouse Management System that picks, packs and delivers on behalf of the customer.
“Bottom line, what we are offering is a scalable storage and distribution solution, a ‘pay-asyou-use’ system where merchants, instead of owning and managing their ancillary warehouses and being tied down with idle space and human resources, can avail themselves of the space they need, thus cutting significant costs, especially when their stored stocks are at their lowest. All companies enjoy expertise in their respective lines of business. What we are saying is that companies should concentrate on investing in their people and their core operations and leave the handling of imports, exports, deliveries and distribution to a company like us, which is the expert in transport and third-party logistics.” “This latest investment in our new 2,800sqm warehouse in Qormi’s industrial estate is our company’s next important move. We are confident that this will be a concrete step that will cement Express Trailers as the leader in the local managed warehousing sector,” concludes Mr Azzopardi. For queries, contact Express Trailers on T: 2124 2311; E: firstname.lastname@example.org
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MBB PUBLISHES ANNUAL REPORT 2017-2018 MBB has published its Annual Report, commemorating Valletta 2018 â€“ the European Capital of Culture. The report reflects and documents the work undertaken by the organisation for the year under review. It also features exclusive interviews with business leaders and experts from the cultural sphere, in recognition of Valletta 2018. Looking ahead, the MBB will remain committed to monitor the development of, as well as advocate, EU legislation that is businessfriendly and continue serving the local business community by tapping into the opportunities offered by the EU. Should you wish to download a soft copy of the Annual Report and receive regular business news updates from us, contact us and subscribe to email@example.com
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MBB COLLABORATES ON INTERREG PROJECTS TO IMPROVE POLICIES AND ECOSYSTEMS FOR BUSINESS MBB has joined forces to push the agenda for local business as a key stakeholder in two Interreg projects being driven by Malta Enterprise â€“ Innovafoster and RELOS3.
INNOVAFOSTER: IMPROVING LOCAL ECOSYSTEM FOR START-UPS, SCALE-UPS AND INNOVATIVE PROCESSES MBB regularly meets with Malta Enterprise and other Maltese stakeholders in the local start-up ecosystem to discuss the issues our start-ups face. Innovafoster aims to help high-potential start-ups through spreading knowledge about innovative processes which are being used to support growth. Malta Enterprise is one of seven partners in the project together with Spain, Ireland, Slovenia, Estonia, Poland and the UK. The project is developing a series of actions to support the growth potential of start-ups and the development of regional action plans. Locally, the actions will be delivered through Malta Enterprise in collaboration with MBB and other local stakeholders. Earlier this year, MBB CEO Joe Tanti joined Malta Enterprise for a knowledge-exchange workshop in Ireland. The workshop was attended by business leaders from across Europe, as well as representatives of the partner countries. The participants discussed support initiatives and measures, shared strategies which work for businesses, practical business startup and growth advice, specific sector support and networks, as well as access to grants and loans. For more information, visit www.interregeurope.eu/innovafoster
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RELOS3: BRINGING TOGETHER THE MALTESE BLUE ECONOMY STAKEHOLDERS AND FOSTER INNOVATION The RELOS3 project focuses on implementing regional Smart Specialisation Strategies (RIS3) in a local context by actively involving local authorities, innovation actors and industry. Policy makers and experts from Estonia, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Malta participate in the RELOS3 project to contrast, develop and improve local policies with the aim of facilitating deployment of priority investments and delivery of innovation at a local level. Maritime services have been identified locally as requiring particular action in this respect. Malta Enterprise together with MCST and Malta Marittima have undertaken the required research, stakeholder meetings and interregional visits, and are in the process of identifying the main issues the sector is dealing with and address these in a Local Action Plan. MBB participates in key stakeholder meetings where project findings and ideas on actions to address the main areas for improvement in the local maritime services industry are discussed. For more information visit www.interregeurope.eu/relos3
MBB PRESENTS ENVIRONMENTALECONOMIC REPORT FINDINGS At an event held on 9th March at The Exchange Buildings in Valletta, the MBB launched an environmental-economic report prepared by economist Bernard Mallia at the request of the MBB, as part of the ‘Investing in Energy’ project. The report indicates that the business sector needs to invest €30€64 million to meet the 2020 renewable and energy efficiency targets. The report is based on energy audits carried out in compliance with the Energy Efficiency Directive. This directive requires non-SMEs to carry out energy audits once every four years, with the first audits having to be completed by December 2015. Outlining the MBB’s vision for how the EU energy targets could be achieved, MBB President at the time, Dr David Zahra highlighted the measures which have led to Malta’s success and how they can be built on. Dr Zahra also highlighted an important new measure which could be introduced to increase take-up by businesses of energy measures, highlighting the need to increase the energy financing options available to businesses.
MBB HOSTS EEN TOURISM AND CULTURAL HERITAGE SECTOR GROUP DELEGATION IN MALTA
MBB CEO Joe Tanti concluded that the next steps are to continue supporting the business community through technical actions, to continue monitoring developments through studies such as this one, and also to work towards increasing the financing options available for industry. To view the full report visit www.mbb.org.mt
The Enterprise Europe Network Tourism and Cultural Heritage Sector Group congregated for the first official spring meeting in Malta in March 2018. In its capacity as a Sector Group Member, MBB hosted all 25 active members of the Group, consisting of international expert partners with a special interest in these sectors. Realising the potential for cross-sectoral collaboration with other EEN Sector Groups, an agreement between the Retail and ICT Sector Groups was also formalised during this meeting. Over 2018, the Tourism and Cultural Sector Group will also be mapping out the various tourism clusters that exist to support these specific and non-traditional niche areas of tourism in each member country.
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MBB PARTICIPATES IN EUROCHAMBRES’ 60TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION MBB CEO Joe Tanti, EU Affairs Manager Daniel Debono and Senior Advisor Mark Seychell participated in Eurochambres’ 60th anniversary celebrations that took place in Brussels. The programme started with a conference focusing on trade, skills and entrepreneurship. On trade, it was acknowledged that since its beginnings, the EU project has been an important factor in facilitating trade for European businesses, not only between member states but also with third countries. Chambers represent millions of internationally active companies, large and small, and deliver many forms of trade facilitation services to those companies. As such, they are key stakeholders in discussions on trading conditions and in ensuring that these conditions are converted into tangible opportunities for Europe’s businesses. On skills, compared to many other economies, the EU cannot compete on costs and has relatively limited access to raw materials and natural resources. It was argued that human capital is therefore the EU’s main source of competitive advantage and must be optimised. There are many facets to this optimisation, such as the need to address mismatches between skills supply and demand. On entrepreneurship, it was recognised that more needs to be done to address the many financial, legal and administrative barriers that discourage entrepreneurship. But additionally, we need to ignite a culture of entrepreneurship across Europe. The signs in recent years are encouraging, but deep-seated change requires efforts to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset among Europeans from an early age.
AMPLIFYING DIGITAL SKILLS IN BUSINESS On 9th May, a seminar on ‘Amplifying Digital Skills for Adults in Business’ was organised by the MBB at the Canter Business Centre in Marsa. This event formed part of the MBB’s initiatives under the EU-funded VITA project, which aims to develop a novel toolbox 70 | SUMMER ISSUE
by which trainers can attract, reach out to and assist learners in improving their digital literacy. The event served as an opportunity for stakeholders, entrepreneurs, employers and employees to discuss digital skill deficiencies at the workplace, and how Virtual and Augmented Reality (VAR) Technology could help to improve the situation. It was emphasised that whilst there have been huge advances in digital technology, cohorts of people are struggling to keep up. As part of this event, participants were also given the opportunity to experience VAR Technology first hand. Following this event, representatives of the VITA project consortium met in Ostrava, Czech Republic, to assess the feedback that was received in each respective country, and to officially kick-start the development of the digital toolbox content. 18TH MAY
MBB EU AFFAIRS MANAGER PARTICIPATES IN BUSINESSEUROPE’S COUNCIL OF PRESIDENTS MEETING IN SOFIA The spring BusinessEurope Council of Presidents for 2018 was held in Sofia, Bulgaria, and was hosted by the Bulgarian Industrial Association. This was the last meeting presided by outgoing President, Emma Marcegaglia, as the national members of BusinessEurope ratified the election of Pierre Gattaz – President of MEDEF, the largest employer organisation in France – as incoming President for the forthcoming two-year period. The term of Mr Gattaz commenced on 1st July 2018. The remaining agenda for the Council meeting was characterised by intense discussion on a number of prevailing issues in the European Union. These included the economic and political situation in a number of EU member states, international relations, the priorities for the forthcoming European Parliament elections and the next Commission, and Brexit. The Maltese delegation was led by Malta Chamber President, Frank V. Farrugia and BusinessEurope’s Vice-President, Anton Borg, whose term also came to an end at the Copres meeting in Sofia. Other members of the delegation included Malta Chamber Director General, Kevin J. Borg, and the Chamber’s Permanent Delegate to BusinessEurope, Daniel Debono.
NEW PRESIDENT FOR MBB Simon De Cesare has been appointed new President of the Malta Business Bureau, succeeding David Zahra, who has now been appointed MBB Vice-President. On his appointment as new MBB President, Mr De Cesare said, “I am pleased to have been given this opportunity to contribute towards the local business community. I look forward to my term as President, to preside over the organisation to further sustain its growth and give it my best to achieve more results and create new opportunities for Maltese businesses. In the meantime, I will continue supporting MBB’s drive to implement EU projects, as I believe that this is one of the best ways of putting EU policy into practice, as well as promoting opportunities with local business.”
BUSINESS SUPPORT SERVICES PRESENTED TO TOURISM INDUSTRY LEADERS MBB coordinator for the Enterprise Europe Network Service, Ana Vella, was invited to present a range of exciting services offered by the network to industry leaders at the Quarter 1 Hotels Performance Survey Seminar. The conference, held at Le Meriden Hotel St Julian’s, highlighted seemingly strong growth in tourism but with a few exceptions of decreasing trends. Participants were informed that the tourism business agenda within the Network for 2018 is piling high with opportunities, particularly since 2018 marks the EUChina Tourism Year. As members of the Tourism and Cultural Heritage Sector Group within the network, MBB is linked to a powerful database, enabling it to assist companies in developing their business in new markets, source new technologies and access EU finance. Ms Vella explained that the network’s business advisers for tourism and cultural heritage are at the front line thanks to an active collaboration with the Partnerships in European Tourism (P.E.T.) initiative. The PET project, co-funded by the Commission, is linking actions with the Chinese tourism market as part of the EU-China Tourism Year agenda. In this regard, there are a few incentives which are being provided to encourage participation of European businesses at these flagship events. For more information email Ana Vella on firstname.lastname@example.org
“We have a strong political year ahead of us, with the Juncker Commission mandate coming to an end, the UK leaving the EU in March 2019, and the European Parliament elections in May 2019, to name but a few. With all that is going on, I can assure the MBB’s commitment to continue being of service to the Maltese business community.” After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from Bentley College, Boston, Simon De Cesare read for an MBA in Strategy Development and Marketing from Claremont Graduate University, Peter Drucker School of Management, Los Angeles. Back in 2000, he joined the Eden Leisure Group as a Business Administration Manager. He was then appointed Company Secretary on the Boards of each of the Group companies in 2006 and a Director of a number of Group subsidiary Boards. After assuming several roles throughout the organisation, in 2018, he became Chief Executive Officer of the Eden Leisure Group. The MBB thanks Dr David Zahra for his dedication and commitment to see the Bureau develop and increase its services to the Maltese private sector. Furthermore, the MBB thanks Directors Mario Spiteri and Reginald Fava, who have relinquished their post, for their support and input over the years. The new Board of Directors is now made up of Simon De Cesare, David Zahra, Malcolm Jones, Claudienne Hany Harb, Charles A. Zahra, Frank V. Farrugia and Patrick Cachia.
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MBB EU AFFAIRS MANAGER JOINS EMPLOYERS’ DELEGATION AT ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANISATION CONFERENCE IN GENEVA
MBB PARTICIPATES AT INNOVATION ID 2018 CONFERENCE, THESSALONIKI
MBB EU Affairs Manager Daniel Debono was part of the Maltese delegation at the International Labour Conference, the highest decision-making body of the International Labour Organisation. The annual conference brings together the tripartite delegations from the organisation’s 187 member states to consider a series of topics related to the world of work, which are discussed both at plenary as well as in technical committees. Mr Debono participated in the committee focusing on social dialogue and tripartism that follows up on a recurrent discussion under the ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalisation. Social dialogue is regarded as a problem-solving mechanism and as a means to achieve social equity, economic efficiency and democratic participation. It is important for protecting labour rights, facilitating wage determination, improving working conditions and promoting sustainable enterprises. Mr Debono, who was representing the Malta Chamber, formed part of the employers’ delegation along with the Director General of the Malta Employers Association, Joseph Farrugia.
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FINAL MEETING OF INVEST PROJECT MBB CEO Joe Tanti and MBB Executive Marija Elena Borg participated in the final meeting of ‘INVEST – Financial and Forecasting Models for Entrepreneurs’, held at Inqubator Leeuwarden in the Netherlands. Over the two days, the project partners discussed the feedback that was received from European entrepreneurs and stakeholders who took part in the piloting phase of the INVEST financial literacy toolkit. Based on these discussions, it was agreed that the content of the e-learning toolkit is to be finalised and fully launched to the public in September 2018.
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The H2020 DesignShots project culminated at the European Design Forum event in Thessaloniki, Greece. The final outcome of this project initiative is the creation of a Design Options tool which provides fundamental tips and recommendations for business support intermediaries, when introducing or improving existing design services. Project Leaders – the Business and Cultural Development Centre (KEPA) invited MBB CEO Joe Tanti to participate in a roundtable CampFire Session, the topics of which were the outputs of the forum’s morning session on a European Design Action Plan. The sessions comprised a number of interesting discussions and interventions on Design Management, Service Design, Digital Transformation and Design, the Internet of Things, and Design and the Value of Design for Businesses. The event also welcomed a number of participants including Head of Tourism for the Emerging and Creative Industries at the European Commission, Anna Athanasopoulou, Head of Design Policy at PDR UK, Anna Whicher, and President of the Bureau of European Design Assiciations, Bart Ashmann, among others.
MBB EU AFFAIRS MANAGER PARTICIPATES IN EUROCHAMBRES’ GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN SOFIA The spring Eurochambres General Assembly for 2018 was held in Sofia, Bulgaria, and was hosted by the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The meeting was the first presided by Christoph Leitl, who was elected President of Eurochambers towards the end of 2017. Mr Leitl gave an account of his presidency so far and reiterated the three priorities for his mandate: (i) to focus on challenges brought about by globalisation, digitalisation and migration, and to transform them from threats to opportunities; (ii) for Europe to maintain the highest quality so that in the future it will be possible to continue leading in social and environmental standards; and (iii) invest in creativity, talent, skills and innovation as key factors for entrepreneurial success and social stability. The members also discussed the need to continue advocating political and policy messages by businesses in an efficient and effective manner on issues of high importance on the agenda, such as the priorities of the future EU Multiannual Financial Framework, the management of migration flows, addressing skills-mismatches and skills shortages, an ambitious trade policy and delivery of trade agreements with third countries, and an orderly Brexit. Daniel Debono participated in this meeting as the Malta Chamber’s permanent delegate to Eurochambres. 18-19TH JUNE
MBB EXECUTIVE ATTENDS CONFERENCES ON THE FUTURE OF ERASMUS+ AND EMPLOYEE TRAINING Over the years, there have been rapid labour market changes due to digitalisation, social, demographic and environmental transitions, and global challenges. A skilled workforce and employee training are thus necessary to cope with these changes and to respond to the labour market needs. This was the key message delivered at the European social partners conference on 19th June in Brussels. The previous day, MBB Executive Sarah Abdilla also participated in a conference on the future of Erasmus+ amidst the current discussions on the next long-term EU budget 2021-2027. Preliminary thoughts on the Commission’s proposal were given from the member state’s point of view, as well as from a parliamentary and stakeholder perspective. Overall, strong support was given towards the Commission’s proposal to double funding for the Erasmus programme and to
simplify the application process in a bid to increase the number of beneficiaries. 18-19TH JUNE
VET WORKING GROUP PUBLISHES 12-POINT POLICY GUIDE MBB CEO Joe Tanti attended the final conference of the working group on Vocational Education and Training between 18th and 19th June. The working group comprises key experts and stakeholders, ranging from public officials and social partners to international organisations and civil society. The final conference, held in Sofia, Bulgaria, with the support of the Bulgarian EU Presidency, built upon two years of effort and resulted in the publication of a 12-point policy guide which aims to help stakeholders better support teachers and trainers. Should you wish to request a soft copy of the guide, email email@example.com 22ND JUNE
MBB HOSTS FIRST ROUND-TABLE DISCUSSION ON SOFT SKILLS IN THE TOURISM INDUSTRY The MBB organised its first thematic discussion as part of the ‘INCOME Tourism’ project on 22nd June at the Malta University Residence, Lija. The discussion centred around the issue of soft skills in the tourism industry. In his opening remarks, MBB President Simon De Cesare fleshed out the importance of soft skills in the industry, explaining how strong soft skills have become paramount for the success of any tourism business and for the industry more generally. A round-table discussion was also held, bringing together key industry stakeholders, ranging from academia, private businesses and business representatives. The discussion helped clarify the current gap between what is taught in tourism curricula at higher educational institutions and the requirements of the industry. Furthermore, it highlighted what is already being done and what needs to be done to remedy the situation. For more information, contact Marija Elena Borg on firstname.lastname@example.org
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BUSINESSAgenda SECTION TITLE
THE LOGISTICS SOLUTION Whatever goods you’re transporting, today’s world will demand their arrival swiftly and efficiently – and that makes having a good logistics partner absolutely crucial. Jo Caruana meets five logistics companies to discover how they use their expertise and networks to get their clients’ goods from A to B – wherever that may be in the world. FRANCO AZZOPARDI – CHAIRMAN AND CEO, EXPRESS TRAILERS Since the 1960s, Express Trailers has established itself as the leading transport and logistics operator in Malta. Mr Azzopardi joined the company as Chairman and CEO, a position he has held with great pride, since July 2011. Why is it important to have a strong logistics partner? Logistics carry inherent risks of damage or loss of cargo at the cost of the trader. Partnering with strong logistics specialists mitigates most of those logistics risks, or even eliminates them completely. Strong logistics partners like Express Trailers distinguish themselves through acquired experience, unrivalled standards in excellence and unique, obsessive expertise. What logistics services can Express Trailers offer? Logistics can be thought of as all the planning and actual carriage of any type of physical movement of practically anything that is
moveable. At Express Trailers, we specialise in the movement of cargo that can be dry, temperature-controlled, regulated or out-of-gauge (meaning of a size or weight that does not fit in conventional means of transport equipment). A recent example of the latter was the wide carriage of the steel girders of the new Kappara Bridge. We have the necessary expertise and equipment to pick, pack, and deliver almost any type of moveable items from anywhere in the world, to wherever the destination is. How has the logistics sector changed in the last few years? Logistics in a world of just-intime and e-commerce has become extremely complex and challenging. The challenges include finding the best mode of transport to minimise overheads so as to give the customer the best value for money. The logistics service provider also needs to have specialisation and the resources to stay ahead of any real-time situations that hit the road or ferry crossings – be they delays or breakdowns.
How do you think the sector will continue to evolve in the years to come? A significant development in logistics is to better serve e-commerce, which has an annual compound growth rate of 18 per cent. Logistics providers in the field need to have optimised links between the retailers, their inventories, the online customer and the logistics machine that delivers. All this is possible through IT platforms that talk to each other, as well as the provision of pay-asyou-use managed warehousing facilities, and frictionless modes of delivering.
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JEAN P. FALZON – SALES AND MARKETING MANAGER, FALCOTRANS LTD Falcotrans Ltd was established in 1986 as a subsidiary company of Anthony Falzon & Sons Ltd, and provides logistical and transportation management solutions with the highest levels of quality.
JIMMY CUTAJAR – MANAGING DIRECTOR, GLOBAL FREIGHT SOLUTIONS LTD MALTA Global Freight Solutions was registered in June 2014 and started operating in August that year. The company has invested heavily in its infrastructure so as to sustain its forecasted growth, while also achieving ISO9001 standards. Why is it important to have a strong logistics partner? Our vision is clear: we want to have an impact on the local market in such a way that GFS will become a worldwide partner of choice, while still based in Malta. To achieve this, we created a strategic alliance with a worldwide logistics network. Our strategy is to build a brand name that is recognised not only on the Maltese islands but also far beyond our shores. What services can your logistics company offer? In today’s ever-demanding 80 | SUMMER ISSUE
Why is it important to have a strong logistics partner? Any business leader will acknowledge the importance of effectively-organised logistics. Implementing efficient logistics is a major element in keeping up with customer demands and outperforming competitors. Logistics is a complex and sensitive business, and a strong logistics partner guarantees to make the process as seamless as possible in order to allow the business leader to focus on other aspects of the business. What logistics services does Falcotrans offer? Falcotrans offers all the logistical services a company could possibly require. These services include pharmaceutical and healthcare transportation, refrigerated trucking services, general cargo transportation, transportation and haulage services, customs clearance, and the lifting of machinery and heavy equipment.
environment, a logistics company needs to evolve and keep up with the fast-moving pace. The environment we live in dictates that pace. As a result, our clients’ constantly-evolving requirements determine the services we offer. In the past, GFS has helped customers find more suppliers to sustain their growth. It is not a logistics driven element but, by aiding our partners in their quests, we have ensured that our company is helping to sustain their requirements, whatever they may be. How has the logistics sector changed in the last few years? The logistics sector is being driven by customer demands and is thus continuously evolving – in a very cut-throat environment – to become better and more efficient. It is an environment where manual data entry is still widespread. Companies have evolved from pure forwarders to providers of a wider range of services, such as integrated, third- or fourth-party logistics services.
How has the logistics sector changed in the last few years and how do you think it will evolve? Like most other industries, logistics is currently facing big changes – new technology, new market entrants, new customer expectations and new business models. So as to remain competitive and relevant, we are constantly looking for new ways to meet our ever-increasing customer expectations, increase efficiency and reduce costs. Predicting how it will change is difficult, especially as things are changing so quickly. Everincreasing customer expectations, increased costs and changes in the law are all contributing factors to the modifications in our industry. I believe the emergence of new technologies – including Blockchain, self-driving vehicles and new communication tools – will all contribute to our industry becoming more efficient, transparent and cost-effective.
How do you think the sector will continue to evolve in the years to come? Ever since I started my first job, I have witnessed the abolition of major trade barriers, the facilitation of trade, less import and export procedures, and incorporation of IT into the sector that has driven the availability of data in volumes (and which, in my opinion, is not being used enough). I would like to see some kind of Blockchain implementation within the sector, however hard and impossible that may seem.
What is the history of SMS group and Tirrenia? The history between Tirrenia and SMS goes back many years, to when, back in the 1950s, Tirrenia was the national shipping line, owned by the Italian government. The ‘Malta Express’ was well known until the 1980s and carried numerous passengers and vehicles between Malta, Catania, Reggio Calabria and Naples. Following a 25-year break, and the purchase of Tirrenia by the Onorato family, Tirrenia is back in Malta. Operating a four-times weekly service from Valletta Harbour, Tirrenia currently provides a direct service to Genova every Thursday, and arrives back in Malta on Monday morning. It also has a thrice-weekly service to Catania, and provides transshipment services onwards to Livorno, Naples, Brindisi and Ravenna. Through the network, Tirrenia is able to provide local trailer operators with an efficient and competitive service for all their needs.
What services can your company together with Tirrenia offer? Our obligation is to know and understand our customers’ operations, their culture and business objectives. Knowing what they need is key to helping them achieve what they want through logistics. SMS, as the local agent, is continuously on the lookout for possible schedule changes, watching over freight rates or local charges – clients need to feel like they can rely on their partner to inform them and sort things out, basically making the right decisions at the right time. That is how one can achieve a true onestop-shop for clients, and that is the model on which we have built our logistics department.
RAY BUTTIGIEG – GENERAL MANAGER, BAS LTD
Malta. We benefit from the biggest freight forwarders’ network in the world, their expertise and their leadership position.
BAS Ltd forms part of the Cassar & Cooper Group. Cassar & Cooper was founded in 1946 by Frederick Cooper and Anthony Cassar, and it had a strong interest in freight forwarding, ship agency, travel, real estate, express, incentive travel and insurance. It then pioneered the road, air freight, real estate and insurance business in Malta.
What solutions do you offer clients? BAS Ltd can offer a variety of solutions for all airfreight needs and we are supported by preferred carriers, so we can provide competitive rates to many worldwide destinations. We also have a wide range of ocean freight capabilities available through our agency agreement with DHL Global Forwarding. This network allows us to provide not only the port-to-port solutions our customers are accustomed to, but also the inland transport services that are becoming so important in today’s global market. Beyond that, we also cover most of mainland Europe by road freight through our hubs in Italy, Germany and Spain.
What does your Special Projects Division cover? This division of the company is well-equipped and experienced to offer a variety of solutions to our customers. After analysing what will be required to get the job done, we design an efficient solution based on air, land and sea transport. Once put into place, we then monitor the progress of the shipments throughout the various steps along the supply chain.
SIMON MIFSUD – MANAGING DIRECTOR, SMS GROUP SMS is one of the longestestablished private groups of companies in Malta, and has developed from a shipping agency to a group of companies employing over 200 people in travel, tourism, shipping, insurance, logistics, ship registration and financial services, as well as general trading.
What is the ethos behind BAS? Reliability, flexibility and innovation allow us to deliver services of the highest quality, ensuring our customers remain competitive and satisfied. We offer a comprehensive range of freight forwarding and logistics services. Since the year 2000, BAS has been the exclusive agent for DHL Global Forwarding (the air and ocean division) in 82 | SUMMER ISSUE
How does SMS Group best serve its customers? What the customer ought to know, ultimately, is that SMS and Tirrenia are trusted brands, and, together, we plan to refine our sea transport services for our clients’ benefits, offering more efficient cargo solutions.
BUSINESSAgenda BUSINESS UPDATE
F I M B A N K ’ S R E A L E S TAT E FINANCING SOLUTIONS
FIMBank’s Head of Real Estate, Jason Zammit, discusses the bank’s range of property development loans targeting established developers for selected projects.
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BUSINESSAgenda BUSINESS UPDATE
Can you provide a short profile on FIMBank? FIMBank was founded in 1994, and subsequently established itself as a leading provider of trade finance, factoring and forfaiting solutions. Today, FIMBank forms part of the KIPCO Group and is recognised for its myriad awards and accolades received over the years. Along with the bank’s efforts to provide a quality service to its target niches, we provide real estate financing as part of our product suite. We believe that anticipating and responding to evolving market conditions and developing products which address these realities, is the most effective way to service the requirements of our real estate clients. How did the bank enter into this new line of business? The real estate finance business line of lending into selected real estate in Malta was launched around two years ago. Within a short period of time, we have formed a strong team with the right experience and skills, sustaining a solid pipeline of transactions with significant promise for growth. Our goal is to capture market share through a range of products and services which have been designed to effectively satisfy our clients’ needs. On the other hand, we realise that there is strong potential for growth, and we are focused on building a firm foundation for long-term success. What range of products does the FIMBank Real Estate Developer Suite offer? FIMBank offers financing solutions to developers for the acquisition and development of property. Our range of real estate facilities includes funding on a pro rata basis, the purchase of land for development into residential units, commercial buildings, and mixed utility properties. We offer competitive pricing and terms which vary depending on the project’s requirements. The repayment is typically structured to coincide with the sale of the development, or from the proceeds of the rental and business activity.
What are the benefits of choosing FIMBank’s real estate finance solution? FIMBank clients benefit from our expertise, skills and in-depth knowledge of the local property market. We have built a strong team capable of tailoring solutions that satisfy the needs of our various clients. The cornerstone of our business model hinges on the personalised, long-term relationships that we develop with our clientele. We offer ‘quality banking’ with a specialised team delivering a highly personalised level of customer service beyond the standard office hours. We view ourselves as a reliable partner working hand in hand with our clients to accomplish their business objectives. One of our main unique service propositions is our fast and efficient decision-making process, enabling timely execution. How would you describe the steps involved in structuring a property development transaction? In the beginning, we perform a thorough due diligence exercise on the prospective borrower. This usually involves a review of their history in property development. The following stage would revolve around understanding our client’s project and identifying the related business objectives in order to create a tailored package focused on these specific requirements. During this phase, we conduct a comprehensive analysis of the valuations, projections and budgeted costings. The scope is to maintain prudent lending standards while serving creditworthy borrowers. How will developers benefit from the FIMBank Direct digital banking platform? FIMBank Direct is a secure digital banking platform, allowing customers to perform a range of corporate banking transactions online with peace of mind. Through this platform, developers can open current accounts, savings accounts and fixed term deposits, and are able to conduct both local and multi-currency payments. FIMBank Direct is equipped with
sophisticated security features, allowing clients to log in and perform payment transactions through the FIMBank CAM App, with no additional hardware token being required. What does the future hold for FIMBank in terms of new products? Our approach to build new vertical lines of business conforms with FIMBank’s overall strategy of creating innovative quality banking solutions that conform to changing market conditions. Our positioning enables us to merge traditional banking with advanced technology, providing our clients with high value-added products and a quality service. Ultimately, this is our value proposition. We are fortunate in that we do not have any legacy issues; hence we can view real estate business with an open mind, being constantly receptive to innovative ideas. Notwithstanding, we are mindful of the fact that customers require easy access to their relationship officer. At FIMBank, we pride ourselves on the fact that you can always talk to your banker, and that business is conducted on a one-toone basis. For further information regarding FIMBank’s range of real estate financing solutions, get in touch on E: email@example.com or T: 2132 2100. SUMMER ISSUE | 85
PHOTO: RESTORATION DIRECTORATE
Auberge de Castille
Va l l e t t a ’ s M a j o r Restoration Projects:
PUZZLE PIECES IN THE C A P I TA L ’ S S T U N N I N G R E V I VA L In recent years, a number of major restoration works have been carried out in Valletta, as part of, and in preparation for, the city’s role as European Capital of Culture in 2018. Sarah Micallef speaks to Director of the Restoration Directorate, Norbert Gatt, for his take on the impressive buildings and substantial restoration projects that have helped bring about Valletta’s stunning renaissance. SUMMER ISSUE | 87
“The restoration of Valletta’s land front fortifications is the biggest project we’ve worked on, and is certainly one of the most visible when approaching Valletta.”
After decades of neglect, recent years have seen the historic city of Valletta finally get the attention it deserves. The recent completion of the City Gate project, which extends onto the majestic Triton Square, has provided a fitting frame for the entrance to Malta’s capital, though it is only the latest piece in an intricate puzzle of regeneration. Valletta’s revival has been in the works for a while – one could say it began following Renzo Piano’s master plan in the late 1980s, when the public slowly began to appreciate the architectural value of its stately buildings. Backed by
revenue from EU structural funds and a commitment to the capital by local authorities and the private sector alike, the capital began to come alive, owing, in no small part, to major projects including the restoration of the fort network, the rebuilding of the Upper Barrakka Lift, and the Parliament project.
the restoration of the majority of Valletta’s land front fortifications, starting from Marsamxett Harbour all the way to Grand Harbour, with an expenditure of approximately €13 million, partly funded by the EU. “It’s the biggest project that we’ve worked on, and is certainly one of the most visible when approaching Valletta. It revamped the area, and paved the way for Renzo Piano’s City Gate project,” he says, adding that St James Cavalier, which is the backdrop of the Piano project, also formed part of the land front fortifications restoration.
Among the projects that have come to fruition over the years, Restoration Directorate Director, Norbert Gatt, considers the restoration of the fortification lines to have been of particular significance. Starting in 2009 and reaching completion in 2015, the Directorate was responsible for
PHOTO: RESTORATION DIRECTORATE
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Also included in the project is the Fortifications Interpretation Centre on St Mark’s Street, forming part of the St Andrews bastions, which, as of 2013, houses the Fortress Builders, telling the story of how the fortifications in Malta were built. “That involved the complete rehabilitation of an abandoned space,” Mr Gatt explains. The Directorate was also involved in the restoration of a number of other critical landmark buildings over these past few years, he goes on to explain, naming Auberge de Castille, the National Library, the Grandmaster’s Palace and St John’s Co-Cathedral as noteworthy projects that have each given new life to the city. “All their external façades were restored by the Directorate, and in these instances, all by our own workforce, which is something that I’m very proud of,” he maintains. Closer to Valletta 2018, restoration works on several other façades in the capital have been carried out, including that of Palazzo Ferreria just opposite the opera house;
the entire complex of the Jesuit Church including the University; and Palazzo Castellania, which houses the Health Ministry. Meanwhile, the Directorate is currently busy at work on a €10 million project in conjunction with Heritage Malta: the regeneration of the Grandmaster’s Palace and Armoury, co-funded by European funds. All of this certainly comes at a cost, and while some projects are easier to quantify thanks to the allocation of EU funds, others, Mr Gatt explains, are somewhat trickier to cost. “For the projects which we carry out with our own workers, we mainly factor the costs of the materials, because the workers are salaried. While I don’t have exact figures, the timeframes give a dimension of the costs. The three main façades of Castille for example, which comprise a large amount of stonework which needed to be restored, took a stretch of five years to complete. So, if you factor in the salaries of a group of workers for five years, it runs into the hundreds of thousands,” he explains. Meanwhile, the Admiralty House conversion rehabilitation project, which is set to house the Attorney General’s office once it vacates the Grandmaster’s Palace, is costing in the region of €4 million globally, while the Jesuit Church and complex (which includes the rehabilitation of the oratories and church) will have a total cost in the region of €5 million. The Notarial Archives project, which includes the rehabilitation of the building and the restoration of some of the manuscripts, will amount to €5 million, which is being cofunded by European funds, and yet another huge project, comprising the restoration of the southern tip of the western side of Valletta, will cost in the region of €24 million. Speaking of this project, which is being led by the Grand Harbour Regeneration Corporation (GHRC), Mr Gatt details the Directorate’s roles involving the restoration of the fortifications of the lower end
PHOTO: VIEWINGMALTA.COM/MIKE WATSON PHOTOGRAPHY
BUSINESSAgenda SECTION TITLE
A detail on the façade of the Grandmaster’s Palace
of Valletta, which were not part of the original fortifications project, as well as Auberge de Baviere and Auberge d’Aragon. Asked to name other projects which he feels have made a significant impact on the city and which the Restoration Directorate wasn’t directly involved in, Mr Gatt names Renzo Piano’s City Gate project as being high on the list, as well as “the pedestrianisation of Republic Street and subsequently the pedestrianisation of Merchants Street, which I feel have helped a lot in the revival of Valletta, making everything so much more accessible.” He also mentions Valletta’s revamped indoor market, Is-Suq tal-Belt, which “breathed new life into another area of
“These are all links, important pieces of the puzzle which, put together, make up Valletta in 2018.”
Valletta which had previously fallen into disrepair,” while also looking forward to the completion of the Cathedral Museum project. “These are all links, important pieces of the puzzle which, put together, make up Valletta in 2018,” he maintains. Finally, one can’t speak about Valletta’s regeneration without mentioning Fort St Elmo, which, following a lengthy period of restoration and the housing of a new National War Museum, was unveiled to the public in May 2015. Works on the Fort St Elmo restoration master plan began in 2005, with works on site kicking off in 2011, featuring a collaboration between GHRC and Heritage Malta, and an allocated €17 million from the EU’s Regional Development Funding Programme. Finally, the flagship project for Valletta 2018 – the new National Museum of Art, MUŻA – is nearing its final stages of restoration within the 15th-century Auberge d’Italie, and is touted to be a game-changer in the local art scene. Asked what the reception of such major restoration projects has been, and what each has contributed to Valletta as a whole, Mr Gatt maintains that there has been a shift in awareness over the years, “an understanding of what restoration is all about, and an increased appreciation, which also brings about an increased appetite for more to happen,” he says. And that’s certainly great news for the capital’s wealth of architectural heritage, and music to our ears.
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Bringing Something New T O T H E TA B L E
Whenever a hot new dining or drinking place opens up in Malta, you can bet there will soon be pictures and reviews plastered all over social media, especially if the venue has a unique selling-point that sets it apart from all the rest. Marie-Claire Grima visits three of these buzzy new spots to see what the hype is all about.
CAROLINA’S PETIT CAFÉ
Walking into Carolina’s Petit Café is like walking into a doll’s house, except everything is human-sized. The walls are a countless different shade of pink and floral print, with a few ornate vintage mirrors thrown in for good measure. There are tiny ceramic teacups sticking out of picture frames, statues of angels, and chandeliers with saucers instead of light fixtures. Gingham is the order of the day. Carolina’s is the kind of shamelessly whimsical place you don’t see very often in Malta, which certainly explains its runaway popularity – the first week it was open, an online post with a few photos of the place was shared hundreds of times, with people inquiring urgently where this magical new place was located.
PHOTOS: ALAN CARVILLE
“There were queues out the door! Thankfully, we’ve settled down now,” says designer Carlo Schembri. He’s the brains behind the operation, together with his partner Caroline Grech, who has a background in catering. Old family photos adorn the walls in cutely retro frames, which he says give the place more of a cosy, homespun vibe.
“I was a real girly-girl when I was young, very much into the colour pink, flowers and frills, so I wanted to create this place that’s like a fantasy of a perfect tea room,” says Caroline. “Carlo and I often travel to France and trawl through markets to find things that we can add to the place, to keep it fresh and interesting – including our antique cash register.” Caroline’s father helped engineer the furniture, as well as some of the more eccentric creations that we see in the shop, such as the antique saucer chandelier; she gives him the ideas and he puts them into action. “We wanted Carolina’s to be specifically in a village square,” Carlo adds. “In fact, this used to be a house, and many people still pop by with memories of the previous owners.” They had the option to make the café even bigger, but they decided to keep it small and homely. For the owners of the café, it’s not about turnover, but about keeping things authentic. A place like this is bound to attract more women than men – in fact, when we visited, all the clients we saw there were female, including
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drinks. “We try to change the menu as often as we can,” Carolina says. “We try to be different, and at the same time, we try to be sustainable.”
Carlo Schembri & Caroline Grech
two elegant older ladies catching up over coffee, and a mother and her young teenage daughter having lunch. But Carlo says that many men often pop in here for a quick coffee, and comment that they enjoy how different it is to the rest of the places that they normally frequent. “I think we’ve all had enough of soulless chain coffee places. We don’t do minimalism – we wanted to create a space that has soul, where you can find a sense of belonging away from home. Life is so fast that a place like this allows you to calm down and enter a different world. Both tourists who stumble upon it and the locals who live around here love it.” Work starts at six in the morning, as the staff comes in to prepare for the day ahead. While Carolina’s does not make all of its products in-house, it strives to work with the best suppliers and sources the highest-quality goodies for its clientele. The café’s menu ranges from bagels to pasta dishes to tacos, and it now stays open until 10 in the evening, offering a Turin-style aperitivo with drinks and nibbles for those seeking an original option for after-work
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The café’s signature item has to be its three-tier tea for two. The bottom tier is stacked with dainty little sandwiches with a variety of fillings, the middle tier has a few tiny scones with jam and clotted cream, and the top layer has a few thumb-sized treats, such as macarons and mini-cupcakes. It’s served with a large pot of tea or coffee, and clocks in at a very reasonable €15 – far less than you would spend on high tea somewhere else. “If someone wants to treat themselves and a friend to tea, it doesn’t have to cost them the earth. For us, Carolina’s Petit Café is all about creating a little bit of luxury that everyone can afford.”
BUSINESSAgenda FOOD & DRINK
MANOUCHE CRAFT BAKERY AND BISTRO
Remember the film Chocolat, where a pastry chef opens up a decadent chocolate shop in a small French village during Lent, scandalising abstaining villagers but eventually winning them over with the sensual powers of flavour and pleasure? Executive chef and co-creator of Manouche, Luca Selvaggi, certainly does – he mentions the film more than once during our interview, and it even influenced the name of the place. But while Manouche’s chocolate and pastry offerings are definitely delicious enough to tempt someone into sin, it didn’t take too long to win over the villagers of St Julian’s and beyond – Manouche was an immediate success almost the second it opened its doors.
Luca describes himself as an all-rounder chef. “I started in the pastry kitchen, studying chocolate, patisserie, boulangerie, and gardemanger at the Elishout in Belgium. I moved to the hot kitchen after realising that the future lay in tasting menus. Using the thought process that the pastry elements taught me, I honed my love for hot, cold and sweet foods, and ended up using all skills in tasting menus around Toronto. I left Canada for personal reasons after some time, and returned to Malta.” Back in Malta, he took on the task of modernising the kitchen brigade as Executive Chef at Villa Arrigo. “It was a hard task, but it gave me
the backbone to handle increased volume, catering sales and witness the power of mass marketing with food. I also tapped into the high-end catering market that Manouche now serves.” At Villa Arrigo, Luca also met Bjorn Attard, a pastry chef who shared his vision of excellence. Working together for six years, they eventually came up with the concept that became Manouche, and started striving towards it. “Our strong friendship and bond made Manouche what it is today. We have boundless respect for each other and trust in each other’s work, giving us the opportunity to create concepts that involve a lot of testing, perseverance and pushing
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the limits.” Nowadays, Bjorn is the pastry chef at Manouche, responsible for so many of the mouth-watering creations the bistro-café has become famous for. Other key members of the team include Steve Huskinson, the sous chef, and bistro chef de cuisine, Jonathan Bonello, who Luca says are “local legends and the backbone of the team.” Rounding out the dream team are Matthew Bartolo, a partner in the venture who is also the co-owner of U Bistrot in Balluta, and Bjorn Bartolo, the bakery and bistro manager. “This duo brings to life a new kind of serving standard,” Luca says. “Manouche is our take on a craft bakery and Parisian bistro. In Paris, you can’t have a proper bistro without a bakery to supply it – it needs it to make all the dough, bread and pastries for the bistro to serve. The food we serve here isn’t just French – there’s a lot of
local stuff in here too. The whole concept of the bistro is affordability and speciality produce, cooked with French technique and flair,” Luca says, taking care to underline the fact that Manouche the bakery and Manouche the bistro are two separate – but complementary – entities. However, everything at both the bakery and the bistro is made in-house using the best of local produce and ingredients, and all the breads and pastries are made with organic flour, sourced from the UK. Manouche’s bakery all-stars include the eclairs, the choux bombs and the salted caramel tart. The prices are reasonable enough that you can take a range of different goodies home to try, or even surprise a lucky host with lots of different treats as a party gift. The bakery also offers an afternoon tea, which Luca tells me proudly has taken off really well, and will soon be launching its summer menu, featuring patisserie lègere, icecream sandwiches and ice-cream choux buns. Meanwhile, highlights from the bistro’s menu, which is open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week, and for dinner service five days a week, includes dishes like shakshuka, Dutch pancakes and Liège waffles for breakfast, and asparagus and chèvre brûlée, galette Bretonne and short rib bourguignon for lunch. A prix fixe dinner menu at €36 for a threecourse and €25 for a two-course meal is in the works. “The menu is always changing, and we try to adapt to different events and festivities, although we try to always keep the classics in place.” Luca admits that if Manouche had opened in Malta a mere decade ago, it probably wouldn’t have been nearly as successful. And there’s no question that it is. Just five months after it opened, plans for a second Manouche location, this time in Valletta, are already in progress. “The Maltese palate is changing, and nowadays, people are seeking a different kind of cuisine and experience. There
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certainly was a demand for a place like Manouche.” He’s always quick to praise his team and credit them for the runaway hit that Manouche has been. “It’s not easy to find a good working environment in a kitchen, but Manouche is an incredibly positive place to work. But we’re all food nerds. There are no big egos among us. We’re simply guided by the food.” He also stresses that while the culinary scene in Malta has improved in leaps and bounds, there are still major developments to be made. “There is a need for more local suppliers – more people making cheese, raising sustainable fish, growing organic vegetables. Education has to improve – I implore Maltese chefs to study abroad, as culinary education in Malta is sorely lacking. There are no Maltese people willing to work in catering anymore, and it’s so difficult to find good people because restaurant owners can’t afford to pay higher wages – the whole sector needs to receive more subsidies from the Government. There are plenty of people who have good ideas – but they need to be invested in, in order to bring about change.”
BUSINESSAgenda FOOD & DRINK
PHOTO: SWITCH - DIGITAL & BRAND
There’s been a lot of buzz about Mriehel as one of Malta’s most up and coming business districts, but the truth is, it isn’t there yet. There are plenty of businesses, offices and start-ups around, but there certainly aren’t a lot of highcalibre – or even decent quality – places to go to lunch or dinner nearby that would help position it as Malta’s Canary Wharf. All that is set to change soon, but until now, Danny’s, a casual but cool restaurant that’s becoming one of the hottest lunch places in Malta, is one of the few beacons of light in this Birkirkara suburb. The chef-patron at Danny’s is not Danny (I accidentally call him Danny several times during the interview, but we’ll get to the real Danny later) but JP Debono, a fresh-faced, enthusiastic chef who says he has been cooking since
he was seven years old. He started working in the catering industry as a waiter when he was 15, and later enrolled at the Institute of Tourism Studies (ITS). “I spent a year abroad as part of my training at ITS. My first month was in a business hotel in Leeds which was nothing like I expected. It was very disappointing.” Disillusioned by the lack of imagination at the Leeds hotel’s kitchen, JP went for an interview at the London Marriott, which had four kitchens, and where some of his friends were doing their own internships. He was accepted. “I spent the rest of my year abroad there, gaining experience and learning.” JP then spent a year at Guzé in Ta’ Xbiex, and when it opened its Valletta branch, he was placed in the driver’s seat. “I was hungry for it. I spent four years there. When
it opened, it was just me and the dishwasher in the kitchen. We’d never know what to expect – we could be catering for anything from 10 patrons to 80 in one night. I learned a lot from Guzé.” During this time, Guzé also climbed to the top of the Tripadvisor charts in Valletta – a remarkable feat considering the saturation of restaurants in the capital, and the fact that the lone chef in his early 20s was doing almost everything in the kitchen himself. While JP had been longing to have his own place ever since he started cooking professionally, he says the kicker came during a family holiday in Australia, when he discovered the Queen Victoria Market, a glorious Melbourne landmark with more than 100 stalls that sell food from all over the world, stocked with locally-sourced produce and SUMMER ISSUE | 101
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PHOTO: SWITCH - DIGITAL & BRAND
be the restaurant manager at Il Brigante in Paceville.
PHOTO: ALAN CARVILLE
genuine, home-made items. It was a defining moment for what he wanted the restaurant to be, and its influence on Danny’s is evident. “I kept wandering about in a daze, marvelling at the things I was seeing. The rest of the family went for dinner, and four hours later, when they were done, I was still at the market, begging for another half hour to keep exploring.” Back in Malta, JP and his brother Fabien, who is a partner within the business, settled on the former Windmill Bar in Mriehel as the
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base for their new restaurant. “Mriehel wasn’t an ideal location for us, but it was affordable and the layout was good. We thought we would have regular weekday punters, but we never would have imagined that we would end up being the busiest on Saturdays and Sundays!” JP says. The brothers put their heads together with Switch, the marketing agency that helped create the buzz around the restaurant before it even opened, and settled on the name Danny’s, after their father, who used to
“Being a restaurant manager was his night job – he quit it when we were 15 so he could spend more time with the family. He always warned me that the restaurant life is tough, that you’ll be at work while your friends are enjoying their weekends or public holidays. I never took him that seriously, but I know now how right he was! Yes, there’s always the option not to open the restaurant, but when it’s your place, you end up just asking yourself, why am I not there right now?” Danny still plays an active role in his son’s restaurant – besides being the namesake, he also doubles as a handyman, carpenter, part-time accountant, occasional delivery man and more. “Whatever you need, ask Danny,” JP jokes. Danny’s favourite item to order at Danny’s is the cheeseburger, which is, incidentally, the most popular item overall. “It’s that and the beef cheek linguine. But we’ll often get regulars who come in here and just say to me, ‘Hey JP, make me something good’.” At Danny’s, JP and his excellent team have managed to do the impossible – create a welcoming, home-made atmosphere in the middle of an industrial town.
BUSINESSAgenda BUSINESS UPDATE
Winners of the WssTP awards
HSBC MALTA WINS GLOBAL WATER CHALLENGES PRIZE HSBC Bank Malta has been awarded the Global Water Challenges prize for its local water programme by the Brussels-based European Water Technology Platform (WssTP).
is recognised by the European Commission as the industry-lead technology platform for water, and from my experience in previous collaboration with them, they really aim for high standards.”
The Global Water Challenges prize recognises an entity that is innovative both in terms of sustainable solutions and the technologies utilised. The award is particularly dedicated to initiatives that contribute to achieving the water-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as adopted by the United Nations.
Since 2013, HSBC Malta has invested close to €1 million on various water projects in Malta, drawing funds and support from HSBC Group’s global Water Programme.
This award, alongside others, was presented during the annual Water Innovation Europe conference, held in Brussels, and which attracted participants from the water sector from across the continent and beyond.
WssTP was initiated by the European Commission in 2004 for Research and Technology Development in the water industry. This year’s Water Innovation Europe conference was held in Brussels in June with the theme of ‘The road towards a water-smart society: Overcoming the water challenges of the future’.
In choosing the recipient of the Global Water Challenges, several aspects were considered by the panel of judges, including innovation, market potential, stakeholder cooperation and inclusiveness, and replicability. According to the announcement, HSBC Malta Water Programme received the highest appreciation from the evaluation committee. Congratulating HSBC Malta, Manuel Sapiano, Chief Policy Officer (Water) at the Energy and Water Agency, said “having followed HSBC Malta’s water programmes since their start five years ago, I can outline that this recognition is truly merited and it is something which the team at HSBC should be very proud of. WssTP 104 | SUMMER ISSUE
Glenn Bugeja, HSBC Malta Corporate Sustainability Manager, accepting the award via Skype conference
THE SECOND EDITION OF NOTTE ITALIANA AT PJAZZA TEATRU RJAL On Saturday 11th August at 8.30pm at Pjazza Teatru Rjal, the Malta Concert Orchestra under the direction of Joe Brown will be following on from last year’s great success with the second edition of Notte Italiana. Once again, this concert promises to bring about the true Italian spirit to our shores through some of Italy’s all-time favourite songs. Joined by singers Alex Schembri, Neville Refalo, Georgina, Olivia Lewis and Nadia Vella, the Malta Concert Orchestra will be performing some of Italy’s greatest hits by Eros Ramazzoti, Rita Pavona, Laura Pausini, Mia Martini, Massimo Ranieri, Zucchero, I Pooh, Ricchi e Poveri and Ivana Spagna, among others. The extensive song list includes such songs as Come saprei, Maledettea primavera, Vivo per lei, Per colpa di chi, Fatti mandare dalla mamma, La solitudine, Con le mani and Sarà perchè ti amo. This concert promises to be another in a long list of activities by the Malta Concert Orchestra that is reaching out to people through accessible and inspiring musical performances. Set up in 2017, the orchestra (formerly known as the PBS Orchestra) is a versatile ensemble made up of professional and semi-professional musicians who perform in various formations. This year, the MCO has already taken part in L-Ghanja tal-Poplu Zghazagh in February as well as the second edition of Successi Maltin in April. Further appointments for this season include a jazz concert by the MCO Big Band (as part of the Malta International Jazz Festival), L-Ghanja tal-Poplu – Festival tal-Kanzunetta Maltija in September as well as A Night at the Musicals and a Christmas Concert in December.
Notte Italiana will be under the musical direction of one of the orchestra’s associate conductors Joe Brown. Maestro Brown is an experienced conductor/ arranger with over 20 years’ experience in studio recordings and TV programmes. He has conducted the orchestra for many national festivals, composed music for various local TV series and collaborated with international artistes such as Johnny Logan, Tracey Shields, T.J. Slater, The Drifters and Brotherhood of Men. He has also conducted in the UK and Australia, and has been involved in over 300 concerts and 600 television programmes. Tickets for Notte Italiana are available from www. pjazzateatrurjal.mt. Students, families and senior citizens may benefit from special discounts (terms and conditions apply).
BUSINESSAgenda BUSINESS UPDATE
BYPASSING THE MIDDLE MAN TO TRADE ONLINE Innovation and dynamism have always been the order of the day in the world of investments and finance. Since the late 1990s, investors could finally do away with the human intervention of the stockbroker, gaining direct access to the market via online platforms. This was a game changer, as brokerage firms passed on control and relative cost savings into the hands of the investors. Online trading is not free, but comparatively inexpensive and with significantly smaller minimum fees, making investments of a smaller size more viable. That said, online trading platforms do expect users to trade frequently and in most instances, fees are applied after periods of inactivity. Undeniably, trading online for one’s self, without the assistance of a market expert, does bring with it greater risk, both in way of selecting the right investment and also in the execution of the actual trades on the market. Selecting stocks wisely, coupled with a timely entry and exit strategy, is key to building wealth over time. The benefit of lower charges is quickly forgotten as capital is destroyed should a self-purchased speculative investment turn sour. Self-discipline is therefore critical. Through its collaboration with Saxo Bank, Bank of Valletta offers the seasoned investor eTrader+ powered by Saxo Bank, an alternative channel to active traders, who want
direct access to trade online. In fact, this highly adaptive platform offers key benefits such as the ability to place orders in real time across all major international markets, the possibility of effecting single limit as well as algorithmic or advanced orders, and having 24-hour access to market prices for more than 30,000 securities. Investments made via this service may be affected by changes in currency exchange rates and the value of investments may go down as well as up. Bank of Valletta p.l.c. is a public limited company regulated by the MFSA and is licensed to carry out investment services in terms of the Investment Services Act (Cap.370 of the Laws of Malta). Saxo Bank A/S is incorporated in Denmark as a licensed bank and is regulated by the Danish Financial Services Authority. Saxo Bank’s trading platform is being made available by Saxo Bank to clients in Malta under the cross-border passporting provisions of the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive.
ACUMATICA CLOUD ERP FOR ALL YOUR DISTRIBUTION MANAGEMENT NEEDS Distribution management is an overarching term that refers to numerous activities and processes such as packaging, inventory, warehousing, supply chain and logistics. Distributors of any size face many of the same global challenges, including rapidly-changing customer demands, complex inventories and fluctuations in the supply chain. Acumatica Cloud ERP offers a distribution management solution that integrates and automates the entire cycle. Here are a just a handful of reasons to choose Acumatica for your distribution management needs. MINIMISE INVESTMENT COSTS Everyone in your company needs up-to-date and accurate information to make the best decisions. That’s why the Acumatica pricing structure lets you add casual users, suppliers and customers without paying for additional licences. Therefore, the cost to you is based on the features and resources that you choose to utilise, not on the number of users who access the system. REAL-TIME INVENTORY MANAGEMENT With the Acumatica inventory tracking feature, business owners can control system-wide inventory to efficiently manage the distribution process from beginning to end. The best part is that inventory is accessed in real-time, so you can stay on top of everything – from viewing available stock and expiration dates to re-ordering quantities across multiple warehouses.
IMPROVE CUSTOMER SATISFACTION Through access to real-time information, any situation needing attention can be identified and addressed immediately, thus allowing you to provide customer support anytime, anywhere. With its fully-integrated financial management, customer management, and distribution management modules visible across the entire company, customer satisfaction can easily be improved. REDUCE ORDER TIMES With the Acumatica sales order management feature, you can improve the order process and eliminate delays by means of integrated workflow and automated sales order processing. Acumatica allows you to set rules to optimise the sales management of multiple warehouses from a single screen. Start making the shift to Acumatica Cloud ERP today. For more information: T: 2149 0700; E: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.computimesoftware.com/acumatica-erp SUMMER ISSUE | 107
BUSINESSAgenda BUSINESS UPDATE
CHANGING THE WORLD OF OFFICE DESIGN The nature of business is changing, and so is the type of work, workers’ expectations and work tools, so there is an increased need to change the working environment and landscape as a whole. Office footprints are shrinking, private offices are decreasing in popularity, and there is an increase in common working space areas. In a world where advancements in technology are constant and cultural shifts are frequent and dynamic, workplaces need to continuously evolve, and spaces that are designed around the needs of people will ease collaboration, workflow and inspire everyone to do their best. Herman Miller calls this ‘the living office’. A living office helps people customise their methods, tools and place of work to express and enable shared character and purpose. It is based on what is fundamental to all humans, and evolves continuously in response to change. It is a more natural and desirable workplace that fosters greater connection, creativity, productivity and, ultimately, greater prosperity for all. Fino is mostly known among the Maltese for the furnishing of homes, such as kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms and dining areas, but it also offers a wide range of other services. In 2015, Fino presented its revamped Projects Division, which offers the industry’s most comprehensive range of products and is a one-of-a-kind turnkey interiors and contracting solutions provider. The company understands the development of the office environment, and has the necessary skills to design, plan and fit out office spaces in the best way possible in order to maximise the potential use for all clients and varying types of businesses. When designing a layout of an office space, the team at Fino doesn’t just choose the desks, chairs and storage units, but designs in a way that best fits the clients’ needs for their working environment, not only for today but also for the future, with a flexibility to adapt to the ever-changing world of working. Fino Projects utilises the full experience and knowhow of the Group’s 100-plus committed professionals 108 | SUMMER ISSUE
and skilled craftsmen who manage a wide spectrum of activities to offer a variety of quality products at the best value without compromising on quality. This commitment is shown through all stages of the project, right from the concept origination to its completion. This includes contractual products, specific projects and customised stand-alone fit-out jobs. The team combines the practical with the aesthetic, comfort with luxury, and grace with affluence. In-house capabilities in woodwork and joinery, coupled with the team’s expertise in architecture, design and project management, ensure that Fino’s turnkey capacity goes beyond refurbishment and fit-out. It not only guarantees quality and on-time delivery, but also maintains a strong ethical code of practice which defines everything the company does. Fino Projects has built a reputation as a reliable and suitable installer of quality furniture that meets every demand and exceeds every expectation. Numerous projects that require a high demand of dependability, strict time schedules, design requirements and budget planning were completed effectively, earning Fino Projects the renowned position that it now has. Being part of a large network of European partners, Fino Projects plays an important role in commanding volume savings for contract partners. The company’s portfolio includes high-profile projects, such as the furnishing of Malta Parliament, Bank of Valletta head offices, Malta International Airport, hotels (Radisson, Waterfront, Corinthia and InterContinental, among others), bars and restaurants (Lore and Fitch, Mamma Mia, Dolce Vita and South East Caffe, among others), and more. Within the Projects Division, Fino also has a dedicated Office Solutions segment, which specialises in the furnishing of offices to fit the client’s type of business, and works with some of the most renowned suppliers like Herman Miller, DVO and Pedrali. Fino Buildings, Notabile Road, Mriehel. T: 2549 3000; E: email@example.com; www.fino.com.mt
BUSINESSAgenda BUSINESS UPDATE
FIMBANK HOSTS CORPORATE CLIENT EVENT growing local customer base. In addition to FIMBank’s real estate finance proposition, the bank also offers a comprehensive range of trade financing, factoring and cash management services. Describing the bank’s client relationship management approach, FIMBank’s Head of Cash Management, Chris Trapani, said, “the bank is strongly geared to offer a wide range of cash management services to businesses. Our strategy hinges on a personalised approach, with a consistent commitment to adapt to the latest technology and innovation to provide added value to all our clients.” FIMBank recently hosted a reception for its local corporate clients which was held at the bank’s Head Office. The event served as an excellent opportunity for the bank’s clients to interact with their Relationship Managers and customerfacing employees. The Chairman and CEO of FIMBank greeted the clients and thanked them for their attendance.
For more information about FIMBank plc, visit www.fimbank.com
Jason Zammit, Head of Real Estate stated, “FIMBank has built a reputation on its ability to build strong relationships with its clients. As a customer-centric bank which proactively listens to its clients, we are committed towards tailoring financial solutions to meet their specific needs.” He also emphasised the importance of such events as they enable the bank to build a stronger rapport with its
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BUSINESSAgenda EU POLICY
A NEW DEAL FOR CONSUMERS In April this year, the EU Commission proposed a new deal on EU consumer rights and enforcement, thus ensuring that all European consumers fully benefit from their rights under EU law. Jo Caruana speaks to the experts to find out what this will mean – both for consumers and businesses. Whether you’re buying a computer or a car, your consumer rights are likely to be at the forefront of your mind – after all, we all want to know that we’re not being taken for a ride.
tools to enforce their rights and get compensation, introduce effective penalties for violations of EU consumer law, tackle dual quality of consumer products, and improve conditions for businesses.
Thankfully, as an EU member state, our consumer rights are already considered to be among the best in the world, but recent moves by the EU Commission have worked to strengthen them even further – especially when it comes to enforcement.
Explaining the new deal, Grace Stivala, the Director for Enforcement within the Office for Consumer Affairs at the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority, believes the deal will address the challenges to consumer protection in today’s ever-evolving markets, as well as its effects on both consumers and traders.
In fact, a New Deal for Consumers has been put in place to deliver a fairer single market that benefits both consumers and businesses. Among its many elements, this deal will strengthen consumer rights online, give consumers the
“Following the 2017 Fitness Check on consumer protection legislation by the European Commission, it was established that the majority
of such legislation was overall fit for purpose but that there was still scope for improvement, especially in relation to consumer detriment and unfair competition between compliant and non-compliant traders,” Ms Stivala explains. “This new package is composed of two legislative proposals, one on representative actions for the protection of the collective interests of consumers that will be repealing the current injunctions directive, and another proposal to amend four directives related to unfair contract terms, unfair commercial practices, price indication and consumer rights. Beyond that, the package also includes a number of non-legislative measures to complement the mentioned SUMMER ISSUE | 111
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legislative measures, including awareness raising campaigns, and training and education opportunities. “Considering that the New Deal for Consumers package will be building on the existing consumer policy and updating it with modern rules fit for today’s changing markets and business practices, while also proposing stronger public and private enforcements, and better redress opportunities, it is fair to say that it was needed as it will boost the proper and fair balance between consumer protection and traders’ interests,” she says.
to provide stronger consumer rights and additional tools. “For example, the deal will ensure that consumers have the right to individual remedies if they are harmed by unfair commercial practice,” Ms Stivala explains. “The deal is also proposing transparency in online marketplaces, where, currently, consumers are not always aware whether they are buying from a trader or from another consumer, which makes it difficult for them to claim their rights if a problem arises.
Meanwhile, Pedro Oliveira, the Director for Legal Affairs BusinessEurope, believes this new legislative package is a ‘solution in search of a problem’. “Consumer confidence is at a 16-year record, traders are becoming more and more compliant, and consumers are becoming more aware of their rights,” he says. “Against this positive scenario, the European Commission still decided to go for more regulation in the consumer area – ranging from further information requirements, and judicial tools to allow mass litigation to increased fines. Only a small part of it is actually about the needed simplification which business has been calling for.” However there have been some issues related to not having this deal in place. “Recent mediatised cases involving car manufacturers and other sectors, for instance, have increased the pressure on the EU to deliver better solutions,” Mr Oliveira continues. “The diagnostic led the EU to produce more regulation despite the conclusions of a specific EC Fitness Check that ran for two years and which showed that European consumer law is still fit for purpose. In our view, the Commission missed the target. Effective enforcement should have continued to be the priority.” This New Deal for Consumers, as its name implies, is envisaged
“Beyond that, this deal is proposing that consumers should have the same consumer rights for ‘free’ digital services as they do when they pay for them, with some exceptions. The deal also allows member states to adopt additional rules on aggressive doorstep-selling practices, including commercial excursions organised by traders who promote their goods in a forceful manner to vulnerable consumers. Last but not least, it is also proposing a new tool to obtain collective redress where consumers can, through their national consumer organisation, for instance, lodge representative action against a rogue trader who is harming a number of consumers.” Of course, the new deal does beg the question: will any of this be harmful for businesses? “Well, besides bringing in a new layer of regulation, the new deal also takes a step back on maximum harmonisation which was, so far, the legislative technique used in the EU to avoid member states adopting diverging rules,” Mr Oliveira says. “Studies point out that the current patchwork of businessto-consumer laws in member states (such as different guarantee periods) could continue to hinder cross-border trade.”
“This new legislative package is a solution in search of a problem.” PEDRO OLIVEIRA
“Beyond that, the ‘class action’ initiative has the potential to import US ‘litigation culture’ to Europe. Because of the lack of safeguards against frivolous claims in the proposal, businesses will either close doors or be forced to pay high settlements in order to avoid reputational damages, even if the claims are unfounded,” he says. Overall, however, it is expected that some elements will be positive – although not overwhelmingly so. “If there is something positive to expect from this new deal, it is to ensure that fair rules serve business-to-consumer relations,” Mr Oliveira says. “We hope that decision-makers support the proposed change whereby the trader only has to reimburse the consumer withdrawing from a
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“Among other things, this deal is proposing that consumers should have the same consumer rights for ‘free’ digital services as they do when they pay for them.” GRACE STIVALA
‘distance’ contract after he receives the good back. Beyond that, we welcome the rule that says that if a consumer uses the good beyond what is reasonably expected to test it, the trader is allowed to refuse a return.” Ms Stivala adds “in my opinion, the most tangible change expected
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from this deal is that the stricter enforcement powers in the Revised Consumer Protection Cooperation Regulation, plus the envisaged higher penalties in the New Deal for Consumers package will deter rogue traders from continuing to engage in unfair practices which are harming both consumers and honest traders. On top of that,
the new proposed rules will also enhance consumer trust in making the most of the benefits of the digital single markets and induce more interest in traders to offer their products and services through online marketplaces. In view of this, it is envisaged that the deal will positively affect all stakeholders,” she concludes.