Nationalist Party spokesperson and European Union expert Peter Agius has slammed the Government over its failure to negotiate an exemption from proposed aviation fuel rules that could significantly increase travel costs, putting tourism and air imports at risk.
Dr Agius issued his strongly-worded letter following a meeting of the Council of Transport Ministers where new proposals in the EU’s Fit for 55 emissions-cutting programme were discussed. These include new rules on electric vehicle charging infrastructure, on shipping fuel, and on aviation fuel, as the EU tries to reduce transport emissions, accounting for about a quarter of its total emissions, by 90 per cent.
He argued that the Government failed to make Malta’s case for policies that cater to the archipelago’s specific situation.
“This is another case where Brussels is proposing one size fits all legislation. With the rules as proposed, our economy will see the costs of insularity rise further,” said Dr Agius.
“The Maltese government has failed to shape new EU aviation rules that will place a disproportionate burden on Malta due to additional fuel costs. This is another case where the Maltese Government is failing to adapt proposed legislation to cater to our specific situation of insularity and dependence on air transport,” he continued.
Pointing out that 98 per cent of incoming tourists to Malta reach the islands by air trasport, Dr Agius said the coutnry cannot be compared to countries on the mainland like Germany and Poland which have extensive road and rail links.
“Our economy depends almost exclusively on air transport. EU rules should take stock of this reality by including specific provisions for island territories,” Dr Agius said.
“To add insult to injury, the proposed rules presumably accepted by the Maltese Government recognise the additional impact on islands but fail to take any action or include any corrective mechanism, leaving the matter to a report to be done in five years time.”
The Ministers in Brussels are asking the Commission to present a report with a “detailed assessment of the impact of the new rules on connectivity for islands” in 2027, but by then, it would be too late to avert the impact, according to Dr Agius.
“We need to include safeguards to the Maltese economy before we adopt EU rules not after their adoption!” he insisted.
He cites industry sources which warn that the new legislation will see fuel costs rise up to six times more than the current scenario, with the impacts going beyond the tourism sector: By 2019 figures, a total weight of 16,425 tonnes of cargo was also processed by the Malta International Airport.
Dr Agius also outlined the impact on jobs in the aviation industry: “Apart from the general prejudice to our economy, let us not forget that the aviation industry in Malta employs 4000 professionals who will see the island’s competitiveness degrade in this niche.”
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