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Robert van de Water reports that Malta’s financial industry is extremely healthy
12
Feb
Robert van de Water reports that Malta’s financial industry is extremely healthy

 

Robert van de Water currently serves as the European Policy Adviser to the Prime Minister of Malta. From 1991 till 2012, Rob van de Water has participated in the European Parliament's Election Observation Missions in Ukraine, Belarus, the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Georgia, Albania, Moldova and Romania. Since then he served as European Policy adviser to the Prime Minister of Ukraine and was responsible for foreign policy in the Private Office of Group Leader Martin Schulz.

Robert van de Water recently spoke to Gita Evele, EXANTE's PR-manager, in order to provide his assessment on Malta's financial industry.

Malta is the smallest member state of the European Union and it has only 6 representatives in the EU Parliament, the same number as Estonia and Cyprus. Therefore, how can Malta increase its influence and defend its own national interests, when other member states have a stronger impact in the Parliament like Germany with 96 representatives or UK with 73?

First and foremost, all members of the European Parliament, who come from Malta, are part of the biggest political parties – three with the European People's Party and thee with the social democrats. That means that they are part of large groups where their voice is absolutely crucial and they are planning an important task. However, that is the EU parliament.

Malta in itself can play a vital role and we see that is exactly what the Prime Minister is trying to achieve. It has been said that “every disadvantage has also got its own advantage”, thus, you can also benefit when you are a small country. It is significantly easier to come forward with more innovative ideas as you do not have to go through large structures. In contrast, whenever a country like Germany wants to propose something, it has to receive approval not only from their national parliament, but also the regional parliament.

Hence, a country like Malta can do things quicker as well as be more active and, as a result, advance things in an efficient way that other countries cannot.

Following the collapse of the Cyprus banking sector in 2013, many now mistake Malta’s banking sector with similar issues. How do you view Malta reinforcing its image as a financial center in the EU as well as setting itself apart from its well established European counterparts?

It is necessary to stress that the primary reason why the Cyprus banks collapsed was due to their involvement with the Greek banking sector that crashed. Malta, however, has made a very clear distinction that the financing of its own sector is done separately from its international banking sector. I have been looking at various reports during the past 2-3 years that evaluate Malta’s financial industry as extremely healthy as it does not have any risks like interlinking with very risky international structures that were faced in Cyprus.

Secondly, as I have previously stated, Malta can react very quickly. Whenever it anticipates problems or even opportunities, Malta can take action in a rapid manner that was not possible for Cyprus. I am just highlighting again that Cyprus strongly depended on the Greek banks and they simply could not respond properly to what has been happening.

Therefore, what makes Malta stable is that there is a clear separation between the national and international banking structures, which means that the country cannot go bankrupt even if there are problems in its own international financing structures.

What main foreign policy issues do you see at the moment that Malta should focus on?

In terms foreign policy, I think that one of the enormous advantages of Malta is its location and geographical position. A small island in the middle of the Mediterranean has the possibility to establish many international contexts both in the North Africa and the European Union. Moreover, being a part of the EU, the country is highly opened to other sectors as well as other parts of the world like countries from the former Soviet Union or Asian countries.

Most importantly, Malta is and can be seen as a hub. It is a country that not only needs investment, but is also ready for investment and is trying to attract it from all parts of the world. Therefore, the first priority for Malta is to show itself as a country that has always been opened to foreign context. Moreover, position itself as country that can work together with people from all over the world and is prepared for international cooperation. In that sense, it can also play an absolute leading role.

In order to achieve one's objectives many smaller member states of the EU formed alliances with other countries like Austria, Belgium, Estonia and Ireland were main leaders in their involvement in the Common Security and Defence Policy missions. Should Malta be looking for its own strategic partners within the EU to pursue the aforementioned goals discussed in Q3?

Coalitions are always necessary, a small country like Malta cannot work completely on its own. Nonetheless, there are different kinds of coalitions that are possible.

First of all, Malta invests in good relations with its neighbours, which implies that it will have favourable relationship with other EU member states that are boarding the Mediterranean. To a certain extend they all have similar problems as well as solutions. Therefore, it is essential to collaborate with them in order to tackle these problems, for example, illegal immigration that is also faced by Italy, France and Spain.

Secondly, the Maltese Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, is also the leader of the labour party, so he and his party are part of this bigger political family of social democratic governments all over Europe. Consequently, they have regular meetings with leaders of other countries where the labour party is strongly represented. For instance, the president of France is a social democrat, so there are numerous countries that are in the same position. As a result, this is a natural coalition, which derives from the party’s history and how the cooperation takes place.

Last but not least, there are various larger countries that have a good understanding of what issues a small country faces. In the beginning of 2017 Malta will hold the Presidency of the EU Council and it is not easy for a small country to do everything on its own. Thus, one of the coalitions that will be built should focus on working together in preparing, executing and implementing such an important moment. It doesn’t mean, however, one thing – Malta does not have to be a small copy of Germany or Britain, it has policies of its own. Malta needs to position itself as a country that takes initiative, but it is not only Malta that that has to look for partners, also other partners can seek for Malta to work together.

 

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