Noel Cassar is 32 years old and hails from Zejtun. Since graduating from the University of Malta, he has worked in the financial sector, accumulating experience in this area and furthering his studies. He currently occupies the role of Manager in a financial company, and lectures at the University of Malta and several Colleges in Malta.
He also forms part of the Executive Committee of Fondazzjoni iDEAT, the progressive think-tank of the Labour Party, which seeks to propose and promote progressive policies for the 21st century. Noel believes that his youthful energy and determination, will contribute positively to our country and aspires to become ‘Your Voice in Europe’. As a prospective MEP for the PL, Noel shares with us his views on the upcoming MEP elections and the future of the EU…
You have been involved in politics for quite some time now, including forming part of political think tank, Fondazzjoni iDEAT, but a MEP is quite an ambitious departure from local politics. What motivated you to submit your candidature?
Fondazzjoni iDEAT and in particular its course ‘You Progress’, have convinced me that our country needs young people to start serving it. Furthermore, I would like to give something back to my country, in return for the opportunities Malta as a country had given me until today. So, in this regard, I am putting myself forward to be of service to the Maltese and the Gozitans. The Prime Minister has approached me to become a candidate for the upcoming European Parliament elections, based on the fact that I hail from the financial industry. Unfortunately, this industry is being placed in the spotlight for a number of wrong reasons. Furthermore, during recent months several people encouraged me to make this step to defend Malta’s name and reputation. Coming from the financial sector and seeing the Nationalist Party representatives elected by the Maltese citizens in European Parliament tarnishing Malta’s standing worries me a lot. My goal is to defend my country’s reputation, a reputation, which our forefathers worked a lot for. This nomination also means commitment and loyalty to our country. If elected, I will work tirelessly for Malta and Gozo to top the European agenda.
Delving through the history of the EU since its inception, do you believe it has fulfilled its original goals?
In my opinion, there are some goals that the EU has fulfilled very well throughout the years and others which the EU is still far from reaching. I think that the EU has managed well to fulfill its goals for the free movement of people, goods and services in the single market. Malta is a proper example given that currently our country is attracting a lot of European workers to fill the excess jobs being created by local companies. In the case of the free movement of goods and services, the EU has also reached this objective very well. On the other hand, the European Union is still lacking the concept that its institutions must be closer to its citizens, the ordinary men and women in the street. Unfortunately, one still finds citizens who still do not realize the benefits of the European Union and how Malta is gaining in this regard.
In which areas do you believe that the EU is most lacking?
The EU is lacking when it comes to border protection and burden-sharing. For the last decade or so, southern EU countries became the main gateway used by illegal immigrants to gain access to central Europe. Speaking about illegal immigrants, we are referring to persons leaving their countries either due to civil wars in their countries or for economic reasons. The concept of burden-sharing among the European countries has failed tremendously. With regards to these challenges, during the last State of the Union speech, Jean Claude Junker, President of the European Commission, emphasised the need for Europe to strengthen North African economies by help creating up to 10 million jobs in the next 5 years. This might not be enough, but at least it will be quite a fruitful measure if implemented properly.
Another issue I see, is the lack of solidarity and economic harmony between the countries themselves. Everyone seems to be pulling in different directions and forgetting about the European dream of a continent of peace, solidarity, tolerance and economic prosperity.
Do you believe that the EU through its myriad of institutions is tangibly benefitting the man in the street and his quality of life?
Overall, Malta is currently benefiting from a lot of EU funds invested in various projects around Malta. Randomly, one can mention transportation, culture, history and education. Maltese are realising that the EU is improving our quality of life. Still more can be done. However, excessive spending by EU institutions is leading to a lot of dissatisfaction among the EU citizens.
Any pressing issues you believe the EU should tackle to ensure its survival especially given the current rise in populism?
In my opinion, the issues of border protection and burden-sharing have prompted the rise to populism. However, during the last decade, the European Union did little to counter and tackle this problem. And today we have ended up in a situation where a lot of people favour this approach. We know that governments run by populist parties are difficult to remain in power for a long period if by not changing their approach, such as Greek government. Populist governments in the Eurozone are intentionally going against the economic criteria agreed upon before the accession in the Eurozone. This is the current situation in Italy. The European Union needs to be the ray of light to the European countries that are going through difficult times, guide them and not create more hurdles.
What other immediate challenges do you believe the EU is facing?
As aforementioned, the unity of the European Union and its dream are challenges that have been there for a long time and are going to remain there in the future. These are day-to-day challenges. Furthermore, the current issue of Brexit is another challenge which the European Union needs to tackle properly in order to avoid further potential exits by other countries.
As a financial services professional – a CFA charter holder, how do you view the EU’s banking and financial institutions? Are they fulfilling their scope?
In the wake of the financial crisis, the EU adopted a series of reforms to secure financial stability and improve the supervision of financial markets. The European Commission pursued a number of initiatives to create a safer financial sector for the single market, such as stronger and more prudent financial regulatory requirements for banks, improved protection for depositors and rules for managing failing banks with the main aim to spur investment and growth. In fact, through the creation of the banking union, the EU institutions agreed to undergo a ‘shake-up’ and establish a single supervisory mechanism (SSM) and a single resolution mechanism (SRM) for banks. The goal of the SSM is for the ECB to directly supervise the largest banks, while the national supervisors continue to monitor the remaining banks. On the other hand, the purpose of the SRM is to ensure an orderly resolution of failing banks, with minimal costs for taxpayers and to the real economy. However, on the negative side, the great amount of supervision on the banks is leading to an increase in red-tape which hinders growth and investment.
How do you believe our country, albeit the smallest of the whole union, can contribute to the overall wellbeing of the bloc and its populations?
Notwithstanding, Malta is the smallest of the whole Union and the furthest South geographicaly, our country was always at the centre of European wellbeing. History can speak on our behalf. We always contributed to European prosperity and solidarity, one way or another. However, in my opinion, first we should start from home and ensure our country’s continued prosperity and solidarity with each other.
What are the future benefits and obviously the challenges for Malta as part of the EU?
Malta will continue benefiting from its membership in the EU. Malta will be pursuing its strategy to attract investments and business, especially due to its proactive mentality. Malta is setting itself as an investment destination, by attracting skilled and highly qualified employees. On the cons side, the challenges for Malta are expected to continue especially with regards to tax convergence issues, the immigration situation and the upcoming EU Budget 2021-2027.
What is your personal vision for Malta within the EU?
The Maltese dream of becoming the best in Europe was a vision which was difficult to understand five years ago. However, nowadays all citizens are embracing this dream. We need to strengthen the harmony between us as Maltese citizens because we know so well that when we join forces, together we can do miracles. Malta needs to continue strengthening its footprint in the European Union and be the leader of change. Malta needs to embrace this philosophy in order to continue be the leader in Blockchain, DLT, Artificial Intelligence and other sectors in the coming future. However, let’s not forget from where we have started, and we should never take anything for granted. Furthermore, we need to do our utmost to improve our quality of life.
With six months to go to election day, what is your message to the electorate?
Malta needs to be represented by those who love their country and would like to challenge everyone who speaks against our islands. We want to elect representatives with a positive attitude towards our country. We are a small country and any damage done to our reputation would be difficult to overcome. As a country, our proactiveness will enhance our growth prospects and bring more investments to our shores. If I get elected I promise that whoever you are, wherever you work, I will be Your Voice in Europe.