Alfred SANT : Written explanations of vote 

Members can submit a written explanation of their vote in plenary. Rule 194

Election of the Commission  

. – I voted in favour of the new Commission. The agenda and the team were shaped by political negotiations and it is to be hoped that this will not just satisfy strategic goals but will make for a strong and dynamic team. Great importance was given in the proposed action programme to the environment. During the mandate ahead, it is hoped that the so-called Green New Deal will not be just a slogan but will, for example, translate into proper cooperation among all Commission directorates in the effort to reverse climate change. Similarly, a gender-balanced Commission like this one should lead to bold policies promoting gender equality across Europe.
Many promises were made around an economy that works for people. The Commissioner for jobs will be in charge of ‘Employment and Social Rights’. In practice this should allow for the injection of a social dimension in a wide range of directives and regulations in the next five years. Another area where leadership from the Commission is expected relates to progress along the road of eurozone reform. Credibility and coherence should be the hallmarks of the President and ‘her’ College to ensure concrete implementation of the ambitious programme they have laid out.

Mobilisation of the European Union Solidarity Fund to provide assistance to Greece (A9-0040/2019 - Eva Kaili)  

. – I voted in favour of this report allowing the EU, through the European Union Solidarity Fund, to mobilise over EUR 4 million to Greece in both commitment and payment appropriations. Support through such mobilisation is a practical demonstration of EU solidarity through real and tangible assistance when needed. It is reasonable that Greece gets this assistance in order to deal with damages produced by heavy rains and storms that resulted in flooding and a landslide disaster on the island of Crete earlier this year in February.
Following the disaster, the country applied for a contribution from the Solidarity Fund on 15 May 2019. Such assistance could come at a swifter pace as for those who suffered this damage, every extra day of waiting could be detrimental. Lastly, the mechanism leading to the launching of such assistance might be revisited when directed towards small Member States, and especially those EU countries considered a one-region country under the Solidarity Fund. On both these last two counts, I am thinking specifically of the huge damages suffered by Maltese farmers from a huge storm that hit the island earlier this year, and for which some kind of financial relief arrived very late.

Mobilisation of the Flexibility Instrument to finance immediate budgetary measures to address the on-going challenges of migration, refugee inflows and security threats (A9-0039/2019 - Monika Hohlmeier)  

. – The aim of the Flexibility Instrument is to allow the financing of clearly identified expenditures that cannot be covered without exceeding the maximum annual amount of funding allocated under the multiannual financial framework. In this setting, I voted in favour of the use of this special instrument in the EU’s budget heading 3, to address the ongoing and urgent challenges of migration, refugee inflows and security threats since all other financing possibilities under the same heading have been exhausted.
This commitment demonstrates that the pre-established 2020 ceilings for this area do not allow for adequate financing of established priorities. The added amount of EUR 778 million still does not fill the funding gap for these important sectors. Yet, it will definitely be of an added drive towards achieving EU objectives. This money now has to be spent appropriately, and where it is most urgently needed. Finally, this decision further confirms the need for the EU to be more flexible in its budgetary plans, whereby budgetary authorities can have the possibility to put the money where it is most needed at an appropriate time.

2020 budgetary procedure: joint text (A9-0035/2019 - Monika Hohlmeier, Eider Gardiazabal Rubial)  

I voted in favour of the conciliation for the EU budget 2020 because the result is a good compromise between major interests of the EU.
Specifically, the compromise sees the approval of more funding towards climate actions and support for young Europeans in the line of more funding towards the Erasmus Programme as well as to fight youth unemployment.
Especially welcome is the extra funding dedicated to the Connecting European Facility. This increase follows the amendments by a number of MEPs, including myself. Such funding is essential in the EU vision towards a Europe-wide energy connection, and in this setting to cushion some of the isolation difficulties faced by insular regions in Europe.
I also look forward to see the first Commission plans for our Preparatory Action proposal dedicated to teaching island authorities on how to tender for renewable energy projects, which has now passed the final budgetary hurdle towards obtaining funding for 2020.
As the EU cycle keeps moving, the view now is to maintain such priorities, and where possible further strengthen for the upcoming Multiannual Financial Framework.

Distance sales of goods and certain domestic supplies of goods (A9-0019/2019 - Ondřej Kovařík)  

I have voted in favour of this report, which pursues the objective of ensuring that VAT is paid when goods are sold through online market places by independent sellers.
The legislation covering this policy forms part of a broader reform of VAT systems meant to make them more resistant to fraud while ensuring safe exchange of information on payments and collection of VAT on internet sales.
VAT fraud in EU e-commerce (growing by 14 percent annually) represents a tax loss of some 5 billion euros every year.
Currently, if a company sells goods online to consumers in other Member States and the threshold of the distance sales is exceeded, the supplier is obliged to charge local VAT in the Member State of the customer.
An independent online seller is obliged to have a local VAT identification number in that other country. It’s complicated.
Through the new single counter (“One Stop Shop”), independent online sellers going cross-border with their business need one single EU VAT identification number.
Ultimately, this should give encouragement to small businesses in e-commerce activities across the EU while limiting VAT fraud.
The measure is of special relevance to Malta where buyers are increasingly going online.

Criminalisation of sexual education in Poland (B9-0166/2019, B9-0167/2019, B9-0168/2019)  

I voted in favour of the Resolution contesting the draft bill from the Polish parliament that could result in criminalising the provision of sexual education.
Essentially, the measure, billed as a “Stop Pedophaelia” legislative initiative criminalises the most important branch of education.
This is regressive and damaging to the younger generations of Poland and Europe.
It is clear that the establishment of study curricula is a matter of national competence. And should rightly remain so.
Nevertheless, here we have an EU member state which adopts a law that is so out-of-date in concept and so wrong headed on so many fundamental aspects of different aspects of the educational experience.
Even for one like me who abhors EU interventions in the internal affairs of member states, it is difficult not to express strong dissent.
For here, educators are risking jail time if they teach minors safe sex practices.
When so much effort is being expended to combat sexually transmitted diseases, undesired pregnancies and domestic abuse, the measures deployed in Poland jar.
Indeed, support for this resolution is crucial in safeguarding the rights to healthcare and education, the rights of women, children, and the LGBT community.
The message is clear: providing comprehensive sexuality education to young people is not a crime, but an essential part of education!

State of play of the disclosure of income tax information by certain undertakings and branches - public country-by-country reporting (B9-0117/2019)  

I have voted in favour of this resolution to trigger negotiations between the Council and the Parliament on the proposal relating to the disclosure of income tax information by certain undertakings and branches (so-called public country-by-country reporting) – a proposal with which I disagree.
After a great number of technical meetings have been held on the issue, a compromise text has been elaborated. The resolution calls for the Council to unblock its procedures for negotiations to commence.
The European Parliament voted in favour of entering into negotiations in March this year, while its Economic and Legal Committees submitted their reports more than two years ago.
My doubts concerning the substantive proposals being made arise because of the disadvantages they could burden European firms with, compared to their non-EU competitors.
Requiring EU big companies to declare and to have publicly available sensitive information on their taxes and assets without reciprocity from outside the EU could be risky in this respect.
Tax transparency needs to be boosted, but in ways by which EU champions are not put at a competitive disadvantage.
This being said, one might disagree with the proposal at stake but blatantly blocking any further negotiations on a quite mature file is certainly not a constructive approach.

General budget of the European Union for 2020 - all sections (A9-0017/2019 - Monika Hohlmeier, Eider Gardiazabal Rubial)  

I voted in favour of the EP Report on the Council Position for the draft general budget of the EU for the financial year 2020 because I believe that the EP proposals are putting forward a strong budget in areas that urgently need it.
Especially, I fully support the EP’s proposal to increase the money committed for the Connecting Europe Facility in the background of interoperability of electricity and gas networks across borders as well as to end energy isolation.
This goes in line with the amendments that I have tabled in the Budget Committee.
Further, on the need to securing affordable clean energy for all Europeans, my proposal for a Pilot Project dedicated to teaching island authorities on how to tender for renewable energy projects goes in line with the above. It is good that this proposal is also being included in the EP’s report.
More EU resources need to pour towards ending the isolation of islands when it comes to their energy needs.
I am satisfied to have positively contributed to this process and look forward to the results of the negotiations with the Commission and the Council in order to have delivered an appropriate budget for next year.

Implementation and financing of the EU general budget in 2020 in relation to the UK's withdrawal from the EU (A9-0018/2019 - Johan Van Overtveldt)  

. – I voted in favour of the Recommendation on the Council draft Regulation dealing with the short-term budgetary questions of the United Kingdom withdrawal from the European Union because financial obligations already agreed upon under this financial framework should be maintained.
A UK withdrawal (Brexit) without an agreement could, dangerously, leave no legal arrangements for the UK’s immediate budgetary relations with the EU. EU funding beneficiaries involved in ongoing projects should have a guarantee of the money their work depends on. And uncertainty about what the EU had committed to finance would also be damaging to the Union’s image as a stable and secure source of funding.
The proposal to maintain eligibility for EU funding for UK entities and UK-related projects until this financial programme ends in 2020, conditioned by the UK’s commitment to contribute its share for the same period, is a fair proposal.
Finally, it is imperative that the European Parliament should fully support the preparation of programmes to cushion against instabilities that could arise as a result of the various possible scenarios under which the UK withdrawal from the EU could occur.

Foreign electoral interference and disinformation in national and European democratic processes (B9-0108/2019, B9-0111/2019)  

I have abstained on this resolution. I agree that foreign interference in the electoral affairs of a country is a very serious issue and has to be monitored and controlled.
It has long been practiced under different forms, from the setting up of policy institutes in the smaller countries by the parties of large European states to campaigns waged in foreign media against individual countries, and to the escalation that has happened in recent years towards the fraudulent manipulation of soft media on a global scale.
So, this Parliament’s resolutions over the years on the internal affairs of outside countries could be considered an intervention in their electoral politics. Likewise, arguably, the creation of transnational lists for elections to this Parliament.
What makes foreign interventions of any kind acceptable, legitimate or legal? I come from a country which has long been subject to such interventions, from both the right and the left. And I know that we would be indulging in another fruitless exercise where we proclaim how pure we are, and how defiled others can be – unless we have clear replies to questions of the acceptable-legitimate-legal sort. Even if well-intentioned, the resolution makes no attempt to identify such replies.
Therefore, I cannot support it.