Dear President Karis,
Thank you for the invitation and I am sorry that we are not joined this evening by your dear wife, and I hope she will be better in the soonest time possible.
I am very pleased to be able to address you on this very welcome occasion.
Allow me to start, at the outset, by conveying my appreciation, on behalf of Miriam and myself, and the rest of my delegation, for the hospitality afforded to us during this short visit of ours to your beautiful country.
This is my first such visit to Estonia as Head of State. As you may recall, we had planned for this visit to take place in the first week of March. The decision was taken, at the time, to postpone the visit, as the timing coincided with the immediate aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Very significantly, this visit comes as a commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary since our two countries established diplomatic relations way back in 1992.
Both Estonia and Malta, and indeed the world itself, changed immensely during these last 30 years.
Over these three decades we have seen our countries maturing into sophisticated and diversified economies, joining and shaping the European Union, becoming protagonists of the digital revolution, and above all guaranteeing the stability and prosperity of their citizens.
In more than one way, the tracks on which Malta and Estonia have developed, are very similar, despite the different geographic and regional realities.
Along these years, we have also learned greatly about the potential and opportunities that our two countries offer, both from the economic and digital credentials as well as the commercial entrepreneurship and also the possibility that lies in tourism.
Very importantly, our people connected, and in a very successful manner.
As it already has been indicated, Malta is now the home to several Estonian nationals who have chosen to relocate among us, for family or professional reasons, enriching thus our very dynamic social fabric and contributing greatly to the continued growth of our economy.
At the same time, we continue to welcome hundreds of tourists from Estonia who chose Malta as a preferred destination because of its Mediterranean climate, its millennial historical and unique cultural heritage.
The Maltese people are also very pleased to see young Estonian students and also professionals choosing to further their studies in the English language in Malta.
Looking ahead, I am very confident that we will maximise on existing and emerging avenues of cooperation and exchanges in the fields of education, health, financial services, information technology, culture, sports and, why not, even gastronomy.
I am sure we will see tangible results thanks to the work carried out by our Ambassadors, H.E. Paul Tessalu and H.E. Kenneth Vella in these sectors. My thanks to both of you.
I have earlier referred to similarities between Estonia and Malta and in this regard I cannot but mention our shared belonging to very troubled neighbourhoods.
Membership in the European Union has in a way brought us closer to each other’s regional dynamics – in both our cases East and South – we continue to witness very worrying areas of instability.
To the East, we are witnessing an unprovoked, unjustified war on all fronts.
I listened very carefully during my meetings today, about the immediate impact that the war in Ukraine had and is still having on Estonia.
In this context, and especially speaking from this part of the European continent, I am fully cognizant of the impending dangers felt by Ukraine’s neighbours – like Estonia – who experience first-hand, that their own security and stability are or could be jeopardised.
It remains imperative that this invasion and all the drastic consequences it has brought to the international community – but most importantly, to the people of Ukraine – is immediately halted.
We need to ensure the survival of Ukraine as a sovereign, independent, and free country, and continue to defend European values and principles.
Albeit different in magnitude and nature, Malta too, is surrounded by pockets of instability to the South where several of our closest neighbours are still battling flawed democratic processes, weak economic performances, and increasingly disgruntled populations.
This scenario to the South of the EU cannot be constantly pushed to a secondary tier of priority, only to react to it when it is too late, and crises would by then have already unfolded.
I ask myself whether we have learned anything from the lessons that Libya, Syria, Yemen, the ever-lasting Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the thousands of lives lost at sea on the Mediterranean migration route, have taught us along the years.
Against this backdrop of international instability and ever-increasing challenges that I have only very shortly described, I congratulate Estonia on its successful tenure as non-Permanent Seat at the UN Security Council for the term 2020-2021, for which praise, and commendation are certainly in order.
As an ardent supporter of multilateral diplomacy, Malta too will be bringing its own credentials to the UN Security Council as it will hopefully sit with other UN Security Council Members during the term 2023-2024 where we will be addressing three main pillars of Security, Sustainability and Solidarity.
We shall continue to rely on the support of our esteemed colleagues and friends from Estonia, to make a success out of this prestigious position.
As international developments continue to take a worrying course, we need to do our level best to ensure that the European Union remains relevant and effective on the global stage.
This will be the very gist of the ‘Arraiolos’ Heads of State Meeting for non-Executive EU Heads of State, that I have the pleasure of hosting on 6 October, and which President Karis has very graciously accepted to attend.
While we may not come up with solutions to every problem around us, our open and frank discussions in that forum will hopefully go some way in the right direction.
Miriam and I very much look forward to welcoming you, dear President and also Madame Karis, and reciprocate the outstanding generosity you afforded us here today in Estonia.
I conclude by quoting you, President Karis, particularly your Inauguration Address in front of the Riigikogu in October 2021, when you stated that: “relations with close allies and more distant ones are all important to Estonia, and that close ties must be fostered with each of our allies; they are not formed or maintained automatically”.
I take inspiration from your words, Excellency, dear colleague, and assure you that Malta remains willing and committed to do its part, so that our partnership and friendship may continue to flourish.
I now ask you, dear guests, to stand and toast to the health and well-being of President Karis and Mrs Karis and to the bright and positive future of relations between Malta and Estonia.