Honourable Minister Bonnici,
Dr Bernard Grech, Leader of the Opposition,
Professor Ing. Joseph Buhagiar, Dean of the Honorary Consular Corps,
Members of the Honorary Consular Corps,
It is my pleasure to be here with you today. Thankfully, at long last, we are able to meet in person and celebrate the valuable work that the Honorary Consular Corps carries out here in Malta.
The past two years have been very difficult, to say the least. The pandemic spared no one. The various lockdowns in many countries and other mobility restrictions caused much social, emotional and economic upheavals.
So whilst others were confined between the walls of their homes, during the pandemic, you as Honorary Consuls, had to be out there assisting the many foreigners that live, work and study in our country.
You acted as a vital bridge between families, communities and states and offered hope to those suffering loneliness and helplessness to return safely to their country of origin.
I want to express my sincere gratitude to all of you that through much perseverance, you lived up to our country’s most known quality, its hospitality. It was not an easy feat that of facilitating the mobility of people in times when we feared any social contact due to the possibility of the contagion of the virus.
I commend especially those of you that had to deal with cases of unaccompanied minors and young people, especially from language schools. I am certain, that thanks to your services their families will be forever grateful for your assistance in returning their youngsters back home.
As Honorary Consuls, you also facilitate trade and investment with the countries you represent. Once again, the pandemic markedly restricted the people-to-people contacts that makes all the difference in securing a deal.
Thankfully, modern technology came to your rescue by helping you to continue with your duties online. Now that you can once again operate freely, we have started to reap the benefits of the work you carried out throughout the past two years.
Albeit crucial in many circumstances, many members of the public are often unaware of an Honorary Consul’s role until a crisis hits. I believe that the silver lining after two years of distress was that it earned you more of the awareness and respect, that you Honorary Consuls deserve, amongst the people of the countries you represent and which you work so much for.
Every country aims at having the best pool of diplomats available to it. Many countries in fact, invest heavily in their diplomatic schools to ensure this scenario.
Here in Malta, the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies boasts of this role. It does not just train Maltese diplomats, but also diplomats from the Mediterranean region and beyond.
It is indeed a pleasure to see that the Honorary Consular Corps here in Malta acknowledges the impeccable service that MEDAC provides through its courses. Since its inception in 1990, MEDAC has trained and formed hundreds of diplomats, many of whom are now holding various prestigious positions in their respective countries of origin and international institutions.
In a few moments, one student that has attended MEDAC during the academic year 2021/2022 will be given the Honorary Consular Corps Award for the highest mark achieved in her dissertation.
I want to take this opportunity to congratulate all MEDAC graduates for the successful conclusion of their studies. I am certain that with the knowledge and experience gained at the Academy, they are ascertained thriving careers.
I cannot conclude my speech before giving due acknowledgement to the person that worked for many years at the helm of the Honorary Consular Corps of Malta, Dr Godwin Bencini.
Dr Bencini has, for many years, been a point of reference to many upcoming Honorary Consuls. His experience and expertise in consular work is invaluable.
Dr Bencini, whilst I am sure that all present today will join me in expressing our gratitude for your years of service, we do urge you to continue being an inspiration and mentor to all present and future members of the Honorary Consular Corps. I am certain that the new Honorary Consuls Dean, Professor Joseph Buhagiar, will fulfil this role in an equally professional manner.
One final word of gratitude to you all members of the Honorary Consular Corps. Your work in assisting over 60,000 foreign workers here in Malta who are contributing directly to our economic success does not go unnoticed.
You are always there to assist nationals from the countries you represent, in needs that may arise while they are visiting our country as tourists.
Besides all this, you are also constantly working to increase and strengthen trade and business relations between Malta and the country each one of you represents.
Ensuring the wellbeing and the welfare of these nationals and assuring the progress and prosperity of the bilateral trade relations of our countries, is in itself an exercise in diplomacy which I can assure you is very much appreciated.