Honourable Leader of the Opposition
Honourable Members of Parliament
Dr Michael Bianchi, Honorary Consul
It is indeed a pleasure to be with you today on such a special occasion for the Austrian people. The celebration of a national day provides us with an opportunity to commemorate the independence of a country, but also provides the chance to further enhance diplomatic relations and people to people contacts. I therefore thank Her Excellency Erika Bernhard for inviting us all here today.
Since establishing diplomatic relations in 1966, the relationship between Malta and Austria has always continued to flourish and get stronger throughout the years. From the exchange of technical expertise to cultural ventures. There is also an ever enlarging diaspora of Austrian people living in Malta. Looking back I can see that our respective countries have been successful in tapping into commercial niches that directly contributed to the prosperity of our respective countries. Furthermore, through our active membership of the European Union, both Malta and Austria established closer bilateral and multilateral dialogue on matters of common interest and discovered and methods for political dialogue and cooperation.
I strongly believe that optimism, creativity and innovation are key to push our friendship further and ensure that a vibrant dialogue is sustained across different levels. Particularly important is the opportunity to facilitate exchanges of young people and to further encourage cultural activities and people to people exchanges. Furthermore, I am pleased to note that over the past five years Malta annually averaged EUR12 million in exports to Austria and EUR18.5 million of imports from Austria. These figures are not only indicative of thriving business ventures between our respective countries, but is also reflective of the level of trust and excellent commercial Malta-Austria relations. There are prospects of a much bigger flow of bilateral trade, which I hope our entrepreneurs will develop in the future.
Our friendly dialogue is not only driven by political and commercial interests but is also primarily motivated by a set of shared interests and beliefs. The promotion of peace and of democratic principles, equality and non-discrimination, respect for the rule of law and freedom of thought and expression, are at the core of our respective countries’ cooperative ventures and multilateral dialogue. I find it very timely that Malta and Austria, together with Ireland, have embarked on a coordinated approach to explain at a European level our adherence to our constitutional neutrality. In such turbulent times, a refocus on the principles of dialogue and non-aggression should continue to be at the core of every respectable democracy. More than seventy years ago, as a global family we, all agreed that Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. The delicate and commendable diplomatic work carried out by diplomats in a post-World War environment and culminating in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, presents one of humanity’s most significant and comprehensive attempts at securing the peace, the well-being, and the security of all human beings, irrespective of nationality or geographical location.
Unfortunately, in the year 2022 our immediate neighbourhood is faced with military aggression, disrespect for sovereignty, instability, and an ever-increasing threat of measures that could have catastrophic results. These realities highlight the important role of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which we flagrantly ignore as evidenced by the human rights situation around the globe, and the ever present foci of conflict in some parts of the world or other.
As I have underlined on various occasions, being neutral does not mean being indifferent to the suffering and abuses faced by other nation states. On the contrary, both Malta and Austria adopt an neutrality which is active and contributes in a significant non-military manner when the occasion arises. This approach is directly aligned with the fundamental principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and with the commitments taken later on to promote a peaceful, sustainable, and a more just world. This is how Malta is acting in relation to the situation in Ukraine.
After a lapse of more than twenty years, Malta is proud to have been elected as a non-permanent member to the United Nations Security Council 2023-2024. Serving on the Council provides Malta with an opportunity to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security in a meaningful manner. In fact, Malta remains determined to play a proactive role in preserving multilateral processes, and in building the trust and political will necessary to confront these challenges. I am confident that the main areas of focus, particularly the portfolio on children in armed conflict, the women, peace and security agenda, the impact of climate change, and the link between literacy and international peace, will steer global discussions towards better prospects of reaching global justice and a just peace.
Trusting in Austria’s shared vision of a more peaceful and prosperous world, I am confident that Malta will continue to find an important partner in multilateral fora, and together with other like-minded countries, advance harmonious policies of unity, peace and prosperity.
Distinguished guests, once more I thank the Ambassador Her Excellency Erika Bernhard for bringing us all together to celebrate this special day.
Excellencies, I conclude by taking this opportunity to congratulate His Excellency Alexander Van der Bellen for his successful re-confirmation as President of the Federal Republic of Austria, and greatly welcome his active participation in future multilateral meetings. I ask you all to join me in a toast to his health, to the friendly people of Austria, and to the good relations of our two peoples.