Your Excellency Ambassador Tanja Beyer,
Thank you, Ambassador Beyer, for organising this celebration and inviting us to such a pleasant reception. It is of course right and proper to congratulate you on this auspicious occasion – made even more special by the fact that this is your first National Day celebration as the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Republic of Malta.
Today we come together to celebrate the reunification of Germany – 33 years since Germany has overcome its painful and unnatural division.
Last year, I had the pleasure of attending this same commemoration here in Malta, together with His Excellency, my esteemed colleague and friend, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the President of the Federal Republic of Germany.
On this occasion, I always recall personal memories that go back to 1962 when, as a young medical student, I visited Germany for the first time on a medical student exchange programme. This trip coincided with the first-year anniversary of the setting up of the Berlin Wall. During the month that I spent in Berlin as a medical student, I recall my frequent passage through Checkpoint Charlie, Alexanderplatz, Karl-Marx-Allee, Friedrichstrasse, etc.
I was there when two young building workers from East Berlin made a dash for the Berlin wall. One got over safely into West Berlin, while his colleague, Peter Fechter, was left dying, bleeding, in no man’s land after he was shot in the back as he tried to escape.
This profound experience has instilled in me a deeper appreciation of the value of respect for human life in all its forms, and the real meaning and value of freedom and democracy.
I kept these memories with me as I continued to follow the dramatic developments that culminated in the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 – by then having been in active politics already for 13 years – and returning again to Berlin on a number of other occasions.
The fall of the Berlin Wall heralded a series of events that transformed the post-war world.
The end of the Cold War brought a time of immense hope and possibility. In the long history of the world, only a few generations have witnessed such scope for creative cooperation among nations.
Many believed that the end of the Cold War would usher in the ‘end of history’ – the demise of the ideological battles between east and west and the triumph of western liberal democracy.
It was not naive or wishful thinking to look at those events unfold and believe the world was heading for a more peaceful and prosperous time.
Since then, international politics has been reshaped dramatically.
No one would have thought that barely a generation later, missiles and tanks would be again assaulting towns and cities on the European continent. Few imagined that citizens of a European nation would be sheltering from aerial bombings in subway stations, or that the spectre of armed conflict would once again wreak havoc and threaten the lives of millions of people.
The totally unjustified invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the omnipresent violent fighting that resulted in millions of women and children leaving their country continues to cause unimaginable pain and suffering.
As this senseless war rages on, we will persevere with our unequivocal support to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
This war continues to compound already-existing global food and energy insecurities – posing grave threats to the livelihood and quality of life of millions of civilians across the world.
Essential resources such as food and energy must never be used as instruments of war.
Our collective message has to be a clear and resounding one.
The fundamental principles of respect for sovereignty and self-determination must not be swept aside by aggression and military might – be it on our doorstep in Ukraine, further away in Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, or on the other side of the globe.
A rules-based international order is the only just alternative to a system where might makes right.
This vision is at the core of the United Nations system – the promotion of respect for the international rule of law and principles of sovereignty and self-determination as basic tenets of global diplomacy.
In this regard, Malta’s neutrality as enshrined in our Constitution does not imply indifference to the attacks on our shared principles, the deplorable loss of life during conflict and the suffering brought about upon innocent civilian people through famines and food shortages, or displacement and atrocities of war.
Our aspiration to serve on the United Nations Security Council for the term 2023-2024 stemmed precisely from our strong willingness to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security in a meaningful manner.
Excellencies, dear friends,
In the midst of this turmoil and various crises, as a country and as European citizens, we continue to find strength and support in like-minded partners like Germany.
In this regard, I state with great satisfaction that our two countries continue to enjoy excellent relations on all fronts.
The close bilateral ties that our countries nurtured since the establishment of diplomatic relations have continued to grow from strength to strength.
Malta considers Germany as one of its closest and most important trading partners. Ever since the early 1970s, German foreign direct investment, especially in the industrial sector, has been particularly important for Malta’s economic growth and development during the years following Independence. It continues to be so till this very day.
By way of example, last May, I welcomed a delegation of entrepreneurs from the German State of Saxony. I was pleased to note the genuine enthusiasm about the potential of conducting business with Malta in the future.
We will continue to encourage all measures and initiatives aimed at further promoting business ties between our two countries, as well as increased trade flows between the two sides.
Beyond the economic dimension, the number of high-level visits over the past decades, including President Steinmeier’s visit to Malta for the Arraiolos Meeting last October, and my own visit to Germany earlier, are a clear attestation of the strong ties and cooperation between our two countries.
I look forward to meeting His Excellency again in October in Portugal to celebrate this format’s twentieth (20th) anniversary and to exchange views on the most pertinent items on the European and international agenda. I am referring to the meeting of the Arraiolos Group which is taking place in Porto in a few days’ time.
Our relations continue to be sustained by the vast similarities that our countries share with one another.
Despite the current tense global atmosphere, we remain true to our longstanding vocation of promoting dialogue and diplomacy.
Both Germany and Malta put a premium on youth and education as potential vectors for positive change. We strongly believe that our youth have an important role to play in promoting open dialogue, to seek common ground with the aim of increasing confidence and reducing tensions.
In this regard, I note with satisfaction the continued cooperation between Germany and the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies in Malta – already made reference to by Her Excellency. Germany’s valuable contribution to the operation of the Academy is crucial to Malta’s efforts in providing education opportunities to young diplomats from the Middle East and from the North Africa Region.
At a regional level, both Malta and Germany are proud and active members of the European Union. We both recognize that being part of a Union bound by shared values is not only crucial to Europe’s success, but is also in the national interest of individual Member States.
Over the course of recent years, we have demonstrated that Europe can emerge from successive crises stronger and more united. In a time where our values and ideals are threatened by war and aggression, we must continue to believe in, and to strive towards, a stronger European Union.
Malta and Germany share similar concerns when it comes to the unfolding situation in North Africa, the Sahel, the rise in tensions in the Middle East and the delicate balance of relations between some Western Balkan countries.
We both also believe that urgent action must be taken to contain and reverse the impacts of climate change which continues to pose severe challenges to already vulnerable populations.
This year, the Mediterranean, unfortunately, bore witness to intense episodes of sweltering temperatures under an unprecedented heatwave. The extreme weather brought about by ‘Storm Daniel’ last month caused catastrophic destruction and took the lives of thousands of people in neighbouring Libya.
These challenges are multifaceted and transnational. Hence it is expected that they are resolved by international cooperation and by a responsive multilateral system.
I am confident that Malta and Germany will continue to work hand in hand towards this shared goal.
I now invite you to join me to raise a toast to the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, His Excellency Frank-Walter Steinmeier, to the German People, and to the German People here in Malta, wishing everyone a pleasant and joyful celebration of this years’ celebrations of the reunification of Germany.
Thank you for listening.