The President of Malta

Diskors mill-E.T. George Vella, President ta’ Malta, waqt iċ-Ċena Statali fl-okkażjoni taż-Żjara Statali tiegħu fil-Greċja, 5 ta’ Lulju 2023. (Diskors bl-Ingliż)

Your Excellency, President Sakellaropoulou
Distinguished Guests,

Grazzi, Sinjura President, talli għoġbok tistieden lili, lil marti Miriam u lid-delgazzjoni tiegħi għal din l-okkażjoni li waqtha niċċelebraw il-ħbiberija bejn Malta u l-Greċja. Huwa tassew unur għalina li ninsabu f’ dan il-pajjiż hekk storiku u maħbub minna l-Maltin, fuq din iż-Żjara Statali.

Madam President, those were a few words in the Maltese language to express my appreciation to you, for hosting us on this auspicous visit.

I know that the past weeks have been demanding on a national level, and
our gratitude for having this visit now, is therefore all the more profound.

Allow me to also underline the value I attach to the spirit of partnership and
support extended to me by Your Excellency, within the Arraiolos Heads of
State format, at the Malta Meeting last year.

I thank you, Madam President for your active participation at the Malta
Arraiolos Meeting, during which you brought your seasoned understanding of
international affairs to the discussions.

Dear guests,

Let me state at the outset that Malta views Greece as one of its close partners within the EU and the Euro-Mediterranean Region, sharing similar objectives and concerns, together with very strong cultural and historical affinities.

As a result of my numerous visits to Greece in different capacities along my
political career, together with my enduring contacts with Greek colleagues
through the years, I gladly consider myself among the genuine partners and
friends of your beautiful country.

Relations between our two countries have been examplary all along, and our contacts at the political levels have matured soundly and smoothly through the decades, not only for our own benfit but also in the interest of stability in our region.

It is my wish that, even thanks to my Visit here, we will be able to speed up momentum in a wider direction and look closer to avenues of mutually-beneficial commercial collaboration between our dedicated entities, business chambers, as well as the private sector representatives.

I believe that tourism is a primary sector where we can further collaborate and I welcome the presence of Malta’s Minister for Tourism, the Honourable Clayton Bartolo as part of my official delegation.

Surely, our greatest assets are our peoples – our human resources.

Whenever I am talking about Greece I always like to recall, how in the past, over different periods, the Maltese settled in practically all parts of Greece, from Piraeus to Heraklion.

I had the great pleasure of meeting members of the Maltese community in Greece yesterday evening, and was struck by the dedication with which they speak of Greece, and the strong nostalgic bonds that still link them to their country of origin.

The direct air connection between Malta and Greece plays a key role in allowing people-to-people contacts to grow from strength to strength.

The same applies to the ever-growing, sizeable Greek community in Malta for work, study or family reasons.

Malta welcomes them all with open arms and thanks them for the contribution they are giving to our economic development and multicultural society.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As we are gathered here today to celebrate the friendship between our countries and with good reason, it is sad to note that a cursory glance around us provides us with a bleak and sombre picture.

I know we stand united in our outright condemnation of the illegal Russian war in Ukraine, and in expressing our full and unconditional support to the leadership and people of Ukraine.
Closer to home, in our immediate neighbourhood, we have additional concerns with the unfolding scenario in North Africa with instability in the Eastern Mediterranean and with the rise in violence and tensions in the Middle East.

As as we deal with the war in Ukraine – we should not lose sight of this scenario.
Both our countries are fully aware of this, and we have a long history of direct collaboration in various Mediterranean political groupings such as the Union for the Mediterranean, the Anna Lindh Foundation, and the Med 9 Forum to identify and work on region-led solutions to these problems.

Malta and Greece also appreciate fully, the crucial role that Western Balkan countries play in securing European stability and their own security.

It is my belief that their place is ultimately in Europe, and that we need to give clear and unequivocal signals about this to their citizens. We have to realise that the reforms that have been introduced with a view of EU membership, cannot be lost because of further delays.

Dear guests,

Geography has placed our two countries in very strategic location, which has many a time been a cause of a common concern.

In our case, the most important present challenge is that of migration.

Despite all the efforts made, we still need to reach solutions at European Union level, involving all Member States in a formula that somehow balances responsibilities with solidarity.
The momentum reached on the external dimension of migration needs to be stepped up, and we need to focus on the implementations of the Action Plans, with a results-driven approach.

The prevention of irregular migration should be a common responsibility for all EU member States, not just for a few.

In this context, I cannot refrain from mentioning, with a sad heart, our shock and horror at the terrible loss of lives that took place near Greece a few weeks ago.

I can relate, even personally, to what you have gone through Madam President upon learning of this incident and your visit to Kalamata immediately after the tragedy.

A similar incident took place in the waters between Malta and Italy in October 2013, with hundreds of refugees including children mostly from Syria, losing their lives by drowning.

I can still vividly recall seeing the heart-breaking scenes of lifeless bodies being brought ashore and the urgency in trying to identify whose family members, were dead, alive or saved by Italian authorities and taken to Sicily.

We have to continue working together to press for an equitable and fair solution to this long-standing issue. There is still a lot to be done.

Looking ahead, firm in our belief that multilateralism in the only option to resolve existing and emerging challenges, Malta and Greece are taking their credentials to the highest international body – the UN Security Council.

Malta’s aspiration to serve on the Council for the term 2023-2024 stemmed from our willingness to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security in a meaningful manner.

By the same token, Malta wishes Greece a successful campaign and a fruitful term when elected to the Security Council for the term 2025-2026.

Malta stands ready to support Greece and share information about our own experience on the Council to help you prepare for your term.

Even here, our collaboration promises to be an exemplary one, and results will surely be effective.

Madame President,
Dear friends,

As I conclude, allow me to convey, also on behalf of the Government and People of Malta, my best wishes to the newly-elected Government and the People of the Hellenic Republic as they embark on steering the proverbial ‘ship of state’ for the coming years.

I assure you that you that Greece will continue to find in Malta, a steadfast and reliable partner on all fronts.
I now ask you to raise your glasses and toast to the good health of Her Excellency President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, to the bright future that lies ahead for Greece and Malta and to our joint vocation for global prosperity, stability and peace.

Thank you.

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