[State Secretary Miguel Berger]
I am very pleased to be addressing you today, here in Berlin.
This event is even more special as we are celebrating here together the Independence Day of Malta.
The 21st of September 1964, was a very momentous day for our country, as it was a significant step towards the achievement of statehood.
A dream that our fathers and forefathers fought for centuries to achieve.
Today, fifty-seven years later, we salute all those who in a way or another have contributed to the building of solid foundations of a sovereign and independent Nation-State.
As the 10th President of the Republic, I promised to continue building on the invaluable work of my predecessors, with the aim of fostering even more understanding and unity among our people.
This year we celebrate the 100th anniversary since our first Self-Government Constitution of 1921.
In these 100 years, Malta has evolved both politically and demographically. At present we are working on the preparations for a Constitutional Convention to make our Constitution better reflect current times.
A Conference on the State of the Nation earlier this year highlighted very much the characteristics of our people today; their likes and dislikes and issues that are at the core of the majority of those residing on our Islands, irrespective of their nationality or provenance.
Another project which I have personally followed very closely was the Conference on National Unity that was held in February of this year.
The positive response received from this initiative encouraged me to proceed to the setting up of a Foundation for National Unity – a project I will be launching officially in the coming weeks.
Whilst still in its infancy, the aim of the Foundation will be to address in a tangible way the bridging of divisions among us. The areas identified range from the environment to journalism, education, political partisanship, and much more.
At the core are the people themselves.
In setting up this Foundation, I have the citizens in mind.
It was created for them, and they are the ones that will contribute towards and gain from its growth and vision.
The success of a country is not measured only by the contentedness and wealth of its people.
It is also measured by the number of lasting friendships it has forged over the years.
You will agree that this is certainly the case for Malta and Germany.
Aside from the historical relations that we share that date back centuries, our countries have established formal diplomatic relations in early 1965, a few months after Malta achieved its Independence.
Since then, our relations have grown from strength to strength. Germany has stood by Malta as it was developing its own identity from a fortress colony into a free and peaceful state.
Even Germany then, was still a divided nation with its pre-war capital under the influence of four different foreign administrations.
On this point I want to share with you my first experiences in Berlin as a young medical student in 1962 and then again as a seasoned politician in 1994. These were followed by other visits when I served as Foreign Minister in the subsequent years.
The city has fascinated me from the very start.
In 1962, Willy Brandt was still Mayor of Berlin, the famous ‘Wall’ had just been erected a year before, checkpoints controlled any movements from East to West of the city and vice-versa.
A city, where entire families had been divided.
This division however, occurred also for the international ‘family’.
As a young student, the impression left on me was indelible. The restrictions and that sense of fear at every checkpoint, sometimes at gunpoint, remained with me.
It was an enriching experience that allowed me to remain sensitive to the value of freedom.
Every time I have the opportunity to come to Berlin, I feel the relief that the anguish of some experiences of that young student in 1962 are a thing of the past.
It is a duty of each and every one of us to ensure that such experiences remain stories only told in history books.
I should also point out that German investment in those early years, provided hope to a country and people that were starting to build their economy after years of colonialism.
It secured livelihoods of many families and allowed a young country to find its way into the international community, eventually leading to Malta’s membership in the European Union.
Notwithstanding the differences in geographical size, both Malta and Germany have at heart the multilateral approach in foreign affairs. The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic further reinforced this belief.
When faced with such challenges, unity is essential and necessary.
Multilateralism allows countries to get together with a common objective.
It brings us together around the same table and provides us with an opportunity to identify the best ways forward.
This approach can be applied to all the challenges we currently face.
Quoting my dear friend and President of Germany, His Excellency Frank-Walter Steinmeier, we are duty bound to make ‘politics with a vision’ and to find an adequate balance between resolving urgent crisis and achieving long term order.
No one should be excluded.
Success entails giving each and everyone the possibility to express their views and ensure that no topic or country is forgotten.
Whilst reflecting on this, we should keep in full view all the unresolved conflicts around the world not least in Europe’s neighbourhood.
Let us think of the instability in Libya, in the Sahel region, over to Yemen and all the way up to Syria, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Belarus as well as the longstanding topic of the Middle East Peace Process, the issues arising in Western Balkan countries and the division of Cyprus.
These are but a few in our vicinity.
Over and above all this, we have the phenomena of climate change, migration, pollution of the seas, contraband, and sadly also human trafficking.
We cannot allow ourselves to forget such happenings that are resulting in daily humanitarian tragedies.
If we are truly honest with ourselves, we come to the realisation that direct conflict and the use of weapons, of any kind, for so-called ‘deterrence’ have not brought about the peace that we all yearn for.
Following two devastating World Wars, a Cold War, and heinous terror attacks, we are still calling out for disarmament and arms control to no avail. These are at the very basis of every conflict, humanitarian tragedies, displacement of populations, and an ever-increasing spiral of suffering and destabilisation.
We can only achieve peace once each and every international actor decides to change their weapons for diplomacy.
Even in a globalised, fast-pacing reality, traditional weapons are still very important, sitting side by side with new weapons, like cyber-attacks.
In this regard, and in many others, such as climate change and migration – we need to work together.
I am sure that we all appreciate that each and every one of these challenges triggers the other one and can cause serious and adverse consequences if not addressed.
We cannot allow populism to divide us.
We cannot allow the language of fear to prevail.
We can all come together with our differences and find solutions that respect human dignity and ensure the security and protection for every country.
It is this reasoning that made Malta bid for a non-permanent seat at the UN Security Council for the years 2023-2024, and I trust in your countries’ support in next year’s election.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to His Excellency Steinmeier for receiving me yesterday in a bilateral meeting.
We had the chance to discuss many of the points I already mentioned, including a continuation of the Arraiolos Group meeting that we held in Rome last week.
Allow me to conclude by sparing a few words of appreciation for the work carried out by the team at the Embassy of Malta in Berlin.
It is thanks to their commitment that this successful visit was possible.
I thank you all for the excellent service you continue to give to our country.
My final words of thanks go to you all, dear Guests, for participating in this event, for welcoming me and my delegation so warmly this evening and above all, for celebrating Malta and its successes with us tonight.