Hon. Prime Minister,
It is a pleasure to be with you once again to celebrate the Independence Day of the United States of America after an absence of two years. The restrictions that the global pandemic brought about helped us appreciate more our mundane routines and not to take for granted anything that life provides us with.
Her Excellency Gwendolyn Green took a look back at history, and acknowledged with satisfaction that in no small way Malta, at that time, did contribute to the Independence of the United States of America during the Battle of Chesapeake in 1781. As she said, no less than 1,800 Maltese, through the Knights of the Order, enlisted in the French Navy to assist the fledging United States in their war for independence from Britain’s King George III. And this earned Grand Master Emmanuel De Rohan, as she rightly said, the Libertas Americana medal from Founding Father Benjamin Franklin. The pity is that both this medal and the citation are lost, although there exists the thank you letter which was sent by De Rohan back to Benjamin Franklin. An American diplomatic presence in Malta was then established in 1796. The irony of history is that in less than 10 years, the Knights were chased out of Malta, the Maltese were chasing out the French and they were asking the British, under the same King George III, for his protection. That is history and that is a fact.
It took almost another two centuries for Malta and the United States of America to establish modern diplomatic ties in 1964. Yet over the years, our relations continued to grow and to flourish thanks to values that we both share. This shared outlook allows us to overcome differences which may arise from time to time on specific issues and to build our relations for the benefit of all our citizens.
To this effect, I want to express on this occasion my gratitude to the United States of America, in the continued assistance and guidance it provided Maltese officials in transiting off the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey list. My appreciation also goes to the fact that the Maltese flagged vessels have now been recognised by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) under the QUALSHIP21 initiative. This is a very positive development which will encourage further exchanges between our countries.
Furthermore, Malta is honoured to have been one of the countries to have participated in the Summit for Democracy in December 2021. As President Biden rightly stated, ‘Democracy doesn’t happen by accident. We have to defend it, fight for it, strengthen it, renew it’. This is precisely Malta’s intention through the implementation of the commitments posed in December 2021 whilst looking forward to participating in the next Summit in early 2023.
Our collaboration has also extended to the regional level through the Central Mediterranean Security Initiative (CMSI). Following the success of the three consecutive sessions of the CMSI, Malta looks forward to the holding of the fourth iteration of the CMSI in the near future. Malta has an important role to play in the region and capacity building remains crucial to ensure a joint approach by the different players within this area to thwart regional security challenges.
In my previous capacity as Foreign Minister, I had the pleasure to work closely with the United States of America on the setting up of the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law, a Global Counter Terrorism Forum-inspired institution, in 2014. It is now a globally renowned institute designing and delivering tailored capacity-building programmes and activities that help governments and practitioners address the evolving and multifaceted nature of contemporary terrorism and related transnational crime.
We hope to continue such cooperation also on a global level, as now Malta is preparing itself to take its place as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council in January 2023, as it has already been alluded to. It is a responsibility that we will not take lightly. As a small state, Malta believes that we have a responsibility to actively engage with the United Nations as a declaration of our global citizenship. Together we can make a difference in this world.
On this note, I cannot fail to mention the situation in Ukraine. Malta condemns the unrelenting aggression by Russia against Ukraine as well as the continued disregard for international law and the impunity being shown on a consistent basis. Malta maintains the need for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, the need for safe evacuation corridors and the delivery of urgent humanitarian aid without delay. Negotiations remain an equally pressing priority even though the previous attempts have not delivered any concrete results. We must keep calling on all parties to come to the table as this is where solutions are found.
Aside from politics, it is the people-to-people relations that really measure the deep bond between two countries. We have a very active and thriving Maltese diaspora in the United States of America, the third largest outside the country. The actual Maltese population settled in the United States of America is now calculated to reach about 240,000. I am proud that many elements of our diaspora are holding important and successful positions, including in the fields of health, engineering, IT, and politics.
With all this in mind, it is with confidence therefore that I foresee a continued future of cooperation between our two countries.
I now invite you all to raise your glasses and toast in celebration of the 246th Anniversary of the Independence of the United States, to the health of the President of the United States of America, and to the long-lasting friendship between our two peoples.