Your Excellency, Ambassador Yassine El Oued,
Deputy Prime Minister,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
Honourable Leader of the Opposition,
I am pleased to be joining you here today to celebrate together the National Day of the Republic of Tunisia.
Malta and Tunisia have formally established diplomatic relations in 1967. This, however, does not mean that our friendship started 56 years ago. Malta and Tunisia have had a close relationship for centuries. Our proximity made it possible to have a lasting bond, that was built through people-to-people ties.
Our mutual understanding of each other’s language and culture ensured an affinity that can still be felt today. For a very long time, in different time periods, Tunisia was a second home to many Maltese in the early 20th Century and a favoured touristic destination in later years. Nowadays, we have various Maltese, namely businesspeople who set up shop in Tunisia and whilst providing employment they also benefit from the high level of education and training of Tunisian professionals and employees.
Despite this excellent record, I do believe that there is further scope for growth between our countries. Cooperation in the fields of renewable energy, ICT, advanced manufacturing and services would be a good basis to further increase business ties. Malta is also willing to welcome any potential foreign direct investment from Tunisia by offering them the tools to set up and expand in Malta.
Our already robust corpus of agreements that have been built over the years is a testament to our close political ties. I am pleased to note that there are various new agreements being currently negotiated especially in the field of higher education with various tertiary institutions.
Malta and Tunisia share also a common vision for the Mediterranean. Being partners in various Mediterranean clusters, we continuously work together to foster more understanding among the many countries that surround the Mediterranean basin.
Our cooperation in the 5+5, the Union for the Mediterranean since the very inception of these frameworks has been exemplary.
We also share expertise on economic, security, defence, transport and many other issues. Our ultimate aim on these platforms is to ensure a prosperous and peaceful Mediterranean region.
We also share, however, the challenges that come with our geographic position. Irregular migration as well as instability in neighbouring countries are certainly cause for concern. Migration is a natural phenomenon that has characterised the history of humanity from the start. We need to accept that it will keep occurring as human beings keep moving to seek a better life for themselves and their families. In understanding this, we therefore need everyone’s assistance on both shores of the Mediterranean as well as within African countries to ensure that migration takes place in a safe and orderly manner.
Very importantly for frontline receiving countries such as Malta, there must emerge a fair and equitable, enforceable redistribution mechanism between members of the European Union. This is how we interpret ‘solidarity’ mentioned regularly in various agreements and in the Pact Asylum and Migration.
Our appeal for solidarity remains unwavering.
It is heart breaking that we had to witness another tragedy in Crotone a few weeks ago. We have to bring to an end, the senseless tragedies that occur in the Mediterranean Sea.
Working together is key.
The global pandemic taught us all about this. We assisted each other to keep everyone safe. This solidarity needs to be applied across board as we keep in mind that human beings are not mere numbers. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.
It is with this spirit that Malta is serving its two-year term at the United Nations Security Council. It is our will to give a meaningful contribution towards the maintenance of peace and security with a multilateral approach including the promotion of democracy as a means for stability and governability. Sustainability, solidarity, and security are principles on which we are grounding our agenda.
I am certain that we will find Tunisia’s support throughout this timeframe.
Your Excellency Ambassador El Oued, Distinguished Guests, I invite you to raise your glasses and toast to the National Day of the Republic of Tunisia and to the special friendship that binds the People of Malta and the People of Tunisia.