Your Excellency, Ambassador Divera Adimi-Koekkoek,
Back in 2019, the celebration of the National Day of the Kingdom of the Netherlands was my first engagement as President of Malta. Today, four years into my Presidency, I am pleased to be joining you following a hiatus of two years due to Covid-19 restrictions.
I would like to begin by asking Your Excellency to convey my best wishes to His Majesty King Willem-Alexander as he celebrates his birthday today. On behalf of the People of Malta, we wish him many more years of good health and happiness.
The Netherlands established ties with Malta in 1965, a few months after Malta achieved its independence. Since then, Malta and the Netherlands have developed excellent bilateral relations based on mutual respect and common values. This is reflected by the robust corpus of agreements that has been built over the years.
Our relationship broadened further when Malta acceded to the European Union in 2004. In 2017, Malta shared its first Presidency of the Council of the European Union with the Netherlands and in its run up it provided for many exchanges at the technical and the political levels.
The following year in 2018, Malta and the Netherlands worked together again this time on a cultural level as Valletta and Leeuwaarden shared the title as European of Capitals of Culture for that year. In this regard, it is my wish that our cooperation in the cultural field continues as both countries are rich in cultural diversity and active promoters of intercultural dialogue.
The same can be said in the field of higher education. The University of Malta, the Institute of Tourism Studies as well as the Malta College for Arts, Science and Technology are ready to cooperate further with counterparts in the Netherlands, especially in agriculture and research and development as I am aware that the Netherlands excels in these areas.
Traditionally, Malta and the Netherlands have always shared sound levels of trade and investment. Malta will continue to strive towards strengthened economic and commercial interaction between our two countries. Malta also welcomes all opportunities aimed at building linkages between government and private sector leaders.
People-to-People ties are also strong and this is reflected in the number of exchange of tourists that kept steady except during the pandemic times. We are now looking at figures that show we are back to the pre-Covid numbers, which is a valid indication of the interest that our peoples have in the history and heritage that our two countries have to offer.
Malta and the Netherlands have a mutual interest in safeguarding multilateralism and strive for peace based on common and shared rules and objectives. It is with this in mind that Malta has taken over its term at the United Nations Security Council in January this year. This comes forty years after Malta held this seat for the first time in 1983.
Global realities are different now, but yet not less challenging.
Malta’s two-year term is based on the principles of sustainability, security and solidarity. These principles should be taken as a given in a world where technology has evolved to such levels where most aspects of our lives are governed by artificial intelligence.
Yet, the reality of human nature is still putting these principles in question.
Global poverty, human-induced climate change and pollution, and lack to access of education are some sad examples that need our acknowledgement and redress. An unprovoked and senseless war by Russia on Ukraine as well as other conflicts around the world are a reflection of selfishness that is blind and heartless in front of the atrocities it commits in the name of greed and power.
On this note, I want to commend the significant efforts undertaken by Dutch authorities in welcoming and hosting thousands fleeing from Ukraine. Attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructures continue. Countless children continue to be forcibly deported to Russia, separated from their families and, on the battlefield, it is sad to note that no discernible progress is being registered. Malta’s resolve remains strong on this. We all agree that we need to continue to support Ukraine, as one Union individually and collectively, for as long as it takes.
Unrest in the Mediterranean region is also cause for great concern. Whilst the conflict in Libya persists, it poses a considerable security threat to all its neighbours and exacerbates the migratory pressure along the Central Mediterranean Route. In this regard, Malta reiterates the need to address these issues not just by front line Member States but through an urgent and sustained European response.
Solidarity and unison is key to address global challenges.
I finally want to address the sizeable Dutch Community in Malta. I want to express my appreciation for the contribution you are providing to the social, cultural and economic fabric of the Maltese Islands. You are all very welcome in Malta and we hope that you and your families are well-settled amongst us.
I invite you to raise your glasses and toast to the health of His Majesty Willem Alexander, the Dutch Diaspora living in Malta and to the friendship that binds the People of Malta and the People of the Netherlands.