President Ahmed Al-Jarwan,
Members of Parliament,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to welcome such a diverse group of esteemed academics, practitioners and professionals participating in this Conference on the theme of “Building Tolerance and Peace in the MENA region and Europe despite current challenges.
I wish to express my gratitude to the Global Council for Tolerance and Peace and the House of Representatives of Malta, for their commitment to launch this process of dialogue on peace and tolerance, particularly at this moment of turbulence and instability in Europe and beyond.
I believe that the nature of the topics placed on the agenda of this timely Conference are very important and require our urgent attention.
The global level of peace and tolerance is fast deteriorating. The world around us is becoming a less friendly place to live in than it was a generation ago or two.
The unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine by Russia puts our fundamental vision of the world into question.
Images of brutal destruction and human suffering reaching us from Ukraine are testimony of our failed commitment to a vision of a world that is governed by a rules-based order as it is enshrined in the United Nations Charter.
Meanwhile, the Mediterranean remains a reservoir of instability. The region is disproportionately burdened and afflicted with turmoil, conflict, and foci of potential instability.
The deteriorating situation in Libya, the escalation of violence in Israel and Palestine, the instability in neighbouring Tunisia, and protracted tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean provide us with clear examples.
Furthermore, transnational threats like the global climate crisis, terrorism, money laundering, organised crime, and unregulated migration with human trafficking, not only pose a threat to our societies, but also have a serious impact on the stability of the Euro-Mediterranean region.
The problems abound, but so do the initiatives aimed at restoring dialogue and hope.
I mention with pleasure the Union for the Mediterranean, whose role as a platform for positivity and dialogue remains indispensable in the Mediterranean.
The same applies to the Western Mediterranean Forum – the 5+5 – as we have come to call it, which through its informal, brainstorming nature allows for frank and open exchanges.
Similarly, the Anna Lindh Foundation based in Alexandria creates meaningful platforms for young voices and civil society to bring about positive and long-term change, be it in the environmental, educational and inter-cultural spheres.
Without detracting from the importance of these initiatives, and despite their very good intentions, we must admit that peace remains threatened and elusive. Millions of people are compelled to move to escape war. They live in poverty, are threatened with persecution and continue to live in misery.
The resolution of the crises we are facing must rest on multiple initiatives that promote cooperation and create an environment that is conducive to consensus through dialogue and diplomacy.
There is no other way to achieve peace. Peacekeeping also depends on continuous dialogue and on correct diplomatic measures.
I am proud to note that Malta has steadfastly over the years fostered awareness on the need to promote a culture of dialogue and cooperation in the Euro-Mediterranean region.
It was upon Malta’s insistence in 1975 that European leaders included the Mediterranean Chapter in the Final Act of the Helsinki Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE).
Even to this very day, and now more than ever, faithful to the wording of its Constitution and as a member of the UN Security Council, Malta strives to continue to advocate for peace, security and stability, dialogue and the respect for international law.
We have been aware along the years that we have a moral obligation to promote and protect these values. The actions that we take or fail to take today will have a bearing on future generations.
To conclude, I take the opportunity to once more welcome you all here. Excellencies and distinguished guests.
I am confident that your discussion and work throughout the duration of this Conference will contribute to the identification of innovative approaches for addressing common challenges for the benefit of humanity.