Your Excellency, Ambassador José Maria Muriel
Honourable Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries,
Honourable Leader of the Opposition,
Let me begin by thanking Ambassador Muriel for his invitation to celebrate the National Day of Spain.
Occasions such as this one, provide us with the best-possible scenario to reflect together on the excellent nature of relations that have for centuries linked our two countries.
History speaks volumes on these Islands.
It provides us with ample examples through architecture, language, religious traditions, surnames and even gastronomy, of how close Malta and Spain are, not only geographically but also in our way of life and values.
Moving on to more recent times, bilateral relations have gone from strength to strength not only on the political level, but also from the cultural and people to people perspectives.
I welcome the cultural and educational initiatives taken by both our Embassies to bring our peoples closer, especially now that the Covid pandemic has given us some breathing space.
Our countries have reached good results on city diplomacy as I note with pleasure that several twinning agreements have been finalised by Żejtun, Marsaskala, Mdina and Għarb in Gozo with Spanish partner town of Tocina, Altea, Zaragoza and Torrent respectively.
I hope to see this networking at grassroots level being further consolidated in the coming months.
The benefits of these contacts are fundamental in bringing countries closer, where it matters most – our citizens.
As we resume normalcy, I am confident that tourist figures both ways will continue to improve, and hopefully reach their full potential. The same applies to the incoming Spanish nationals, young and not so young, who choose Malta for the furthering of their knowledge of the English Language, with a good combination of study and leisure.
On this note, I wish to address a few words directly to the Spanish community living in Malta. I convey my appreciation of the contribution you are giving to our country’s economy, stability and cultural diversity. You are all very welcome in Malta and we hope that you and your families are well-settled amongst us.
Our common address to regional challenges has been a hallmark of cooperation between Malta and Spain throughout these years.
We share a volatile neighbourhood that remains troubled by instability and in some instances open conflict. Malta and Spain have very regularly put their heads together to work on policies that foster stability, security and peace in the Mediterranean.
One obvious landmark was 1995 when we created the Barcelona Process, with the 2nd Ministerial being held in Malta in 1997, during my first term as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
As Malta joined the European Union in 2004, our platform for cooperation was extensively broadened. Many a time, it was our two countries, together with other partners in the region that reminded the Union of the need to properly address developments in the Mediterranean, and not have them placed in a secondary category of urgency.
This applies also to the issue of irregular migration where, as front-line countries, we continue to remind other Member States of the need for effective solidarity to be put in place.
I had the occasion of reiterating this call with my other colleagues from the European Union during the Arraiolos Heads of State Meeting that I hosted in Malta last week.
I am sure that Spain will be keeping Mediterranean issues front and centre of its plans and priorities during its rotating Presidency of the European Council during the second half of the coming year. Malta looks forward to working closely with Spain during this very demanding six-month period.
In parallel to our cooperation in the EU, I express my hope that Malta and Spain will further consolidate their collaboration in important regional formations like the 5+5 Western Mediterranean Forum, the Union for the Mediterranean as well as the Med 9.
These structures play a very significant role in addressing not only hard and fast security and stability in our region, but also other challenges like the effects of climate change, the preservation of the marine environment, irregular migration, and energy resources.
As today we celebrate the friendship between the Maltese and Spanish peoples, I am sure you will allow me to open a parenthesis about solidarity and our full support to the people of Ukraine, who have been subjected to an unjustified and inexcusable attack on their sovereignty and territorial integrity by Russia.
The escalation of events in recent weeks – the illegal referenda, the unrecognised annexations, and the attack on civilians in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities yesterday continues to shake the international system to its core.
As months pass, we should not and can not ‘get used’ to this war and accept it as a matter of fact in our daily lives.
We cannot allow the sense of shock that we all felt on 24th February to fade from our attention and memory.
We need to keep repeating at every possible occasion, that might is not right, that culprits need to be brought to justice and that the values of freedom and self-determination cannot be suffocated by violence.
Above all, let us preserve our unity.
The cardinal principles of international law are there to be observed by all countries, big and small.
Malta will be taking this mantra with it to the UN Security Council as a non-Permanent Member during the term 2023-2024.
We rely on the support of Spain to make this tenure a successful one that yields tangible and wide-ranging results in the interest of international legality and global justice.
In conclusion, Your Excellency Ambassador Muriel, Distinguished Guests, I invite you to raise your glasses and toast to the health of the King of Spain, His Majesty King Felipe VI, and to the historic bonds and long-lasting friendship between our Peoples.