It is a pleasure for me to address all of you in person this evening, following a long hiatus due to the COVID pandemic.
I thank you, High Commissioner Ward, for inviting us all to celebrate this occasion in a spirit of conviviality and friendship, which fully reflects the excellent, long-standing relations between Malta and the United Kingdom.
Let me begin by kindly asking you, Excellency, to convey, in my name and on behalf of the Government and the People of Malta, our heartfelt and sincere wishes for the official birthday of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.
I also take this occasion to salute the memory of the Duke of Edinburgh, who we all affectionately called ‘Prince Philip’, and who had established a long-lasting and personal connection with our Islands.
I recall very vividly my exchanges with Her Majesty during our latest meeting in Buckingham Palace in March 2020, during which Her Majesty spoke with great affection of the time the Royal couple spent in Malta as newly-weds.
I assured Her Majesty that the people of Malta and Gozo fondly reciprocate these sentiments and greatly cherish this special personal bond.
As we all know, the history that brought our two countries and peoples together goes back centuries. Historical developments and changing political scenarios along the years made us experience both happy times as well as tragic circumstances.
Our relationship has changed and adapted to new and modern realities, but it remains strong, positive, productive and promising.
Today, we have every good reason to celebrate the strong ties between our countries, which despite the changing dynamics resulting from a two-year pandemic, and the changes brought about by recent EU-UK relations, continue to be based on very solid foundations.
I have no doubt in my mind that as both our peoples continue to thrive, progress, and overcome existing and emerging challenges, relations between our countries will be further consolidated on the bilateral and regional fronts.
Speaking of challenges, I cannot but refer to the devastating effects on our collective health systems, our national economies and to global social justice which we continue to encounter on a daily basis because of COVID.
There are several lessons to be drawn from this sour experience.
The one that we need to address with greater energy and focus on an international level, is that of the huge disparities between the haves and have-nots, the developed and the less-developed parts of the globe.
This applies primarily not only to health – vaccines in these specific circumstances – but also to poverty and food shortages, unequal access to employment, education and mobility.
Through their long experiences and positive records, Malta and the United Kingdom can, and should, work together more closely to ensure a more just and fair distribution of global resources.
On the bilateral front, it is my hope that relations between Malta and the United Kingdom, especially those at people-to-people level, finally return to their maximum potential, now that restrictions on travel and public gatherings have been eased, and no further restrictions exist.
I refer in particular, but not only, to the very strong tourism figures both ways. I look forward to the revived contacts between our respective communities in both the UK and Malta.
I am sure many have been longing to revert to their usual pattern of activities in their adoptive homelands.
Against the backdrop of a devastating pandemic, earlier this year we were presented with another shock to the international system, right in the heart of Europe.
The ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the images that reach us constantly from civilian sites are something we never expected we would be witnessing at this day and age.
I add my voice, as I have already done on many occasions, to those who oppose the arrogance of unjustified might over right.
This is the same conviction that drives Malta’s active support to a functioning multilateral system – one that stands for a rules-based order governed by principles of international law and mutual respect.
Malta and the UK can boast of very good examples of cooperation in this field, in various fora, especially the Commonwealth.
We look forward to the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting that will be held in Rwanda during the month of June, following a lengthy, repeated postponement because of COVID.
I take this opportunity to underline Malta’s steady commitment to the Commonwealth, its successful projects and above all the sense of belonging and values that it continues to instil in its members.
There is no viable replacement to multilateral diplomacy.
In this respect, Malta will be vastly intensifying its work on this level through the United Nations, the seat of the universal embodiment of international multilateralism.
Allow me to proudly mention that Malta is expecting to be elected in the coming days to sit with other UN Security Council Members during the term 2023-2024 as a non-Permanent member.
Our vision and action will be based on on three main pillars namely Security, Sustainability and Solidarity and place special focus on women, peace and security, children in armed conflict, climate and oceans, and literacy.
Our longstanding credentials in promoting dialogue and mutual understanding will be put to good use for the benefit of the international community and global citizens.
I have full confidence in Malta’s ability to meet this challenge.
Before I conclude, I wish to convey my best wishes to Her Majesty the Queen, for a successful and enjoyable Platinum Jubilee. These celebrations will surely be remembered as a rightful recognition of the impeccable and devoted service Her Majesty has given along the years.
Excellencies, dear guests,
I now ask you, to stand and toast to the health and well-being of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and to the bright future of relations between Malta and the United Kingdom.