Dear Participants in this meeting of the Mediterranean Confederations of Enterprises, whose aim, as you know, is to establish institutionalised cooperation between business organisations from Member States.
It is a pleasure for me to welcome you to Malta. I wish I could have done this in person, however, official duties outside the country prevented me from doing so.
20 years of activity since the setting up of the BUSINESSMED is a significant milestone, which merits due praise, especially in such turbulent times. With the aim of bringing together policymakers and employers from the EuroMed area, it was a natural development following the launch of the Barcelona Process way back in 1995.
Back then, the Barcelona Process’s main objective was to strengthen the relations between the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean. It was a time where all the countries concerned appreciated that everyone stood to benefit from closer ties between countries within our region.
Exchange of political ideas helped develop a better understanding of the particular needs of individual countries. It made it possible to learn about our commonalities and not only our disparities. In these exchanges, at times during turbulent periods, we had laid the foundations for what thirteen years later became known as the Union for the Mediterranean.
Your meeting here in Malta could not have happened at a more opportune time. As you are gathered here in the heart of the Mediterranean, it is now time to discuss and to identify ways to overcome the disastrous effects that the global pandemic as well as the war in Ukraine are having on our respective countries, economies, way of life, and development in general.
It has already been almost 30 years since the Barcelona Process was launched. Unfortunately, along the Mediterranean shores, in spite of all measures and good intentions, we are still witnessing civil strife, economic disparities, gender inequalities, difficult access to health services, and alienation of youth.
I strongly believe that a platform such as BUSINESSMED is key to foster mutual understanding and put into place peaceful practices. I am not alone in believing that the private sector is the main contributor to economic growth and the worker force for job creation.
I am pleased to note that BUSINESSMED is working actively to promote social dialogue, as well as the implementation of the green and the blue economies. Digitalisation of various processes is without a doubt an important element in achieving these goals in this day and age.
In doing so, however, I encourage you to keep addressing the needs that are at the grassroots of many of these problems. Young people and women are the big majority of our population. Investing in their wellbeing and education is essential. Equally important is understanding the usefulness of capacity building. Lifelong training, and skills development, provide our citizens with stable gainful employment that respects their dignity and their wellbeing. In return, as employers, you will have the benefit of a workforce that is happy, productive, and ready to go the extra mile.
Within the BUSINESSMED platform, you have the best opportunity to share your experiences and technologies and to develop new ideas that could bring about more prosperity and sustainability in our respective countries and region.
I am proud to recall that since its Independence in 1964, Malta has always been in the lead to promote a Mediterranean agenda in its foreign policy. With regard to the seas and oceans themselves, Malta was at the forefront in the belief that the deep seabed and ocean floor are common heritage of mankind. Eventually, this seminal idea in fact became enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The same can be said regarding the political perspective whereby at the height of the Cold War during the Conferences in Dipoli and Helsinki in the early seventies, Malta had insisted on the inclusion of a Mediterranean Chapter into what was to give birth to what is now known as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Further to that, Malta is a very active participant in various Mediterranean clusters such as the 5+5 Western Mediterranean Dialogue, the MED 9, the Liaison Office between the EU and the League of Arab States, which was a Malta initiative in 2009, and last but not least, in the Union for the Mediterranean, which is a comprehensive platform that brings together in active collaboration all the Mediterranean countries, and more.
Recently, during the 2017 Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Malta once again ensured that the Mediterranean region be given due prominence.
Now that Malta has secured its place as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the years 2023 and 2024, it will comply by its longstanding policy of highlighting the needs of our region.
As I stated previously, this can only be effective through the inclusion and participation of our youth and women to ensure more just and equitable global decision-making structures and processes.
Conscious that BUSINESSMED is also member of the Global Compact, we look forward to more cooperation based on its ten principles which can be grouped under four themes: human rights, labour, environment, and anti-corruption.
These four themes fit in perfectly with the long- and medium-term strategy of BUSINESSMED, focussing on business, dialogue, regional integration, and policies and institutional reforms.
I therefore encourage you all present here today, members of business platforms, private industry, and political institutions, to continue working for better quality jobs that foster understanding, inclusion, and social equity.
You have the potential to contribute in no small way to implement the perfect formula that promotes peace, stability, and prosperity in our region.
In conclusion, allow me to wish you a good stay in Malta for the next two days. And I give you my best wishes for these 20th anniversary celebrations and wish you all fruitful discussions and successful networking.