“Peace in the Mediterranean is also a prerequisite for global stability,” stated President George Vella during his lecture entitled ‘Rethinking the Mediterranean’ to the College of Europe students and the EU Diplomatic Academy participants in Bruges.
In light of the latest developments in the region, President Vella focused on the Mediterranean and the security landscape of Europe’s Southern neighbourhood. Our sea, President Vella said, “is very much a reservoir for insecurity”, and explained that security in the region is undermined by three main threats: conflicts and political insecurity; soft security threats such as economic disparities, irregular migration and human trafficking; and horizontal issues such as climate change, water security and crop failure, food and energy insecurity and sea pollution.
President Vella said that as the international community struggles for solutions, the humanitarian consequences of senseless war and conflict continue to mount. “The physical and psychological suffering and displacement that these threats continue to cause on innocent civilians is having its toll on our younger generations,” said the President whilst emphasising that conflict resolution and mediation efforts must become our collective priority.
During his lecture, followed by a Q&A session, the President stressed the importance of establishing a framework of cooperation with regional partners on equal footing. He added that multilateral cooperation cannot work unless countries in the Middle East and North Africa regions feel they are being treated equally, respected, appraised and “talked to” rather than “dictated to”. “Exchanges with counterparts must always be driven by a yearning to understand and opening our horizons to our interlocutor’s viewpoints. We cannot impose our ideas on others. We can only reach understanding through dialogue amongst equals,” stated the President.
President Vella encouraged the students to actively engage in youth civil activities, recognising that our future lies with them and referred to the Young Mediterranean Voices initiative in 2016, which gathered in Malta 600 young participants from the Mediterranean. The President said that the youth of the Mediterranean have an important role to play in reducing tensions and seeking common ground. He also highlighted that the College of Europe serves as a perfect example of this principle, bringing together students from all across Europe and beyond to share their experiences and exchange viewpoints and ideas.
President Vella urged the students to change the present narrative and course of action and not to be scared to speak of peace, even when this means going against the current. “I appeal to you not to make the failings of my generation your own. Do your level best, as diplomats, professionals, and policymakers, to be a voice for dialogue and understanding,” concluded the President.