Excellency President Osmani-Sadriu,
Members of the media,
Allow me to begin by extending my appreciation to you, Excellency, for the invitation extended to me to attend and address the first Women, Peace and Security Forum yesterday and today.
I found the discussion on the role of women in guaranteeing peace both timely and important, in light of the very precarious international situation that we are witnessing at present.
I commend Kosovo for taking the lead on this dossier that should matter to us all and deserves to be on the fore of the international agenda.
As I informed the President, Malta will be actively addressing the Women, Peace and Security theme during its tenure of office as Non-Permanent Member of the UN Security Council starting January 2023.
It is a source of satisfaction for me to return to Kosovo, following previous visits that I had held in my capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs. I recall that my first visit had taken place in 2016.
Many things have changed in the world since then, but not our friendship and support, which have remained steadfast.
Today’s occasion is all the more welcome as it gave me the opportunity to discuss issues of bilateral and international importance with President Osmani-Sadriu.
This was our second meeting this year, as I had the honour to host the President in Malta for a Forum addressing ‘Just Peace’ last March, where the President had delivered a powerful statement that kept the audience very engaged.
The meetings we held in both Malta and Kosovo served as a reiteration of the excellent relations that bind our two countries. I now look forward to the further intensification of exchanges on the political level, but also on a people-to-people level, primarily through education and culture.
Malta stands ready to assist Kosovo in capacity and institution building efforts. In this regard, I am pleased to see that discussions are ongoing in the field of diplomatic studies and training of diplomats, and I look forward for further collaboration in this regard.
Malta’s appreciation of Kosovo’s credentials does not only stop at the bilateral level. We continue to support our cooperation also from a multilateral perspective.
Let me make full use of this opportunity to reiterate Malta’s continuous support to Kosovo in its path towards EU accession.
I welcome the European Commission’s enlargement report issued on the 12th of this month and encourage Kosovo to continue in its reform path to further enhance its European perspective.
I also add that Malta supports the European Commission’s proposal for visa liberalization given that Kosovo has fulfilled all the criteria years ago.
From the broader regional perspective, it has long been Malta’s position that the Western Balkan region cannot be detached from a stable and secure Europe and the Mediterranean.
The prospect of enlargement is one of the EU’s strongest foreign policy tools and serves as an effective incentive for the implementation of positive domestic reforms, ensuring peace, democracy, prosperity, security, and stability in Europe as a whole.
Malta therefore supports the use of a merit-based approach, which includes fair and rigorous conditionality, and encourages candidate countries and potential candidates to continue pursuing necessary reforms in the interest of their citizens.
In the face of very critical and grave developments in the European continent and external forces competing with our shared values, it is crucial that clear and concrete messages of encouragement and of motivation are given to the Western Balkan countries aspiring to become full members of the European Union.
This issue was discussed at length during the meeting that I hosted for EU Non-Executive Heads of State in Malta on the 6th of October, when I and many other colleagues all agreed on the importance of keeping the Western Balkans’ enlargement process on track.
Let me also state that Malta welcomes the August 27 agreement between Kosovo and Serbia and fully supports the reconciliation process between Belgrade and Pristina.
We look forward to a resolution of outstanding issues and the creation of good neighbourly relations. I convey my support to the work being carried out by the European Union on this front, through the work of HR/VP Borrell and the EUSR for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, Miroslav Lajčák, an old friend of mine.
I thank them both for their efforts to bring the two sides back to the negotiating table with a view to reaching a comprehensive and legally binding normalisation agreement.
Madame President, my visit to your country is taking place at a time of war.
As we discussed peace yesterday, we cannot possibly avoid reflecting on the savagery of war, invasion, and aggression.
I will use this occasion to again underline Malta’s full support to Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and firm rejection and condemnation of the illegal annexation by Russia of Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions following the so-called referenda in these regions as a violation of international law and the UN Charter.
What we are witnessing is an affront to the international community as a whole. We should not mince our words in condemning these acts.
Malta stands side by side with Ukraine.
Malta’s neutrality does not imply indifference towards attacks on our shared principles and the deplorable loss of life. The crimes must be stopped, and perpetrators brought to justice.
As part of the Security Council, Malta will be a strong advocate in calling for an end of the war in Ukraine, in underlining the need for justice and accountability, and in emphasising the need to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches all those in need. We will also continue to emphasise the fact that EU sanctions are not the cause of food insecurity, but that Russia’s actions are the cause.
Let me also spare a message on the need to give the Mediterranean region the attention it deserves.
Our Southern Neighbourhood remains a very volatile and unstable one, and the international community should not wait for a crisis to materialise before it takes a position and acts on it.
For its part, Malta’s Mediterranean vocation is well-known, and we have consistently sought to prioritise Mediterranean affairs in the exercise of our foreign policy.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic together with the current conflict in Ukraine amplified the underlying causes of instability in the Mediterranean. We are particularly concerned that the impact of inflation and food insecurity could have a serious impact on the livelihoods and welfare of people in the Mediterranean in this regard, particularly lower income groups.
Malta shall continue to promote the importance of dialogue between all countries in the Mediterranean, as well as between the EU and its neighbours.
Excellency, I conclude my message by thanking the people of Kosovo for their warm welcome and hospitality and underline my appreciation to my gracious host, your Excellency, once again.
Thank you very much.