Your Excellency, Ambassador Caroline Whelan,
It gives me great pleasure to be here with you today to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day, the National Day of Ireland.
I want to immediately take this first occasion to once again express my gratitude for the boundless hospitality that Miriam and I and the rest of my delegation were given during my State Visit to Ireland two weeks ago.
The visit was an opportunity to continue with the discussions I had held with President Higgins during his State Visit to Malta last May and also during the Arraiolos Malta Meeting in October. Our encounters are a true reflection of the friendship that our two countries, Malta and Ireland share at the highest political level and most importantly on a people-to-people level.
Our diplomatic relations were established thirty-three years ago. Our friendship, however, is deep rooted in centuries of common history, struggles, beliefs, and manifestations of mutual respect. Today, our two countries both declare political neutrality and belong to the European Union family of nations. Our respective diasporas thrive happily thanks to our close cultural and social affinities. Both our tourist industries are going strong, and statistics show that already by next year the numbers will reach those in the pre-Covid period.
During my visit to Ireland, I was equally impressed with the ongoing research projects between the University College Cork and the University of Malta, particularly those related to energy, climate and the marine environment. With this in mind, I am equally very pleased with the ongoing cultural and educational initiatives and exchanges between our countries. I would like to encourage Ireland to be present with its own pavilion at the 2024 Malta Art Biennale.
Malta and Ireland also enjoy healthy trade exchanges and I was pleased to learn about the interest being shown from various private entities looking for opportunities to cooperate with respective business partners here in Malta. This is most opportune, especially following the conclusion of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement. It is most important for Malta and Ireland to continue supporting each other also in the field of trade.
With reference to the Brexit deal, I commend both the European Commission and the UK government for reaching a political agreement in principle on the Northern Ireland Protocol. This constitutes a comprehensive set of joint solutions to address, in a definitive manner, the real-life concerns of all communities at grass root level, while protecting the integrity of the EU Single Market, the Northern Ireland-UK political union, and the stability brought about by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Good sense has prevailed, and bilateral trust contributed to finding a modus vivendi.
Another commonality between Malta and Ireland is that we both champion multilateralism and seek solutions to challenges by peaceful means. Diplomacy and mediation together with advocacy have characterised our foreign policies from the very beginning. I want to compliment Ireland for its successfully completing its two years at the United Nations Security Council as a non-permanent member. As of now Malta has taken over this onerous yet prestigious task. On behalf of the Malta team here in Valletta and in New York, I want to express my gratitude for the assistance and the support that the Irish team gave the Malta team in the run up to January 2023.
Malta is now in its third month as member of the United Nations Security Council, and we have just concluded our presidency term of the same body at the end of February. During this month it was our duty to commemorate the first anniversary from the senseless military aggression by Russia on Ukraine. It is disgraceful and obscene that this war is still ongoing. As days pass, we continue to witness more loss of precious lives on both sides of the divide and witness as well the perpetration of tragic humanitarian situations. Let us augur that in the not distant future common sense prevails and a diplomatic solution be identified in the interests of security, stability, and peaceful coexistence.
Maybe it is too much to hope for at this juncture.
As an island state, just like Ireland, one of our major concerns is the effect of climate change and the effects it could have on our seas as this directly correlates with the security, safety, and environmental and economic prospects of our country. This reality is a major concern to many other countries especially Small Island Developing States who would be losing considerable tracts of land due to sea level rise. This challenge was addressed during a Ministerial Open Debate on the implications of Sea Level Rise on international peace and security that was organised by Malta and chaired by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Honourable Ian Borg at the United Nations Security Council last month.
I cannot conclude this address to you without addressing the large Irish Community that lives here in Malta. We are grateful for the contribution you are giving to our country both towards its economic growth and more importantly to the value you add to our social fabric. Two weeks ago, while in Ireland, I had the pleasure of meeting with various Maltese people living, studying, training, and working in Ireland, who have made Ireland their home for them and their families. I am convinced that our respective diasporas are key to maintain durable bilateral relations that stand the test of time as they are based on people-to-people contacts.
Finally, Your Excellency Ambassador Whelan, Distinguished Guests, I invite you to raise your glasses and toast to the National Day of Ireland, to the health of His Excellency Michael D. Higgins, and to the special friendship that binds together the People of Malta and the People of Ireland.