The President of Malta

-> Speech by His Excellency George Vella, President of the Republic of Malta, at the reception in celebration of Europe Day

Your Excellency, Honourable Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, Presidents Emeriti Excellencies, Distinguished guests

I would like to start by first thanking Elena Grech for her kind words.

It is an honour to be here with you this evening, celebrating European Unity.

It is also an opportune moment to reflect on what we have achieved in the past 62 years, and what we are still to achieve.

The European Union is at a time where it has the largest amount of Member States in its history. Notwithstanding this, it is also experiencing an unprecedented situation, where one of its own has decided to part ways, these are signs of unravelling of the unity, so essential to European stability.

Discussions about an EU at 27, as well as the wave of populist movements that has come over Europe, are but sobering factors that should make citizens and decision makers alike, think where they would like to take the European project.

And whilst we are living in times where we often hear about the shortcomings of the European Union, we cannot simply omit reflecting the many successes that European unity has brought about.

Only last week, Malta celebrated 15 years of EU membership. 15 years that provided the Maltese with opportunities as well as challenges. This did not come without any sacrifice of course. Malta had to learn to adapt its economy and explore new sectors and invest in new technologies. Such flexibility has ensured that notwithstanding that it was the smallest Member State, Malta made its EU membership a success story.

This success put Malta under another important spot light. Together with front line EU Mediterranean countries, it became a gateway to the EU for those seeking a better life, notably, from sub-Saharan Africa. Here I want to appeal to all Member States and EU institutions alike, that migration is not a temporary phenomenon that can be stopped at any given moment. Migration has shaped the history of human beings since the beginning of time. In this regard, it is through unity and solidarity amongst the Member States that acceptable solutions for all can be found.

Migration could test the strength of cooperation and solidarity within the EU. Sadly, we cannot say that all EU countries have opted to shoulder this responsibility. Quite a number did not. We were left, together with another small number of countries, to find out ways and means as to how to distribute fairly amongst our countries these migrants, that through no fault of theirs were compelled to risk their lives in search for a better quality of life.

Another threat to the upholding of the European Union treaty, is the threat coming from populist movements and far right groupings.

The results of the forthcoming EP elections, will have in them the seeds of the European Union of the future – what shape it will take, in which direction it will be driven. This will depend on the strength of these formations in the future EP.

These sentiments, I have expressed in an appeal, signed by a number of Heads of States of EU countries in today’s papers, here in Malta and in other EU Countries.

Allow me now to say a few words in Maltese.

L-unità Ewropea hija kruċjali biex tindirizza l-ħafna sfidi li qed tiffaċċja l-Unjoni Ewropea, kemm dawk esterni kif ukoll interni. Ejjew allura ma ninsewx ir-raġunijiet wara l-ħtieġa li ningħaqdu, u niftakru li l-aktar element importanti tal-għaqda Ewropea huwa it-twemmin fl-istess sett ta’ valuri: fid-demokrazija, fil-paċi, fil-libertà, fl- ugwaljanza, fid-dinjità umana, fl-Istat tad-dritt u fid-drittijiet umani

Fehmiet fuq kif nistgħu nsolvu dawn l-isfidi ivarjaw fost iċ-ċittadini u l-gvernijiet tal-Istati Membri. L-Ewropa kapaċi tirreżisti firxa wiesgħa ta’ opinjonijiet u ideat. Iżda żgur ma jridx ikun hemm ritorn lejn Ewropa fejn il-pajjiżi ma jibqgħux iżjed imsieħba ugwali.

Naqblu għalhekk, li Unjoni b’saħħitha biss se tkun tista’ taffaċċja l-isfidi globali ta’ żmienna. L-effetti tat-tibdil fil-klima, tat-terroriżmu, tal-globalizzazzjoni ekonomika u tal-migrazzjoni ma jiqfux mal-fruntieri nazzjonali.

Se jirnexxilna negħlbu b’suċċess dawn l-isfidi u nkomplu fit-triq lejn il-koeżjoni ekonomika u soċjali u l-iżvilupp jekk naħdmu flimkien bħala msieħba ugwali fuq il-livell istituzzjonali.

Għalhekk, għandna bżonn Unjoni Ewropea b’saħħitha, Unjoni li għandha istituzzjonijiet konġunti, Unjoni li kontinwament tirrevedi xogħolha b’għajn kritika u li hi kapaċi tirriforma ruħha, Unjoni mibnija fuq is-sies vitali taċ-ċittadini u tal-Istati Membri tagħha.

And now I conclude in English.

As Robert Schuman rightly stated, Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity. In this regard, it is only natural that the EU continues to evolve as an institution and to keep up with the times. An evolution however, that is to be deeply rooted within the values that established it in the first place.

It is these values that have ensured that Europe experiences a prolonged era of peace. It is now up to us to commit to the preservation of this Unity of values for our future generations.

Thank you

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