Bi pjaċir kbir nilqa’ lilek, għażiż President Edgars Rinkēvičs, fostna l-Maltin u l-Għawdxin. Nemmen bis-sħiħ li din iż-Żjara Statali tiegħek f’pajjiżna ser tkompli ssaħħaħ il-ħbiberija bejn Malta u l-Latvja u bejn iż-żewġ popli ħbieb, tagħna.
Dear colleague, these were a few words in Maltese to welcome you and your delegation to our Islands. I am sure this State Visit will further reinforce the excellent relations between our two countries and peoples.
I would like to begin by recalling my very own visit to Latvia in March 2023, during which I was hosted by your predecessor, President Egils Levits, and had the pleasure of also meeting Your Excellency, in your previous capacity as Minister.
Miriam and I found our engagements in Riga truly insightful and inspiring. I hope we will be able to reciprocate your generosity and welcome in the coming days.
I understand that your programme envisages a visit to the sister Island of Gozo – a gem in its own right, which I am sure you will find very charming.
It is my pleasure to remember the excellent working relationship and spirit of cooperation which you and I, Your Excellency, developed during our years as Foreign Ministers, especially within the frameworks of the European Union and the United Nations.
Several years have passed since then, and regrettably the international community is none the wiser.
The two most pressing regional issues we had to face back then – Ukraine and the Middle East Peace Process – have not only remained outstanding on the international agenda but developed into open wars.
As I did this morning during our discussions, I reiterate my condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which turned the clock back in Europe eighty years and took us back to the time of the Second World War.
With the same conviction, I condemn without reservation the 7th October surprise attack carried out by Hamas on innocent civilians in Israel.
Such despicable acts have no place in a civilised world.
At the same time and with the same force, I express my condemnation and alarm regarding the glaringly disproportionate retaliation by Israel, resulting in the killing of tens of thousands of innocent people, mostly women and children in Gaza.
This scenario should put our family of nations to shame.
We need to urgently call on all parties to cease hostilities and return to the negotiating table to somehow agree on a lasting truce in line with the provisions of UNSC Resolution 2712 and Resolution 2720.
A just and long-lasting peace in the region can only be made by a permanent ceasefire.
I have noticed that in your statements regarding the ongoing war in Ukraine, you have placed a strong emphasis on the devastating impact that this war is having on children.
I could not but agree more with you.
We cannot remain immune to the physical suffering and the incalculable psychological trauma that violence causes on civilians, particularly innocent children.
The vacant look in the eyes of shell-shocked children in war zones says it all.
These pictures will haunt us for generations to come.
This is precisely what motivated Malta to work tirelessly for a United Nations Security Council Resolution to protect the lives of civilians, especially of children – on both sides.
It is a shame that even such a Resolution has been almost entirely ignored, even though, morally and legally, it should be fully observed.
It would be a pity if, on this auspicious occasion, we were to focus only on war and conflict.
Let us also honour the friendship and common values that bind our countries in an exemplary manner, despite the differences that exist in geography and history.
This year we celebrate thirty-four years since we formally established diplomatic relations.
Our realties have changed greatly since then.
We have both matured into sophisticated and diversified economies, joined and shaped the policies of the European Union, and elevated our international profile through active and effective multilateral initiatives.
I want to take this opportunity to extend our appreciation to the support that Latvia is providing to Malta in fulfilling its duties as an elected Member of the UN Security Council as well as in its new capacity of Chair-in-Office of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe for the year 2024.
The extent of our results rests greatly on the support that we find in like-minded partners such as Latvia.
The group of European Union Non-Executive Heads of State, referred to as the ‘Arraiolos Meeting’ is one other example where our two countries have exchanged views and shared experiences along the years. I was very pleased to host former President Levits, together with our other colleagues, in Malta for this Meeting in October 2022.
From a broader perspective, the values and principles on which Malta and Latvia have continued to develop are increasingly similar.
As I could also see for myself during my visit to Latvia, Maltese investment in Latvia is thriving, with the sectors of real estate, catering and transshipment providing great potential.
We also hope to see progress in other avenues of cooperation such as business, services, manufacturing, digital technology and tourism.
Our peoples too, have found a way to come closer at all levels and are nowadays a pivotal highlight of our ties.
I am pleased to note that Malta is home to several Latvian nationals who have chosen to relocate among us, for family or professional reasons.
We are glad to host them all on our Islands, and that we highly appreciate their contribution to our very dynamic social fabric and to the continued growth of our economy.
At the same time, we are pleased to welcome tourists from Latvia together with students and professionals who choose to pursue the study of the English Language in Malta, while enjoying our attractive Mediterranean climate and unique cultural and historical heritage.
Allow me to conclude my speech by wishing you every success as you embark on the noble task of representing your country and fellow Latvians as their Head of State.
As you all know, this incoming Visit is also one of my very last, as my tenure comes to an end in April.
I am therefore all the more grateful for this occasion to host you among us, dear Edgars, and can assure you that you will continue to find in Malta, a steadfast and reliable partner on all fronts.
I now ask you to raise your glasses and toast to the good health of His Excellency President Edgars Rinkēvičs, to the bright future that lies ahead for Latvia and Malta and to our joint vocation for global prosperity, stability and peace.