The President of Malta

Speech by His Excellency George Vella, President of Malta, at the Reception of the National Day of the French Republic, Residence of the French Ambassador, Żebbuġ, 14 July 2022

Your Excellency Mme Agnès von der Mühll,

Archbishop Scicluna,

Excellencies,

Distinguished Guests,

It gives me great pleasure to be here with you in person, after an absence of two years, to celebrate together the National Day of the French Republic. Covid-19 might have restricted our mobility in the past couple of years, yet this was not an obstacle to continue developing our excellent bilateral relationship.

In fact, in May 2021, my Office together with the Embassy of the French Republic held a symposium entitled ‘Malta and France: Shared Histories, New Visions’. This was a unique opportunity to discuss our common and rich history and shed light on the many aspects that were still not so well-known to the wider public. It is my wish that this detailed well-researched knowledge continues to be disseminated within our countries and even beyond.

The success of the event, which was the first of its kind, encouraged us to launch the Presidency Culture Symposia, that are aimed at exploring and explaining Malta’s unique historical and cultural ties with important partners.

Two weeks ago, France concluded the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. A six-month journey that might sound short for some, yet very fruitful and meaningful for all those that have been involved in it. The three pillars of the French Presidency were the pursuit of a sovereign Europe, the building a new European growth model as well as the creation of a more humane Europe.

These are three straightforward yet ambitious points that the French Presidency managed to deliver on and implement successfully, albeit under very complicated and unique political conditions taking place within Europe.

I note with pleasure that a lot of emphasis was put on bringing the Europe Union closer to its citizens as well as to the importance of developing new and cleaner technologies and increased digitalisation to reinvent our economies for a sustainable future.

The past six months also served as a period of reflection which helped us understand the Future of the European Union. As the year-long consultations on the Future of Europe came to an end last May, it is now imperative that we start working on those take-outs and find ways and means of how to implement what has been requested by the citizens of the European Union.

It is essential that the purpose of the Union remains au courant with the time without renegading its founding values.

This is also true with regards to the external perception of the European Union.

During the start of the French Presidency, the world witnessed an unprecedented military attack on European soil. The unprovoked attack by Russia on Ukraine was aimed to curb the right to sovereignty and self-determination of this country. This is simply not acceptable anymore. Every country, no matter its size and influence, has the right to determine its future, especially when it is following an agenda of peace and openness. As President Macron notably remarked at the end of the Presidency, “Europe in June 2022 is very different from Europe in January 2022”.

Distinguished Guests,

It is also with all these considerations in mind that Malta has been gearing to take its place as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council in January 2023. It is a responsibility that we will not take lightly. As a small island state, Malta believes that we have a responsibility to actively engage with the United Nations as a declaration of our readiness to promote and contribute first-hand to the global agenda.

Our aim is to put forth an agenda of peace, where diplomacy and mediation prevail in any given context and situation. We also aim to push for a more just and fair world, where the humanitarian aspect of conflict or natural disasters is seen to in the shortest of times, and most efficiently in the best possible manner.

Finally, we will also continue working on providing women around the world with a voice, valorising their work and the invaluable contribution they provide on both the local and the global scale.

On a regional scale, we look forward to continue working with France to further our Mediterranean agenda.

It is up to us to ensure that the Mediterranean countries continue to be part of the agenda and be given their due importance in all relevant international fora. This is one of the ways through which we can ensure peace and prosperity in our region.

We strongly believe we should give young people a voice and bring them together to understand how much we share in common. Malta and France already did this during the Sommet des Deux Rives in Marseille in 2019.

Even earlier than this, in my previous capacity as Foreign Minister, I had the pleasure of hosting the third Anna Lindh Foundation Mediterranean Forum in October 2016. It was encouraging to see how over six hundred young people from across the Mediterranean region came together to talk about and implement peace in their daily lives. This was a unique experience that taught us all great lessons in dialogue, mutual understanding, and tolerance.

These were but two examples of the potential that our region can boast of, which could be exploited to the full.

I am certain that through the Union for the Mediterranean, the 5+5 Western Mediterranean Dialogue, the Anna Lindh Foundation, and the EU Med Group (Med 9), we can bring more understanding in our richly diverse region and together provide sustainable ways forward for issues such as peace and stability in Libya, the trafficking of arms and people via the Mediterranean, and other issues of a global nature.

Distinguished Guests,

Relations between our two countries, and our contributions to peace, security, and stability in the Mediterranean constitute an important unifying objective of our foreign policies.

Our duty is to deepen cooperation, expand the spectrum of our bilateral interests and build on our past successes.

May Malta-France relations move forward, from strength to strength, always reaching higher levels.

Excellencies,

Distinguished Guests,

I now invite you all to raise your glasses and toast in celebration of the National Day of the French Republic, to the health of the President, His Excellency Emmanuel Macron, and to the long-lasting friendship between our two peoples. Thank you for listening.

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