Your Excellency [Ambassador Tomasz Czyszek]
[Honourable Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries],
[Members of Parliament],
I am very pleased to be celebrating with you, both the restoration of Poland’s independence in 1918 and the 50th Anniversary of our bilateral relations. Allow me to start with the latter of these landmarks.
As you mentioned quite well, the relationship between Malta and Poland predates that of our official bilateral ties. One thing we have in common, is surely a rich history. Geography certainly helped here. But it is the characteristics and traditions of our peoples that really make us unique in many ways. Both are known for their great sense of hospitality, which coupled with a wealthy historical heritage, enrich further our two countries.
As for our bilateral ties, they have grown from strength to strength since 1971. The frequency of high-level exchanges has been maintained over time. We experienced the run-up to EU Membership together and we have now representations in our respective capitals. That goes a long way and helps in further consolidating our ties.
I am pleased to recall that I visited Poland twice in my capacity as President of the Republic. Once to commemorate the 80th Anniversary since the outbreak of World War II, and on another occasion to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp. These two events were a testament to Poland’s contribution to the history of Europe and beyond.
As a young medical student, I was already drawn to the history and culture of your country and I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to tour most of the country during 1964. I have continued to follow Poland’s development over the years, and even more so since our two countries both became members of the European Union.
On this note, I think it is very opportune that we give some thought to the ongoing discourse about the future of the European Union.
This is a family of countries Malta and Poland joined together in 2004 attracted mostly by the common values and democratic principles that this Union was based on. Common values do not mean uniformity in thought or policy. “Unity in diversity” was the motto from the very start. It does mean, however, that adversities and challenges are shared and faced together. No one country is to be left alone. The principle of solidarity is reflected in all EU policies, even though I have to say, that when we speak about migration, we still lack solidarity between the twenty-seven (27).
I am a firm believer in this principle.
Through it, with everyone’s contribution, the EU can truly make a difference in its citizen’s lives. The EU can be a leader in global affairs by setting examples on horizontal matters such as mitigation of climate change, and other environmental concerns, the promotion of multilateral approaches in economic matters, international crime and counter-terrorism, in the reduction of poverty, and in a more egalitarian distribution of wealth and resources. The Covid vaccine being a case in point.
Without wanting to sound too idealistic or even utopic, I still have hope, that ‘solidarity’ should be the key to future further reduction of conflict and disparities, around the globe, eventually even helping to reduce migration towards the European continent. We have to avoid falling in the trap of populism and come together, as a united Europe, to identify, ways forward that will eventually lead us to long-term sustainable solutions and global stability.
It is a fact that a global pandemic has shifted the focus to more immediate issues. Securing health equipment for our citizens, procuring enough vaccines for everyone including the necessary boosters consumed too much of our time. Over and above all this was the pressing need to ensure economic recovery and saving thousands of jobs.
Equally worrying remains the instability in our immediate neighbourhoods that ensued notwithstanding the pandemic. The constant tension in the Middle East, in particular the very worrying situations in Syria, Yemen and Ethiopia and its effect on the nearby countries are of direct interest to the European Union. Equally fundamental, especially to Malta, are the unfolding events in Libya and in the Sahel region. In parallel, we continued to experience similar situations in the East, with Ukraine and even more so in Belarus.
The Mediterranean and Eastern Europe provide us with many challenges, at the centre of which are human beings aspiring for better futures. It is the duty of the EU to secure its borders and see that this responsibility is carried fairly and equally. Yet it is also the EUs responsibility to secure political commitment and engage with these countries. The European Neighbourhood Policy provide a solid basis for us to engage in dialogue and promote our agenda of peace and stability. This can be done if all of us Member States are on board.
Importance should be directed to the Enlargement Process of the European Union. The Western Balkans are natural contenders. We share a common history with these countries. It is a region that strives to become part of the EU family. We should promote this aspiration and make it a reality.
During my recent State Visit to Croatia, I had ample opportunity to discuss EU Enlargement and the effects it has on this area of Europe. It is imperative that the EU keeps affording all the support that candidate and potential candidate countries require to pursue this path.
We understand the challenges that each country goes through to conform with the EU acquis, and therefore we need to recognise their resilience and efforts and assure them that they belong already within the European Union.
Now that the COP-26 discussions are ongoing, it is evident that we have a global emergency that no one country can afford to ignore anymore. We cannot continue being by standers when all of us are contributing to the change in climate: to make it worse, I am sorry to say. It is a situation that affects us all. Rising temperatures of atmosphere and oceans, the melting of arctic ice caps, the failed crops and desertification of previously temperate climates and the rise in sea waters have a direct effect in many peoples’ daily lives. Entire countries risked being wiped out or pushed to the brink of starvation. Our inaction is not tolerable, acceptable or justified in anyway, anymore.
Malta intends to keep giving its contributions, both within the European Union as well as at the United Nations. In this regard, Malta will be contesting the 2022 elections to occupy a UN Security Council non-permanent seat for the years 2023-2024. Malta counts on Poland’s support, to give Malta the opportunity to be in a position to bring to the attention of the world today, issues that keep countries free to democratically achieve and enjoy security, stability and prosperity.
I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the Embassy of Poland in Malta for organising this event, highlighting the spirit of friendship that characterises the relationship between our two countries. Before closing, I invite you all to toast to the National Day of Poland and to the friendship that binds the People of Malta and Poland on this 50th Anniversary.