The President of Malta

Speech by His Excellency George Vella, President of the Republic of Malta at the reception celebrating the National Day of the Kingdom of Spain

Villa Macedonia, Balzan

13 October 2021

Your Excellency [Ambassador Consuelo Femenía]

Honourable Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries,

Presidents Emeriti,

[Excellencies],

Attorney General,

[Members of Parliament]

Distinguished Guests,

I am very grateful to you, Ambassador Femenia, for inviting me to celebrate with you the National Day of Spain.  This celebration is auspicious in more ways than one.

It is the first National Day in this traditional setting that I am addressing in person since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.  It is therefore the perfect opportunity to celebrate the easing of restrictive measures as well as the gradual return to social activities. 

It is fitting that we commemorate all those who lost their lives due to the virus, especially in Malta and in Spain.  We also need to be extremely thankful to all those frontlines and scientists, that have worked day and night for almost two years, to assist the ill and ensure that vaccines were developed to prevent further escalation in morbidity rates. 

On such an occasion one cannot but recall the significant role that Embassies, such as yours Ambassador, played in assisting people that were caught abroad, especially those that fell ill during their travels.  In these circumstances, it is always very comforting to know that you will be taken care of and given due assistance, as a result of close cooperation between the Embassy, the Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs, the Ministry for Home Affairs, National Security and Law Enforcement and the Ministry for Health.

On a less ominous note, in the National Day of Spain, we celebrate also the very tightly knit historical relations between our two countries.  Several cultural and linguistic traits can be traced back to Spanish origin.   

[My surname is an example of such instances.]

Architecturally, I cannot not mention the imposing building of Auberge de Castille, Leon et Portugal and the Auberge d’Aragon in Valletta, that housed various Spanish Knights in Malta. 

Before the coming of the Knights of St John, Malta was part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, under the Bourbons and it was Charles V who offered Malta to the Knights in 1530.

Our bilateral relations may be deep rooted in history but have also flourished into the friendly ties we enjoy in present times.  These are relations built on mutual respect and values.  Nearer to our times, such proximity has become stronger due to the fact that we face common challenges, but also common ideals and common opportunities.

We share a common neighbourhood that is rich in culture, yet is not bereft of conflict.  Malta and Spain have come together many a time on a regional level, especially since we became Members of the European Union, to work on policies that foster stability, security and peace in the Mediterranean.  26 years ago, in 1995, it was the Barcelona Process, with the 2nd Ministerial held in Malta in 1997, when I was Minister of Foreign Affairs.  Then there is the 5+5 Western Mediterranean Forum and the Union for the Mediterranean.  These two fora provide a space for discussion with our friends from the southern shores.  They also help us to identify and embark on viable and tangible projects in many technical areas, other than the political or the economical.  Many of these projects have been successfully set in place and are giving results.

The effects of migration and climate change as well as the various conflicts surrounding our region require more effort from our side and more determination to act as promoters of positive change where there are prospects for it.  As coastal countries around the Mediterranean, we do not have the luxury to wait for solutions.  We are the ones that need to provide them, notwithstanding the opposition that might come our way.

The European Union provides us with such possibilities.  Now that the discussions about the future of the EU are in full swing, we have the chance to be agents of change.  The same applies within the United Nations.  In this regard, Malta will be contesting the 2022 elections to sit on the UN Security Council non-permanent seat for the years 2023-2024.  In this regard, Malta counts on the support of Spain to bring forward the concerns of our neighbourhood as well as global issues in this prestigious format.

Excellency,

I truly endorse what you said about the need to emerge from the shadow of Covid-19.  We have to be more energised and more determined to face the world’s biggest challenge ever, that of climate change.  On a regional scale, the phenomenon of migration and the strengthening of  EU-Africa relations is key to  Mediterranean and European security, as well as stability and prosperity in our region.

I now want to spare a few words for the Spanish Nationals living in Malta.  I thank you on behalf of fellow Maltese, for the economic and societal contribution you are giving to our country.   Together with all of us, you are all making a difference in the ongoing development of the economy of the Maltese Islands.

In conclusion, Your Excellency, distinguished guests, I invite you to raise your glasses for a toast, to the health of the King of Spain, His Majesty King Felipe VI and to the excellent relations between our Peoples.

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