Your Excellency, President Levits,
Members of the media,
I wish to begin my Statement with a message of thanks to my colleague President Levits for hosting me on this Official Visit to Latvia. I am very pleased with this occasion to meet the President again for the second time in five months, since his participation at the Arraiolos Meeting in Malta. I reiterate my thanks to President Levits for the contributions he made to the discussions in Valletta, which greatly enriched our exchanges.
President Levits and I have just concluded a very fruitful meeting during which we discussed issues of bilateral and regional importance.
We went through the status of our bilateral ties and discussed the areas of greatest potential for their strengthening. Since the official establishment of diplomatic relations in 1992, great progress has been made on a number of fronts and one can say that our relations today are very firmly consolidated.
I note with satisfaction that the investment relationship between Maltese and Latvian companies and the very strong investments in Latvia have gone from strength to strength in recent years. This increase in Maltese investment in Latvia in sectors like real estate, retail, transhipment and other sectors is mainly attributed to a business-friendly environment, a very good gateway to Eastern Europe and a skilled workforce.
Over the coming months we should pursue efforts to further enhance business relations with Latvia, particularly towards increased cooperation in services, technology, manufacturing, the financial sector, renewables, to mention only a few. The same can be said of tourism, education, as well as culture.
I should also mention that Malta welcomes the sizeable Latvian community that there is in our country and thank them for the contribution that they give to the country’s economic growth and dynamic social fabric.
As may be expected, our discussion on European Security was dedicated mostly to Ukraine. I explained to President Levits how Malta is addressing the consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, both bilaterally as well as through EU-led initiatives. Our support should be holistic in nature, addressing the medical, health, and educational needs of Ukrainians both in Ukraine itself and in other countries that welcomed them, like Latvia and Malta.
I take this opportunity to salute the people of Ukraine and their President for the bravery they continue to demonstrate. Following Russia’s illegal invasion, they have been subject to all manner of humanitarian abuses, including the blocking of humanitarian aid, the targeting of civilians, and the destruction of civilian infrastructure.
Multilaterally, we must continue to preserve unity in important frameworks and use our place in these settings to clearly outline the humanitarian effects and atrocities being committed by the Russian authorities.
I want to take this opportunity to explain, shortly, how despite our neutrality being entrenched in our Constitution, Malta has been categorical in its defence of Ukraine. We have been neither silent, nor complacent and have backed up our vocal condemnations with hands-on expressions of support and assistance to the leadership and people of Ukraine.
Our policy of active neutrality, in fact, enables us to tangibly pursue peace and security in our region and in the rest of the world. We are convinced that this policy will continue to drive us to strive for dialogue and diplomacy rather than military confrontation and escalation. Neutrality does not hinder us from condemning breaches of international law and violations of the principles of the UN Charter as has been the case in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The President and I also discussed EU matters in some detail. The present strategic environment especially in the EU’s neighbourhood with the Russian war in Ukraine going on and continued instability in the southern neighbourhood makes the objective of a stronger and more united Common Foreign and Security Policy even more necessary.
As a small country, we strongly believe in the United Nations and also look forward to the implementation of the wishes of the people in the exercise on the Future of Europe which was carried out some time back in the EU.
During my meeting with President Levits, I briefed him about the worrying scenario in the Mediterranean.
Proactive policies and initiatives are needed to protect security, stability, and prosperity in this region, and we must work together to avoid the eruption of a crisis within a crisis.
We also spoke about Migration, which is a challenge for the EU and not just a matter for frontline States in the Mediterranean. A comprehensive approach at EU level is needed in order to face this challenge effectively.
With regard to the Western Balkans and their European perspective, Malta believes that peace and stability in this region is intrinsically tied to those in the Mediterranean and Europe, as a whole.
As far as global issues are concerned, my exchanges with President Levits also covered Malta’s present role as a non-Permanent Member of the UN Security Council.
Malta’s tenure is based on Sustainability, Security and Solidarity with four thematic priority areas covering Children and Armed Conflict; Climate and Oceans, with a focus on rising sea levels; Women, Peace and Security as well as Literacy.
In line with the priorities that we have established, on 14th February, it convened a UNSC Ministerial Open Debate on the implications of Sea Level Rise and the effect it could have on International Peace and Security.
On the one-year anniversary since the start of the war in Ukraine, Malta hosted a debate on the “Maintenance of International Peace and Security of Ukraine”, chaired by the Minister for Foreign and European Affairs. Malta was very pleased to have His Excellency Foreign Minister Rinkevics participating at this event, on behalf of the Baltic countries.
In conclusion, I wish to once again thank President Levits for his hospitality and for our frank discussions. I now look forward to meeting with the Speaker of Parliament, the Prime Minister, and the Foreign Minister over the coming two days.