Long before our countries became independent, the Italians and the Maltese were sharing a Jcommon history and common values. As I arrive in Malta today, many indeed are the reasons that come to mind for celebrating our long-lasting friendly relations.
But what I feel above all is a sense of responsibility. There is a lot more we can do together, given the many challenges that lie before us. And there is room to do It better.
Italy and Malta have both the chance and the responsibility to build a model of a bilateral and mature cooperation for the Mediterranean and beyond. This is the purpose of my visit.
Today’s meetings are another step forward on a path we started in Rome in March, during the state visit of President George Abele, who was accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Tonio Borg.
They were welcomed by President Giorgio Napolitano, Prime Minister Mario Monti and myself.
On that occasion, both sides emphasised the need to face all issues of interest and relevance to us, setting nothing aside, in a spirit of mutual trust and respect and as part of a long-term approach.
We then extended our discussions during a Maltese delegation’s visit to Rome In June led by Dr Borg.
I believe we are now ready to formalise part of the results already achieved by signing a memorandum, which will give way to a structured and comprehensive dialogue.
Our discussions will be focused on bilateral issues, namely those resulting from the absence of agreed boundaries between us, such as rescue at sea or the continental slope. We have no solutions yet. Those that were put on the table up to now have led us nowhere.
However, both sides are ready to understand, listen and together explore ways forward, wanting to avoid the speculation that blurs the special relationship that binds us.
We will also tackle pressing issues for Malta, such as the need to accelerate the interconnector project that will bring electricity to Malta from Sicily, and to avoid, or, at least limit, airwave interferences.
Equal attention will be paid to our economic and social relations in an attempt to foster cooperation between many outstanding companies in both countries, especially SME5.
We have to strive possibly even harder, within a broader perspective and keeping our regional role in mind, particularly in the current North African and Middle Eastern phase, where we need to also strengthen the Mediterranean dimension of European external action. This was the spirit of the visit that Dr Borg and I, along with other colleagues, recently paid to Cairo.
At the same time, the European Union itself needs the support of all its members. The current economic and financial threat should not divert us from the European path. Quite the contrary.
It would be naive to think that, if everyone went their way, we could shelter ourselves from the crisis.
The European identity should be further consolidated, strengthening its democratic institutions while respecting the features of each one of its members, which constitute the uniqueness and value of our Union.
Not by chance, my visit to Malta occurs on the eve of two important events: the UN General Assembly at the end of the month and the 5+ 5 summit, which Malta will host at the end of October. In both cases, our collaboration is instrumental. To mention but two instances: our common determination in favour of religious minorities and tolerance, an issue that will be looked at closely in New York in an event advocating reflection and action open to all civil society; and our efforts in assuring, since the ministerial preparatory meeting that took place in Rome last February, that the timely Maltese Initiative of calling and hosting the 5+ 5 summit will be a success, relaunching, at the heads of state and government level, an important collaboration for the Mediterranean midwest.