29 JANUARY 2003
Matthew Vella from Strasbourg
Greeted by Parliamentary President Peter Schneider as "a presence signifying Maltas excellent relationship with the Council of Europe", Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami took to the podium to advance the need of the Councils dynamic forum for EU and non-EU countries to seek better understanding with each other.
Defining the islands case for EU membership as being inspired by "deep-rooted historical and economic factors", Dr Fenech Adami described membership as a "natural continuation, not a radical shift" from Maltas ongoing relationship with the EU:
"Indeed, it will enhance our commitment to those ideals, such as human rights, democracy and rule of law, that we have consistently sought to strengthen and uphold, and that have long inspired our participation in this Council."
In the light of Maltas bid for EU membership, the Prime Minister assured members present that this would in no way carry any abdication from its commitment to the Council of Europe:
"We intend to continue our contribution to the political construction of what has now come to be known as Greater Europe, the Europe of 44 states, as distinct from the Europe of the 15 Member States, who may well increase to 25 next year."
It was the Prime Ministers emphasis for stronger cross-cultural dialogue that formed the core of his address, stressing the need for better cooperation between the EU and the CoE to form a "peaceful and progressive system of world governance."
"Both the EU and the Council of Europe ultimately exist to promote a form of globalisation that is free from any threat to the different and evolving identity of any nation. It is therefore, one of our most immediate tasks to ensure that political dialogue between the council members who are also members of the Union, and those who are not, takes place, in our effort to make a coherent joint contribution to the genesis of universal human solidarity.
"The Council of Europe is the ideal if not the unique context within which such a strategy needs to be worked out."
Dr Fenech Adami also brought to the attention of the Assembly the fact that the Working Group on the External Relations of the Union had neglected any reference to culture at all in their recommendations submitted at the Convention.
Describing such omission as "paradoxical", Prime Minister Fenech Adami stressed the need to promote cross-cultural dialogue as one of the most urgent needs in the present world context:
"It is not only central to warding off war and terrorism, but also to the development of the poly-faceted knowledge society that has become the ideal of our leading economists cultural exchanges have soared to the top of our priority list, particularly since in todays economic reality, knowledge is widely recognised as a fundamental resource for sustaining growth."
Dr Fenech Adami emphasised the need for more collaboration between the Council and the European Union to promote multicultural and inter-religious dialogue.
Taking questions from the assembly, Dr Fenech Adami also said the CoE was instrumental in strengthening cooperation with states beyond European shores:
"Malta is geographically placed in an excellent position to bridge the two sides of the Mediterranean, and the work of the Council itself to strengthen cooperation with North African countries is leading in the right direction."
In reply to questions about how Maltas foreign policy would be promoting democracy and the rule of law in Libya, Dr Fenech Adami affirmed Maltas explicit avowal of such beliefs, not only in regard to Libya but also with other countries, not least due to its position as the southernmost tip of Europe. A good working relationship with Libya had been maintained over the years, Dr Fenech Adami said, and would be strengthened through the pursuit of objective and continued dialogue.
Dr Fenech Adami also appeared to make a strong case for having a wide perspective of European identity, despite its very Christian roots. Hinting at future talks between the EU and Turkey, Dr Fenech Adami said a narrow view of European identity should not be taken in the light of the Councils and the Unions continued respect of multiculturalism.