05 FEBRUARY 2003

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Malta, EU enlargement and the Euro-Med Partnership

This weekend Foreign Minister Joe Borg spoke at the EuroMeSCo Annual Conference themed ‘The Impact of EU Enlargement on the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership’. Following are extracts from Dr Borg’s speech, in which he stresses the importance of Malta seeking to bridge the gaps between a new, wider EU and its Mediterranean partners.

With the recent closure of negotiations between the European Union and the ten acceding countries at the Copenhagen Summit last December, EU enlargement looms closer on the horizon than ever before. This unprecedented deepening and widening of the Union, both to the East and South, will carry numerous implications, not least for the Mediterranean.
It is true that the Union is expanding, in the main, to the countries of the East. The re-integration of these eight countries is, if you like, a 'coming home'. They are all countries that, for reasons now buried in the past, were separated from their natural partners in Europe. Fortunately for them, their time to form an integral part of the European Union has now come.
The same can also be said of Malta and Cyprus. Although we are physically cut off from mainland Europe, our development has nevertheless been shaped by historical circumstances which are intrinsically linked to Europe and which today constitute our European identity. We too need to form part of the European Union. We too need our citizens to share in the benefits of integration.
This is not to diminish the very tangible and very real Mediterranean identity that we also hold. As nations located in the midst of the Mediterranean Sea, we clearly feel a strong calling to pursue our Mediterranean interests.
And so too will the newly acceding countries.
Despite the lack of a formal, geographical link with the Mediterranean for most of the eight eastern European acceding countries, membership of the Union will bring them closer to the Mediterranean. In much the same way, as it did for Finland, Austria and the UK, to name but three countries with no direct access to or link with the Mediterranean. More countries involved in the European Union means more countries involved in the Mediterranean. More of one equals more of the other.
It is therefore important that we seek to bridge the gaps between a wider Union and its Mediterranean partners. It is important that we seek to promote an understanding within the new members of the partnership that we have striven to build over the past few years.
It is to EuroMeSCo's credit that you have already sought to put this reality into practice. I note with great pleasure the participation of representatives from candidate states at your conference today. This is clearly consonant with your role as promoters of dialogue and co-operation across the Mediterranean area. It is also central to your role in promoting public debate as to the future shape of this Euro-Mediterranean partnership.
The inter-relationship that exists between Europe and the Mediterranean has long been chronicled. Malta has in fact been a proponent, since 1972, of the concept that held that the security of Europe was inextricably tied to security in the Mediterranean, and vice versa. The very proximity of the two regions and the consequent impact of transboundary phenomena such as migration, environmental degradation and international crime and terror – subjects of concern to us all - makes this interdependence all the more real. This reality merits our constant and vigilant observation and action, in order to ensure that the relationship between the Union and the Mediterranean is healthy, long-standing and ultimately benefits all those in the region.
In this respect, Malta finds itself well-poised to contribute to the Euro-Mediterranean partnership and to ultimately ensure the co-operation and co-ordination of policies of both the European Union and the Mediterranean partners. The historical, cultural and linguistic diversity to which we have been exposed, has contributed to making us a country that can understand and identify with our partners, both to the North and to the South. We have also watched tensions of varying intensities unfold in the Mediterranean over hundreds of years. And in so doing, have developed an acute understanding of their root causes and an appreciation of the challenges that our neighbours grapple with on a daily basis.
It is this that we hope to be able to offer to the Union, as members. It is this that we hope to be able to offer to our Mediterranean partners, as members.
Malta's foreign policy has therefore two major thrusts. One looks towards membership of the European Union as Malta's natural home. The other - which we believe is wholly complementary - seeks to promote peace, stability and greater regional co-operation within the Mediterranean.
We have committed ourselves to accede to the European Union in May 2004 for a variety of reasons. Primarily because Government believes that Malta’s membership within the European Union will be a concrete expression of Malta’s European vocation, and a reflection of its commitment to a set of values, laws and principles that we, as a people, support and cherish.
Accession to the European Union will be, and has in fact already proved to be, a highly effective tool for the furtherance of our country’s national development. It will serve to bring our practices and way of life in line with practices commonly in use on the continent at a time when no one is spared the impact of globalisation and transboundary effects.
Our negotiations with the Union have now been completed. This has been a process of three years that has seen a number of significant laws enacted, procedures streamlined, authorities and other entities established or strengthened and consultations with civil society effected. All of this we believe prepares us to take our rightful role on the international stage whilst simultaneously assisting Malta to fulfil its maximum developmental potential.
Looking at the bigger picture of what membership means, we also firmly believe that it is in the European Union’s interests that we form part of it.
We bring to the Union our rich heritage and eventful history and an intimate knowledge of a Mediterranean region whose stability is so vital for the Union's well being. We are certain that, as an active and well-trusted participant in all the Mediterranean fora, Malta will be able to make a substantial contribution to the European Union’s efforts to promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Mediterranean region.
We will pursue these objectives not only through our continued active participation at every level in all possible Mediterranean fora – where we hope and expect to see significant progress during this year - but through initiatives designed to enhance communication at all levels between citizens of the Mediterranean littoral.
One such initiative is the Wilton Park Conference to be held in Malta next month to discuss, in a similar manner to this conference, the Southern Dimension of EU enlargement and the future of Europe. Also, in the context of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Malta has been a driving force behind the creation of a Parliamentary Assembly for Mediterranean States within the IPU, where dialogue between Mediterranean countries can continue unabated.
Strengthening the Mediterranean dimension of our foreign policy also continues at a bilateral level where we enjoy a number of high-level contacts between Malta and our close neighbours.
The year 2003 will see the EU being presided over by two fellow Mediterranean states, Greece and Italy, a fitting demonstration of the truth of Malta’s argument that the two major, complementary thrusts of Maltese foreign policy – our European and Mediterranean policies – are not only compatible, but mutually reinforcing.
We look forward to added impetus being given to the Euro-Med Partnership during this year despite difficulties that prevail in this region and further afield. It is encouraging to note that EuroMeSCo has been instrumental in continuing with its work of promoting co-operation across the region, regardless of the difficult climate we are currently faced with. Yet equally so, it is commendable that you have chosen to embrace the wider issues we are faced with in your work. The tenuous situation in the Middle East and the question of how best to approach the Iraq issue, are clearly subject matters that have a direct bearing on the Mediterranean.
I have also noted the widening of your work programme for the current three-year period and have heard with interest, reports on the various topics being discussed therein. I augur that this work will continue with a view to shedding more light on the Euro-Med partnership as it is today and more importantly, how it may be enhanced to better serve the needs of tomorrow.
This Study Commission, together with the Information and Training Seminars for Euro-Med Diplomats held twice a year, are two outstanding examples of the partnership building measures that exist today. If we truly intend to give new and added impetus to the Barcelona Process, then we will need to develop more initiatives of this nature. Your contribution to the corpus of knowledge on the Mediterranean, as a result of your research, can only serve to ensure that partnership-building initiatives able to withstand the test of time are developed.
I would like to conclude by offering Malta's continued support for the work of EuroMeSCo. We fully support the network and look forward to Malta's ever more active participation in this gathering of like-minded individuals, whose aim is to promote the best interests of Europe and the Mediterranean.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
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