12 FEBRUARY 2003
Italian Ambassador to Malta Dott. Alvise Memmo contends that while co-operation between Malta and its immediate northern neighbour would in all probability continue along the same lines should Malta opt out of EU membership, the benefits and advantages accrued from membership would far outweigh those of todays relationship
How does Italy view Maltas entry into the EU?
Of course, with great favour. Since the very first time that Malta decided to apply for membership Italy has not lost the opportunity to support Maltas candidature in every sphere of the European Union and during every event in which a decision concerning Maltas candidature was discussed.
As it is well known, the ties between Italy and Malta are not recent, as they go back to well before the Order of St John was established here in the 16th century. The historical, geographical, cultural and economic bonds that unite our two countries are very strong and, needless to say, will be further enhanced by Maltas entry into the European Union.
Apart from the five Italo-Maltese Protocols of Financial Assistance that have been signed since 1980, one should not forget, as clear evidence of the peculiarly keen interest that Italy has in Malta, the collaboration between the Italian and the Maltese Armed Forces in the last 30 years with the establishment of the Italian Mission of Technical and Military Co-operation, composed of a large number of staff.
May I also recall the cultural affinities between our two countries, indeed very relevant also thanks to the most appreciated work of the Italian Cultural Institute.
Will Maltas decision on the EU accession have an impact on investment from Italy?
Yes, I think that Maltas entry into the European Union will certainly have a positive impact on investments from Italy. The Italian participation in the industrialisation of the Islands is quite important, thanks to direct investment by about 30 Italian companies, frequently in joint-ventures with Maltese firms.
Among the most important investments, I can mention the Franco-Italian company ST Microelectronics, which is Maltas main industry; SITIP, operating in Malta since 1964 and which has undergone a restructuring programme and invested over Eur7 million; Assitalia acquired a 20 per cent share in the Citadel Insurance Company in 1997.
An important role is also played by some Italian companies and public institutions, whose presence in Malta is mainly due to their involvement in the realisation of projects approved under the Financial Protocols. I can also mention the Italian company Nuovo Pignone, which is involved in the project at the Delimara power station.
How would investment from Italy fare in the future should Malta choose not to join the EU?
I could say that because of the links in the economical and commercial fields between the two countries I just mentioned, that investment from Italy would continue probably in line with todays trend.
At present, there are 50 companies registered in Malta with Italian shareholding. The most important ones are: AGIP, which has already conducted a feasibility study for oil drilling for the Maltese Government and has concluded positively together with Snam Progetti, negotiations regarding the gas pipeline between Libya and Sicily and Sicily-Malta; Telecom Italia works closely with Maltacom in the management of a submarine fibre-optic cable set up a few years ago by the Italian company Maristel; in December 2000 a contract was signed by Maltacom plc, Telecom Italia S.p.A. and Alcatel Italia S.p.A. for the delivery and installation of a radio digital system between Malta and Sicily. The new system connects the Maltese radio station at Naxxar to that of San Gregorio in Catania. Finally, Elsag Bailey (Finmeccanica) operates a centre of satellite communications with Maltanet. Maltanet, managed since 1997 by the joint company Elsacom Malta and by several small investors such as Simest, supplies international telephone services via satellite and ADSL.
How will Maltas relationship to Italy change with accession?
I can foresee that within the framework of the EU, Italy and Malta will have a very strong relationship. Both countries are deeply interested in a common policy for the whole Mediterranean area and, together with Cyprus, hopefully also a new member of the EU, will bring new life to the many projects regarding the economic and environmental development of our common sea.
This seems particularly true in this very moment, when our attention is focused on the follow-up of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, in the framework of the Barcelona Process.