19 FEBRUARY 2003

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Enlargement and Malta’s foreign policy

Foreign Minister Joe Borg speaks on EU enlargement and Malta’s foreign policy at the recent Wilton Park conference on ‘EU enlargement and the future of Europe: The southern dimension’.

I have been asked to address you on the implications of the impending EU enlargement in the context of Malta's foreign policy. It is an honour for me to discuss a subject of such great import as enlargement from a Maltese perspective - a perspective that I augur you will grow to understand better during the course of your stay on our islands.
For years now, indeed since Malta's independence in 1964, Malta has striven to play an active role, often far in excess of its size, in various international fora. We have participated in a number of institutions and made a number of significant contributions therein. However our participation has always been strongest in fora that were either European or Mediterranean in nature. As an island located at the southern flank of Europe and in the centre of the Mediterranean, it could not have been any other way.
Since the early 70s we have also been a proponent of the thesis which held that the security of Europe was inextricably tied to security in the Mediterranean, and vice versa. It is this belief that has guided our foreign policy both in the past and in the present.
Malta' two major foreign policy objectives are in fact:
• A far deeper engagement with Europe built on our accession to the European Union in the forthcoming enlargement on 1 May 2004, and
• The furtherance of the common interests of the Mediterranean region through the active promotion of policies aimed at fostering peace, stability and prosperity in the region.
This Government firmly believes that these two objectives are both compatible and mutually reinforcing.
EU enlargement is a project of unprecedented dimension and significance. It is a project that has been long in the making. On the one hand it confirms the removal, once and for all, of the divisions between neighbouring countries which have for decades been kept cruelly apart. And on the other hand, it is a major milestone in the process of European integration that is the best guarantee of our individual states’ future well-being.
In bringing the ten acceding countries from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean into the European fold, this next enlargement will create a space of over 500 million persons who share similar values, norms and practices. It creates new opportunities for investment and growth, new possibilities for enriching exchanges of people, capital and goods, and new opportunities for us to think and to work within a context of rich diversity.
For Malta, enlargement and our membership of this group of like-minded nations, is also a concrete expression of Malta’s identity and a reflection of our commitment to a set of values, laws and principles that we, as a people, support and uphold. In the pre-accession period our imminent membership has already served as a catalyst for change in many areas, and as a highly effective tool for the furtherance of our national development. It has served to bring our standards and administrative practices into line with those commonly in use on mainland Europe at a time of increasing globalisation.
Our negotiations with the Union have now been completed. This has been a three year long process that has seen a number of important laws enacted or amended, procedures streamlined, authorities and other entities established or strengthened, all in extensive consultation with civil society. It has led, and continues to lead, to the strengthening of the very fabric of our state.
However, I am sometimes asked, this is all very well for Malta, but what’s in it for the European Union? Why go to the considerable trouble and expense of exhaustive negotiations with such a small island, an island that will be represented in every institution of the Union, and whose language will become an official language of the Union?
One of the key elements that I always include in my answer to this question is our experience and knowledge of the Mediterranean.
Malta is fully committed to promoting stability in the Mediterranean at the bilateral, regional and international levels. We believe this can best be done through the creation of synergies between our two main foreign policy goals. We strongly feel that we can contribute towards a sense of shared prosperity and increased stability in the Mediterranean, both through our own individual efforts and by supporting those of the Union.
We bring to the Union an intimate knowledge of a region whose stability is clearly vital for Europe. We are also an active and well-trusted participant in all Mediterranean fora. By bringing the two together, we feel certain of the substantial contribution we will be able to make to further the European Union’s Mediterranean policy from inside the Union.
The Barcelona Process or Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, initiated in 1995, has many components which remain of essence in bringing stability and prosperity to the Mediterranean. The areas it looks at: political instability, poverty, insufficient inward investment, migratory flows and demographic imbalances are highly topical. They most certainly merit our fullest attention. And the Barcelona Process clearly remains the best forum we have to address these issues within a wide multilateral context and long-term perspective.
Through our involvement in the Union’s structures, we will continue to seek to revitalise a policy that has to a large extent been held hostage to external factors and events. To some extent there has also been a lack of a co-ordinated and concerted approach and all the problems have sadly been deepened by low levels of mutual understanding. The international climate, unfortunately, does not bode well for significant progress in creating and fostering mutual understanding at the present time. Nevertheless, it is all the more important to continue to build bridges to ensure that when a window of opportunity does present itself, we are well-prepared to exploit it.
Only recently, Commission President Romano Prodi called for intercultural dialogue as an important means for achieving greater awareness and wider recognition of both our distinguishing features and our commonalities. He also referred to the need for fresh incentives and greater flexibility if the EU is to provide encouragement for the internal reforms that are necessary for the Mediterranean countries to benefit fully from the proposed opening-up of economies and trade.
Malta most certainly has a role to play here. We are in fact already contributing to this intercultural exchange through, for example, our efforts to create a Parliamentary Assembly for Mediterranean States within the Inter-Parliamentary Union or indeed by the very hosting of conferences such as this.
The years ahead will require many more such initiatives.
It is appropriate that this year the EU is being presided over by two fellow European and Mediterranean states, Greece and Italy. I am confident that during the course of their tenure, added impetus will be given to the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. We need to strengthen this partnership, irrespective of - or if you prefer, because of - the difficulties that prevail in the Mediterranean and further afield. The international situation that is currently unfolding day by day with regard to Iraq is of great concern to us all. Allow me to add once again our voice to that of the rest of the international community in urgently calling on Iraq to immediately and fully comply with all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions. I will also take this opportunity to underline our belief that any action which is taken in this regard should be sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council.
There is a further dimension to enlargement and Malta’s foreign policy which I wish to highlight.
This relates to those current and future member states that do not have a border with the Mediterranean. Despite the lack of a geographical link with the region, these countries form, or will soon form, an integral part of a Union which pursues an active Mediterranean policy. By implication, therefore, these countries too have, or will have, an interest in the Mediterranean.
It is thus crucial that we seek to bridge the gaps between a wider Union and its Mediterranean partners. It is also important that we seek to promote an understanding, within the new members, of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership that we have striven to build over the past few years.
The challenges ahead are enormous. In Malta, we are acutely aware of this fact – both because our lack of natural resources renders us more dependent on the outside world, and because as a small nation, we have little ‘insulation’ from what goes on around us.
This is the reality that drives our foreign policy.
This is the reality that spurs us on in our efforts to strengthen, ever further, relations with those in our most immediate vicinity. This is the reality that drives us to seek enhanced co-operation, new opportunities for investment and growth, new possibilities for exchange and new understanding with our neighbours. Our accession to the Union, and the broader enlargement process, cannot but contribute positively to ensuring that we make the best of this reality.
We face the future with both confidence and resolve. The international tension that we are living with at the moment should not be allowed to cloud the significant progress we have made. Our continent – once cruelly divided – is committed as never before to a shared future, where the old zero-sum logic has disappeared in a Union of nation states where a win for one is commonly recognised as a win for all.
We augur that this spirit of deep co-operation is transmitted to, and becomes a reality for, the Mediterranean region too.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
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