PRESS RELEASE BY THE OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER: Address by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on the occasion of New Year greetings to the Diplomatic Corps

Reference Number: PR180049, Press Release Issue Date: Jan 11, 2018
 
Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to welcome you for the commencement of this first new year of this government’s second legislature. 

As customary, but also out of a great sense of appreciation and friendship, I take this opportunity to thank you for your honest dialogue during what has been a challenging year for Malta. Our reputation as a beacon of economic hope, peace, prosperity and stability remains steadfast, yet there have been some that, out of envy for our achievements, have endeavoured to besmirch that good name. During this trying time, you have been steadfast friends to our country, ensuring that our nation maintains deeper and more open engagement with your respective countries. 

2018 will be a challenging, yet exciting year, both for Malta and internationally. Malta will once again take European and global centre stage by hosting the European Capital city for culture. Valletta will become a hub of activity and creativity exposing not only European talents and culture but also showing in all its glory Malta’s vast history, culture, and an emerging contemporary creative voice. Through these festivities, we will not only celebrate our arts, but also our values of progress, solidarity, and positive societal change. 

The journey we will experience and enjoy together over the coming year will reflect the journey of a nation and its people that despite our size have matured into a strong democracy confident in the role we can play not only in the European project and the challenges it faces, but also on a global stage.   

Excellencies, 

There is much to ponder and learn from the past year. 

Malta has shown that it can proudly play a leading role in the further development of the European Union. As with all challenges we took it head on, confident that through well thought out planning, open dialogue and determination we could achieve lasting results. And this we did. From removing roaming mobile charges, to childhood obesity and migration amongst others, our Presidency saw the closure of many tough negotiations few had dared to believe us capable of, all for the benefit of European citizens. We did all this whilst at the same time steering through the biggest spectre haunting Europe ever since its inception - Brexit, and the rise of anti-European populist movements. 

Towards the end of the Presidency, I determined that time was ripe for my government to seek re-confirmation of its agenda by submitting ourselves to the will of the electorate. I made this determination, as I could no longer allow those that wanted to scupper our progress succeed and turn back the clock on the myriad of achievements we obtained in our first four years. Ultimately, our agenda and progress is only as strong as the will of our people and it was in their hands that the faith of that progress lied. The vision and impetus that drove this Cabinet since the first day it entered office was resoundingly reconfirmed by the Maltese, and we assure you that we shall remain steadfast and ever most loyal to the confidence that our people have bestowed upon us. 

Malta’s economy has continued to generate new records, from lowest unemployment in our nation’s history, to record growth and unprecedented surpluses, our steady approach to economic stewardship continues to deliver. We manage this by realising one simple truth - that nothing delivers better than belief and investment in our people and ourselves. The wealth we have generated has been re-invested in our people ensuring that it reaches those that need it the most, in this way empowering all to become active and productive members of our society, for all have an important role to play in the progress of our country. Ultimately, prosperity always has to have a purpose, and there is no higher purpose then ensuring that all, big or small, can have a belief in a brighter and better future. It is this vision and belief that is turning Malta in an economic model, others want to follow. 

But economic prosperity is not all. People’s lives will only improve if we all realise that prejudices, dicta, and conventions, should never be an excuse to hold people back from achieving their dreams for themselves and their loved ones. It was a great moment of immense pride for me to see the celebrations of those that for years, despite their love for each other were not allowed to express it and celebrated like the rest of us, were now able to do so after we passed the Marriage Equality Bill. The great social changes may come at political cost to us, but it is in this reform agenda that we will ensure that Malta truly becomes a country where all can celebrate its diversity. This reform agenda will remain high in priority in the years to come. 

Excellencies,

In 2018, this Government shall ensure that our economy remains strong. We will ensure that new opportunities are open not only to our people, but also for other nations to work with us to create mutual benefit and growth. This year I have tasked our Foreign Minister with an ambitious programme of elevating trade to the highest level of his portfolio. Together with you, we want to ensure that we explore all possible routes for new agreements and partnerships, especially in the fields of innovation and new technological advancements. I am a firm believer that Diplomats have a central role not just in representing the country but also in promoting the country they represent and act as interlocutors for businesses and trade promotion.

Malta has come a long way, and it is our firm belief that the time is ripe for us to take our place on the global stage as a vibrant democracy, which attracts talents and investment from all over the globe. Where ideas have no borders and new opportunities can be tirelessly pursued. We understand that our continuing success may be faced with resistance, but we will not shy from defending our interests whilst ever remaining open partners to dialogue and shared prosperity. 

Excellencies,

2018 will also provide us with opportunities and great challenges internationally. The global economy is finally showing signs of growth and resilience. This upturn in our collective fortunes will allow for better dialogue and opportunities for peace and stability. The European economy is also showing great signs of recovery, which should help, assure that the European project, the most lasting project for global peace and stability, remains strong and vibrant. 

However, as my predecessors and I have said before, there can be no true global peace without peace in the Mediterranean. And there can be no peace in the Mediterranean without stability in the region and a resolution to the Middle East conflict. 

The recent developments in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict worry us deeply. Whilst we believe and whole-heartedly support Israel’s right to existence and protection, we remain believers in a two state peace settlement. 

It saddens me deeply that just a few kilometres south of our borders, the old and grave ill that is human slavery has once again reared its head. The eradication of slavery and human degradation has been hard fought and it is entirely unacceptable that we remain silent when faced with such dramatic turn of events. Whilst we acknowledge that we have made some important strides in curbing immigration that was costing the lives of many in their perilous journey across our seas, human slavery and trafficking remain rampant. Such realities should remind us all of our shared responsibility and duty that the promise of a better future belongs to all across this earth we inhabit together. These are global ills, which require global efforts. 

Libya is a key ally in the fight against trafficking and slavery. Unfortunately, instability does not help the good intentions of our counterparts in Libya. That is why I believe that the international community must support efforts for free and fair elections as early as practically possible to deliver strong and stable governance in a nation that is very close to Malta, with a strong people to people relations that are deeper than just diplomatic or political ties.

Excellencies, 

Malta prepares for the years ahead fully confident that our progress at home will allow us to become more active international partners. To achieve this, we will once again call upon your friendship and good offices, relying on your Excellencies’ cooperation in keeping open channels. 

From my part, I will assure you that Malta will continue to fulfil its historic role and a constructive and honest contributor to economic and social progress, peace and shared prosperity. 

Thank you.