The Malta Independent 23 September 2018, Sunday

Retaining Guido De Marco’s Euro-Mediterranean vision

Malta Independent Sunday, 2 October 2011, 00:00 Last update: about 6 years ago

Last Friday, in Valletta, the much-improved AŻAD (Akkademja ghall-iŻvilupp tal-Ambjent Demokratiku) hosted an evening to honour the memory of Guido de Marco, who died last year.

Among the many photographs shown on screen both before and during the event, one stood out: the last time Guido appeared in public before his untimely death was on 16 July 2010 when AŻAD celebrated the 20th anniversary of the day that Dr de Marco submitted Malta’s application to join the EU to then president of the Council of Ministers of the EEC, Gianni de Michelis.

With hindsight, Guido’s face on that day, less than a month before he died, could be seen to have the mark of death on it.

The other photos showed us the Guido we all knew, from when he was beaten up during the Independence Day celebrations of 1975 to Tal-Barrani to his presidency of the General Assembly of the United Nations to his term as President. His hair was always unruly but his gaze always focused, and he beamed and smiled at all those he met – from children at a school to the world’s high and mighty, of which only few could be remembered after so many years.

After AŻAD president Simon Busuttil MEP opened the meeting, Professor Henry Frendo described Guido de Marco in a nutshell: a mercurial man, a child of his time, a man who changed and shaped history, a man capable of friendships that ranged from Dom Mintoff to Mabel Strickland, to the extent that the former once quipped that Guido was the only friend he had left.

David Casa MEP, who spoke in Italian, said that for Guido people were neither Nationalist nor Labourite, but simply Maltese. He was determined in the salvation of democracy in Malta and constantly sought dialogue rather than confrontation. To his followers he transmitted an incredible amount of energy, especially at election times, and he always insisted his followers respect people with whom they might not agree.

The star speaker of the evening was former Italian Foreign Minister Gianni de Michelis, who recounted how, on 16 July 1990, as the newly-appointed president of the Council of Ministers of the European Economic Community (EEC), he received from Guido de Marco, who had just been appointed as president of the UN General Assembly, Malta’s application to join the Community – later to become the EU. That was during the six-month Italian presidency of the EEC, which paved the way for the Maastricht treaty which, due to Margaret Thatcher’s opposition, had to be signed the following year but technically during the Italian presidency.

Mr de Michelis came to Malta twice in those years: in February 1991 for a CSCE (Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe) meeting and in July that same year for a Euro-Med conference. His visit last week was the first time he had returned to Malta since then.

Reminiscing about those times, Mr de Michelis said he had come in for some flak from the Maltese Socialists because he, a Socialist minister, had been too friendly with the Nationalist government. What united them together at that time was the common Euro-Med focus of both sides. Twenty years later, it was now clearer than ever that it had been the right way to take.

At the February 1991 meeting, Mr de Michelis had re-launched the idea of a CSCM (Commission on Security and Cooperation in the Mediterranean) focused on the Mediterranean as a counterpart to the CSCE, which was more focused on Central Europe. Although Italy and Spain, with Malta’s support, favoured the idea, the bid was not successful. At least, at the United Nations, Dr De Marco brought some focus to bear on the Palestinian problem.

Later on, their paths diverged – Guido de Marco remained in government and got Malta into the EU, and Mr de Michelis became an MEP where he met Maltese MEPs. The only time he met Dr de Marco was at a Euro-Med conference held in Rome.

Parliamentary Secretary Mario de Marco said his father had submitted Malta’s bid to become an EU member state on 16 July 1990, the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and it was on the same day, but in 2003, that as President of Malta he had signed the Accession Documents.

Italy had always been a steadfast friend to Malta, even when other countries were neutral and some downright negative when it came to Malta joining the EU.

From the many photos shown on screen, Dr Mario de Marco pointed out one in which his father was shown meeting then Italian minister Nino Andreatta. That meeting, he said, took place two days before an Italian general election but this Italian minister preferred to come to Malta than campaign in his own country.

He had come to sign the Italian Protocol, which provided further financial support to Malta, and he wanted to commit the incoming Italian administration, from whichever party it was to be, to helping Malta.

His father, Dr de Marco added, was a Europeanist but above all he was a man of the Mediterranean and firmly believed that Malta had a role to play. Writing in Liberation in 1992, Jacques Delors had said “there is a country one tends to forget about, but which is very important. That country is Malta”.

Dr de Marco said that Italy and Malta must not allow the EU focus to shift too much to the north, for that would result in less focus on the Mediterranean and less security – which could be dangerous in the future.

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