Foreign Affairs Minister Tonio Borg and his Italian counterpart, Giulio Terzi, have signed a memorandum of understanding on reinforced cooperation between the two countries as a means of paving the way for a more structured approach in bilateral meetings.
Dr Borg addressed a joint news conference with Dr Terzi at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Valletta, welcoming the positive outcome of the Italian minister’s official visit.
Malta and Italy enjoy a robust framework of agreements (more than 60 in all), the first of which was signed in 1965, soon after Malta gained independence from Britain, said Dr Borg, underlining the extensive progress made over the last two years in the field of health, with seven agreements having been finalised since last year. Such agreements promote the sharing of good practices and strengthen collaboration in a field that is a main pillar in the safeguard of the well being of our societies.
Dr Terzi’s visit, together with the Maltese minister’s two visits to Italy earlier this year, demonstrate the genuine interest in taking bilateral relations to a higher level, said Dr Borg, mentioning in particular migration, the fight against organised crime, the interconnector project, and oil exploration. The two sides agreed to further enhance their dialogue in these spheres and to intensify cooperation in European and international fora.
Dr Borg said he looks forward to the participation of the Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti in the upcoming 5+5 Heads of Government Summit to be held in Malta next month.
Under the memorandum of understanding, meetings will be held alternately, in both countries, at least once a year. They will delve into matters of political, economic and cultural cooperation, particularly those related to the Mediterranean, the EU and other multilateral affairs.
Dr Terzi said the memorandum of understanding will lead to a more specific schedule of commitments to work together in matters such as flow of information for search and rescue purposes.
Asked about the issue of oil exploration, the Italian minister said it is a matter that requires better understanding, particularly with respect to legal considerations and technical issues.
“We have already started to engage in studying, understanding and finding concrete ways of cooperation,” he said.
Dr Borg referred to the strong ties between the two countries built over the years and mentioned the five consecutive financial protocols that sustained Malta’s development in crucial fields such as education, health and infrastructure. Italy’s financial assistance in this regard amounted to more than €500 million.
The two ministers expressed their willingness to further pursue their engagement on issues of mutual concern in the Mediterranean region, particularly in light of developments in North Africa and the Middle East, and they expressed a sense of confidence that the forthcoming 5+5 meeting will be an important landmark in this regard.
Minister Terzi praised Malta’s initiative to host the summit on 5 and 6 October, saying that it comes at a particularly opportune period. During yesterday’s talks, Dr Borg and Dr Terzi discussed means of further collaboration in the field of culture and the arts. A number of agreements in this regard have been signed over the years. In February last year, Malta and Italy formally concluded the XIII Executive Programme for Cultural Cooperation; about 90 Maltese and Italian students benefit from scholarships every year, not to mention another 20 exchange visits by Maltese and Italian lecturers for research purposes.
Trade exchanges between the two countries rose sharply in 2011, up to €1.6 billion, and exports increased by 11% last year. Currently, 644 firms with Italian shareholding are registered with the Malta Financial and Services Authority.
Both ministers condemned the killing of the US ambassador to Libya, and Dr Terzi described it as a terrorist attack. He said he had no doubt that the tragic episode will not interfere with Libya’s democratic process. Dr Borg, on his part, said the case tarnished Libya’s image; the source of the assassination still had to be established, but the indication was that it was the work of extremists who intend de-stablising the country.
We have already started to engage in studying, understanding and finding concrete ways of cooperation in the area of oil exploration
€1.6 billion trade
11% increase in exports
644 firms with Italian shareholding registered