The Malta Independent 5 December 2023, Tuesday
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TMID Editorial: Malta’s foreign policy

Monday, 25 September 2023, 10:51 Last update: about 3 months ago

Prime Minister Robert Abela’s address at the UN General Assembly gave an overview of Malta’s foreign policy, and highlighted the need for the world to come together.

He described Malta as being a place that builds bridges. “Throughout our history we have looked outward to the world. Conscious of our unique geographic position at the crossroads of Europe and Africa. Consciously stepping up into a unique role, building bridges, and building understanding between different traditions.” He said that earlier this month the country hosted private talks between the United States’ National Security Adviser and China’s Foreign Minister, giving this as one example. He said that Malta provided a safe space for vital discussions between the world’s two biggest powers, and indeed this is a good thing for the country.


Malta should strive to be a bridge builder, yes, but just providing a safe space for parties to meet is not enough.

It requires taking the lead on issues to bring people together. Malta has spoken of itself as a bridge between North Africa and Europe over the years, given its geographical location in the centre of the Mediterranean. And Malta can fulfil that role. It can work to bring countries together on issues. As a small nation, it is not easy to make sure our voice is heard. But this country has achieved this over the years. We have a voice in the EU, we have a temporary seat on the UN Security Council.

We are capable of doing it. But in order for other countries to look upon us with the utmost respect, then first we need to become a country others would want to emulate. Our image to the outside world is not just portrayed by what we say Malta is. In his speech, Abela said: “Malta will always be open to the world. Malta will never turn its back on its neighbours. Malta will continue to work relentessly with our partners in Europe and beyond, to stand up for peace and the rule of law.” Here the latter part (regarding the rule of law) is one such example of where what one says Malta does, and what has happened, are not one and the same.

First off, these are worthy ideals for a country to stand up for. But one must point out that, when it comes to the rule of law, this country has been seriously lacking in recent years. We’ve seen countless rule of law protests due to this. Foreign politicians know about the issues in Malta.

Where has the action against those in power who faced strong allegations of abuse of power, corruption and more, been? We’ve seen a few resignations, fine, some probably due to political pressure rather than it having just been the right thing to do, but what further action was taken?

Looking at the latest scandal, those who benefitted from the benefits fraud are rightfully being taken to court, but where are the arraignments of the big fish?

If we are going to preach about the rule of law, then we need to first look inwards, and the authorities need to ensure that past scandals are thoroughly investigated and that those found through those investigations to have taken illegal actions are brought to justice.  

Abela also addressed the situation in Libya, describing it as the most pressing issue in the Mediterranean.  The peace of our whole region depends on a lasting settlement there. Malta wishes to see a peaceful, stable, and prosperous Libya - through a Libyan-led political process. It is vital that the entire international community encourages this process and gives the Libyan people the support they need to overcome the instability - for which they have paid such a high price.

He is absolutely right. Libya needs to be given the support it needs in order to forge its future through a Libyan-led political process. It also needs more support to recover from the devastation of storm Daniel. As one of our closest neighbours, Malta should continue to do what it can to continue helping the nation recover.

One thing the Prime Minister could have spoken more about was irregular migration in the Mediterranean. This, also, is an issue that needs international solutions. Some argue that working with Libya is the way forward, but then there are concerns regarding the treatment of irregular migrants in Libya. As such, perhaps the way forward is to find ways to ensure Libya also improves the treatment of such people inside its borders. This is where Malta as a bridge builder can come in. When politicians say that Malta has no other choice than to work with Libya on migration, it is not enough since there are concerns as to the treatment of migrants there. We need to try and find solutions for the situation there to improve.

In his speech, Abela also spoke of neutrality. He made it clear that Malta’s neutrality does not hold it back from speaking out against wrongdoing. Being a bridge builder does not mean remaining silent. When it came to the war in Ukraine, the Prime Minister spelled out Malta’s position bluntly. “Malta’s neutrality does not mean that we are indifferent to what happens around us. We will never be neutral when we see pain and suffering caused by an illegal invasion. In this spirit of peace, we call on Russia to withdraw its forces from the sovereign territory of Ukraine. And we urge all the nations gathered here to unite to deliver an end to the war.

During his speech, he also spoke about climate change. Addressing this issue requires the world to come together, requires enemies to unite in a common goal. It is not easy, but it would be the only way to achieve real solutions.



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