Honorary Consuls’ biennial meeting Minister’s keynote address - Tuesday 28th 2019 at 1pm

Reference Number:  , Press Release Issue Date: May 30, 2019
 
 
Honorary Consuls, Ladies & Gentlemen, dear friends…

How time flies. Almost two years have already passed since,
just a few weeks after having been entrusted by the Prime
Minister with the Foreign Affairs portfolio – with the added
responsibility of Trade Promotion – I had my first meaningful
encounter with Malta’s outstanding team of Honorary Consuls.

On that occasion, I had recognised your sterling work. I told you
that there could never be enough words of gratitude from our
side for your invaluable contribution to trade promotion and
good relations between Malta and the respective countries
where you are based, and to serving as the first port of call a
Maltese citizen seeks refuge in, while facing a problem or crisis
abroad.

Since then, over the past months, I have had to privilege to
witness with my own eyes the work that you do, hinging upon
your good will and your love for, and genuine commitment to
our country. So, once again, on behalf of the people of Malta:
thank you.

So, it is with great pleasure that I welcome you to this biennial
meeting, which brings us all together, from all corners of the
world, to interact and share ideas. This is an opportunity to
refocus and recharge with an overview of what has been
achieved so far, what we are working on at present, and the
plans that we have committed to as milestones for the future.

The agenda for our meeting is, in itself, an indication of our
enthusiasm to make things happen, and to make them happen
in the best possible way, in the interest of all.

- It has been another busy year at the Ministry. I therefore take
this opportunity to acknowledge the outstanding work that is
being done by the staff at our Head Office and in our diplomatic
missions abroad, not only to ensure that the Ministry’s
strategic objectives are met while continuing to be developed
and enriched, but also to ensure that we provide nothing less
than a service of excellence.

There are several strands to our Ministry’s work, not only in the
realm of bilateral relations with other countries. Of particular
importance is Malta’s role on the regional level – as a
Mediterranean country and a Member State of the European
Union – as well as Malta’s engagement on the multilateral
level.

Considerable achievements have been registered on all fronts,
as evidenced by the signing of several agreements and
memoranda of understanding, high-level visits, and successful
elections within United Nations fora. We have also witnessed
continued engagement within the Commonwealth as well as
the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and, since last year, also in the
International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF), among
others.

Regardless of which line of work one is responsible for at the
Ministry, be it at Head Office or overseas, we are all connected.
We are all going all out to promote Malta, its values and ideals,
and its interests. In speaking about Malta’s values and ideals, I
would like to mention our commitment to the promotion of
human rights, climate change prevention, strategic export
control, and the ongoing engagement in the sphere of
migration, which has a direct impact on our country.

Our constant promotion and advocacy for peace and for
peaceful resolution to conflict through open communication
and effective diplomacy should also not go unmentioned.
In the realm of consular work, I am pleased to note that the
Ministry has embarked on an awareness campaign that will
bring the public ever closer to the Ministry by means of a
structured plan of action which will include education at
different levels, an increase in the use of technology, and
visibility through innovation.

In concrete terms, last year the Government launched a mobile
application, named Malta Travel Point, which serves as a
source of information for Maltese nationals who, for some
reason or other, find themselves in difficulty while abroad. The
application is an open-ended service which will continue to be
enhanced according to the needs of the time.

Another initiative taken has been an overhaul of our Travel
Advice, which now includes security and other useful
information about more than 200 countries. This is available on
both the Ministry’s website and the mobile application that I
have just referred to.

In line with our three-fold vision of striving towards higher
awareness for the public, we have also published a booklet
titled Intelligent Travel. This booklet consists of useful tips for
Maltese travellers to follow and carry with them while abroad.
This publication stemmed from the need to bolster education
in this regard, which regretfully is lacking at all levels of society.
More often than not, when people go abroad, they do not stop
and think about the what ifs that might happen, and it is thus
of utmost importance that the Ministry takes the lead in raising
awareness in this regard.

Another important mention is the Consul-on-the-Move
Programme, which has now entered its third consecutive year
and is proving to be very effective. Just to mention a few
details, the Programme is available in five major countries,
namely Australia, Canada, the United States, the United
Kingdom, and New Zealand. It has, since its start in July 2016,
assisted more than a thousand clients.

While still evolving, the prospects surrounding this Programme
are never-ending, and we are committed to exploiting them to
be of more service to our clients abroad.

The Programme serves to bring services usually offered at our
Missions abroad closer to the public at their place of residence,
but not only. It also serves a social dimension, as our Consuls’
physical contact with the Maltese living in far-away areas
prompt the latter to share their views and concerns directly.

Consular activity has a direct impact on people’s lives. For this
reason, we commit to short-, medium-, and long-term projects
which in part are already in the implementation stage. One
such example is the opening of the Consular Client Service
Office, aimed to concentrate on Consular-related issues. I am
pleased to say that the office is now functioning from new
premises in Zachary Street, Valletta.

We have also been working on the modernisation of the webbased
IT Legalisation system, for more transparency and
accountability in the process of registration, reporting, and
data processing. Last but not least, there is also the planned
setting up of a permanent Crisis Centre, which aims to
introduce a new and more task-oriented, professional structure
as we embark on continuous training of officials at the Ministry
and in our Missions abroad.

Last year, Malta transposed the EU Directive on Consular
Protection for Unrepresented European Citizens in Third
Countries. Parliament approved the transposition, which was
published in the Government Gazette in April last year. The
Directive lays down the coordination and cooperation
measures necessary to facilitate the exercise of the right of
citizens of the Union to enjoy, in the territory of a third country
where the Member State of which they are nationals is not
represented, the protection of the diplomatic and consular
authorities of any other Member State on the same conditions
as the nationals of that same Member State.

Dear friends, the role of Honorary Consul is pivotal. Apart from
your consular function, you play key roles in the basic
representation of our country, the promotion of commercial
and cultural ties, and the exchange of contacts. We need
anchors that ensure connectivity, trustful partners with whom
we can collaborate, people with a can-do attitude who reach
out to our people anywhere around the globe.

This brings me to the issue of the Maltese diaspora, which is
prevalent in all corners of the world, and with which I am
committed to engage further at all levels.

So far, we have concentrated on Maltese culture and language
as signposts of our identity. Further to this, we need to also add
the dexterity of Maltese entrepreneurship, which paved the
way for many fellow citizens to make a name for themselves
abroad. I am proud to say that in countries as big as Australia,
the US, and Canada, just to mention a few, Maltese nationals
managed to become true movers and catalysts of change in
their specialised area of activity. This did not happen by chance;
it is the result of hard work and a will to succeed.

I invite you to make the Maltese diaspora a priority in your
activities as Honorary Consuls, and to bring Maltese citizens
and persons of Maltese heritage together as a community to
share ideas, learn more about Malta and its commercial
opportunities, and entice them to smarter collaboration which
could develop into a win-win situation for all.

As I have mentioned at the very beginning, following the June
2017 general election, trade promotion has been a part of the
remit of this Ministry. In the almost two years since this remit
was added, the Ministry has succeeded in further promoting
Malta’s commercial interests abroad through a number of
trade missions.

In effect, I have just recently led a sizeable Trade Delegation to
Singapore. This follows other successful missions to countries
such as India and Ghana. These missions are organised by Trade
Malta, a public-private partnership between the Government
of Malta and the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and
Industry, which is dedicated to helping Malta-based businesses
go international.

- Even from a cultural perspective, as part of the closing
programme for the Valletta 2018 European Capital of Culture
events, last December the Ministry launched an artistic
installation celebrating the thriving Maltese communities in
Toronto, New York, Michigan, London, and Tunis, highlighting
how diasporas assist in the formation of more inclusive
societies resulting in a better future for all.

Speaking, once again, of the Maltese living abroad, the Council
for the Maltese Living Abroad, with its 15 members
representing the five continents and its annual meeting, is an
important driving force which needs to delve further into
innovative ways of engagement for the future. As a living
‘workshop’ where ideas are shared and developed, my
intention to reformulate the basis of its existence is the next
phase in its evolutionary lifeline.

Malta is developing into a crossroads that inspires optimism,
positivity, and a sense of beyondness from its limited territorial
confines: a ‘greater Malta’ which embraces the wider
dimension of the term is the point where we all want to arrive.
In all this, we cherish your support, assistance, and enthusiasm.
It is futile introducing new work practices, investing in state-ofthe
art IT equipment, and foray into new processes if we fail to
convince ourselves and others of the importance and
difference that all this will bring in people’s life. Hence, my
message at this juncture is to brace ourselves to work harder in
order to be able to convert challenges into pragmatic
opportunities, and ideas into models of cooperation.

Finally, I wish to thank you all for sharing this vision of a country
that is all set to meet future challenges. While keeping our feet
firmly on the ground, we hold tight to realistic aspirations that
can ensure that Malta can continue to maintain a relevant role
in regional and world affairs.

To name one such aspiration, I would like to mention Malta’s
candidature to a non-Permanent Seat of the United Nations
Security Council for the term 2023-2024, 40 years since it last
sat on this seat in 1983.

Work is already underway, and has been ongoing for some
time, to ensure Malta garners the necessary support for
election.

Dear Honorary Consuls, as you most certainly have observed,
within our limited resources we are making every effort to
better connect Malta to the rest of the world. We have opened
our first ever diplomatic mission in Sub-Saharan Africa – in the
Ghanaian capital, Accra. We have appointed a non-resident
ambassador to Ethiopia, who is also our ambassador to the
African Union. We have also set the ball rolling for the opening
of an embassy in Tokyo.

Having said this, the Honorary Consul remains for us an
extremely important and respected instrument of choice for
extending our diplomatic network. Your role in enhancing
Malta’s international image, presence, and relevance, while
promoting commercial and cultural ties, and assisting Maltese
nationals who may find themselves in distress is, indeed,
inestimable.

As the late American Foreign Service Officer, Smith Simpson,
wrote 35 years ago:

“Consular posts are in reality political, economic, and
cultural outposts, adding to a government’s observation,
listening, intelligence-gathering, crisis-alerting, trade
promotion, cultural, and public relations opportunities. They
are often in touch with whole regions of a country with which
the embassies in capitals are not.”

I am confident that, with your steadfast support, we can
continue forging our way ahead to achieve new heights. Thank
you.​