Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to thank the organisers of this important conference for choosing Malta among the countries of focus for these proceedings. From our point of view this matches well with the session we are opening together now to discuss our region as an investment destination.
The Euro-Mediterranean idea is now approaching realisation. It has been long in coming. Malta has for years promoted the principle that the prosperity of Europe relies on the prosperity of the Mediterranean. We are now returning to the debates of forty years ago, acknowledging that there can be no prosperity without security and no security in Europe without security in the Mediterranean. This has to be foremost on our mind in our hope to see our region grow.
Malta considers the promotion of security and economic growth in our region as foremost in all of its economic and foreign policy considerations. Our ambition has been to focus on those economic sectors in which we can offer a competitive product, to invest heavily in the infrastructure and educational resources needed to succeed, and to place ourselves where we belong: an eurozone country with a tradition of affinity and trade with its North African neighbours.
In this time of changes in the economic parameters governed by globalisation we have seen factories and traditional manufacturing plants relocating away from us to our southern neighbours. For some time now, Maltese investors have also looked out of our shores to set up plants, facilities and tourism operations in our region understanding the new dynamics of global investment flows. But traffic has not been one way … by any means.
During 2007, TECOM Investments of Dubai, operators of the world renowned Dubai Internet and Media Cities launched in Malta their SmartCity concept. They have identified Malta as their European outpost to provide their Middle Eastern brand of excellence to European customers and service Europe from closer to home.
This has been a radical paradigm shift for us. For many years Malta was appreciated as a basis for North American and Far Eastern operations from which to provide goods and services to North Africa and the Middle East. For years we have backed up North African operations of multi-nationals with smaller servicing and feeder bases in Malta. This remains central to our FDI offer. It attracts names like HSBC, Microsoft Corporation, Lufthansa, Actavis, ST Microelectronics, Thomas Delarue and others to choose Malta as one of their homes.
But the major change we are presently undergoing right now is experiencing traffic in the opposite direction. The combination of geo-cultural centrality in the Mediterranean and eurozone membership now places us as a locus for activity in both directions: north-to-south and south-to-north.
It is hardly surprising then that Malta continuously renews its commitment to contribute to the construction and strengthening of the Euromed project. Europe’s Neighbourhood Policy understands that the expansion of the EU extends further then its new borders its program of solidarity, economic integration and extension of security. The inclusion of Malta and Cyprus in the EU is in and of itself a European commitment to this region.
Europe understands that if it is to compete on the world stage it needs to present itself to the world enriched by the qualities and assets of the countries of the Southern Mediterranean. When traditional manufacturing firms relocated out of Malta some went to North Africa and some went further afield. With the ones in North Africa, Malta acquired a new scope for economic growth, supporting their operations with specialisations it is competitive in: such as ICTs, hi-tech electronics, financial services and banking among others.
This idea has a regional scope. If we include in our package the skills, the resources and the assets of the Middle East and North Africa, Europe can offer the world a better, more attractive deal. This has been our experience and no doubt of others who will be speaking today.
But we must structure our efforts. I salute the political initiatives of France’s new administration that has signalled a refreshed dynamism in the program to concentrate minds on Mediterranean understanding and growth. I express special appreciation at important shifts in policy in Libya and increased stability in Algeria – both close partners with Malta for the several decades since our three countries became independent. We worked together and supported each other’s efforts for advancement and well-being of our people.
In saying this I must underline our weaknesses that we must address if we are to present a credible product to the world. Everyone at this conference will lament the open wound in the Middle East. The sadness is compounded by the freshly opened complications in wider areas of the region. Unless investment in this area is going to remain a mere political vehicle without any real dissemination to the tragic lot of entire populations, real progress in the security environment in this region must be achieved.
In the context of a Council for the Mediterranean – structured, regular, with the moral authority of consensus and the locus of concern shifted to the heart of the Mediterranean – the elusive prospect of a secure and prosperous region may at last become a more credible ambition.
In the meantime, even at this debate, we can work to achieve tangible results: and the one result that counts is jobs and a fulfilled life for the people of the Mediterranean.
DOI – 27.06.2007