Your Excellencies, Mr Speaker, Onorevole Professore Amato, Honourable Minister and Members of Parliament, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
I would like to welcome you here today to this wonderful venue. Following previous successful cooperation between the European Public Law Organisation (EPLO) and the Maltese Parliament, it is indeed an honour for me to be here with you for the opening session of the 2nd EPLO-Malta meeting, which will today be focusing on Europe’s new economic governance.
The holding of this Second Malta Conference of the European Public law Organization is indeed a welcome event. It comes at the right moment in time…if right is the proper word at all.
And may I add you have chosen the right venue as well. Let me start with the venue.
Malta` s history is indeed chequered composed of layers of cultures neatly following one after the other. Our own language is a reflection of this ``mescolage`` of cultures and influences. A basically semitic language, based on Arabic but written with European characters and then heavily influenced by Italian and Sicilian dialect. It is a really North-South fusion of a language. The same applies to our legal system Some aspects of public law are indeed British-oriented and Malta can safely state that most of its public law at least as regards constitutional and administrative law is indeed common law. But our private law system is entirely continental based in Roam law with the influences of the Code Napoleon. Criminal law is indeed the perfect example of this cross-fertilization of cultural influences. Our substantive criminal law is based on the old Italian Criminal Code; our procedural law is conveniently culled from English common law, including the rules of evidence and the trial by jury system. The best of both worlds.
Malta` European roots, its geographical proximity to the Continent, its links in its colonial history with several European powers have moulded Malta into a European State, firmly anchored in European values and traditions, but with a strong Mediterranean vocation. Suffice it to say that we have been present at creation in the several Mediterranean fora which have evolved over the past three decades. For if Malta were to ignore or abandon its Mediterranean component and flavour in its foreign policy, its relevance would shrink, and its position in the European Union would be weakened. We have brought to the European Union a stronger Mediterranean slant, thanks also to the accession of Cyprus. Malta for instance hosted the EU-LAS first Ministerial meeting in February 2008, it launched and inaugurated the EC-LAS Liaison Office in Malta in 2009, and is lobbying for a second ministerial meeting of the kind which could ultimately lead to a first ever summit of heads of government of the EU and LAS.
This Mediterranean vocation has become even more relevant today.
The events of the so-called Arab Spring require more not less engagement with the Arab world at a moment in time when democracy is rising on the horizon. EPLO can find a role as a Public law Organization to assist in one form or the other the setting up of democratic systems without any patronizing attitude, in North Africa.
Over the last year we have witnessed what a number of analysts have called an ‘annus horribilis’ for the EU and the rest of the world. We are still living through tough times and we will still face greater, tougher challenges ahead.
The ongoing Euro zone crisis and the fate of debt-laden countries remain issues of great concern for Europeans and indeed for the world as a whole. Europe must reverse the economic slowdown and regain its competitiveness. Europe must regain its own confidence and that of others in its economic and financial markets. We hope we rapidly resolve this situation for the benefit of all. We have applied serious stress tests to our banks but we also need to ensure that our institutions can also take the stress. Reflecting upon our traditionally strong public law systems might allow us to do politics in a new way that ensures a long-term solution for our woes.
At this time of great global challenges, Europe is in search of better governance. This crisis has shown that the EU’s handling of its economy was lacking. We have had to address this issue in earnest. We have already expended much effort to arrive at commonly held solutions. We will have to do more.
Just in case we need reminding, and I don’t think that we do, it is now more important than ever for us to develop a positive vision of the EU's future. Our blueprint for the New Economic Governance of Europe will be crucial to that vision. I hope that your work here today may be useful in advancing this cause.
The European financial crisis is causing havoc socially and politically. A tendency towards political fragmentation in the electoral landscapes of some European countries is emerging as well. The economic governance treaties are on their way to ratification. But it would be disastrous if we were to rely only on fiscal discipline and ignore the social dimension.
Countries which abide by the rules, and those which do not can never be treated the same. Fiscal discipline requires also fiscal penalties, the so called conditionality which, for some unknown reason is linked only to the structural and cohesion funds and does not cut across the board.
But less expenditure should be no excuse to whittle down reasonable social services. Otherwise the crisis and our reaction to it will give the impression that the wealthy will go scot free and the general population, mostly depending on fixed income will bear the heavier burden.
Democratic principles, the rule of law and an effective public law are the basis of a stable and well functioning State. Europe has a great heritage in this regard, a heritage that it must actively seek to preserve and a heritage that it can share with others.
I am very pleased to see that the European Public Law Organisation has been pursuing a number of projects with several of our neighbours and also with other key regions of importance for Malta. Through its participation in international organisations, Malta has always sought to support the promotion of democratic legitimacy of governments, respect for the rule of law, good governance and the protection of human rights.
Malta’s interests tally with the main aims of EPLO and this is why we are keen to work together as we are doing and also possibly to formally join such an initiative. I am therefore announcing that the Malta Government will seek admission in this Organization in the very near future.
Your Excellencies, Onorevole Professore Amato, Honourable MPs, Ladies and Gentlemen, hosting this conference in Malta for the 2nd time is proof that we strongly believe in the basic tenets of your Organisation. We are here today to convey together a strong message that there cannot be development and economic growth if the democratic foundations of our States are not promoted, strengthened and maintained. This applies as much within the European Union as it does with our neighbours to the South and to the East and elsewhere.