Committee of Ministers Chairmanship – Malta : November 2002 - May 2003 

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Speech by the Hon. Joseph Borg

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malta

7 November 2002

Madame Chair,
Mr. Secretary General,
Dear Colleagues,

In a few hours time I will be taking the floor again in order to launch the programme of priorities of the forthcoming Maltese chairmanship of the Council of Europe.

We look forward to guiding the organisation at this particular moment in time, and we know that any success we may be fortunate enough to achieve will depend on the support and assistance of all of you here present. Your commitment towards the promotion of the common goals that we share within this Council will therefore be as crucial as the role Malta will play. I hope and augur that we will be able to make as valuable a contribution as those before us.

In this vein, Madam Chair, allow me to salute the work that both you and your delegation have accomplished over recent months.

Madame Chair,

During the recent visit to Malta of the Secretary General, we had an interesting exchange of views on the new role of the Council of Europe as a forum for nations that belong to different regional organisations yet which share a complementary set of values.

We believe that, in view of the political changes within Europe in recent years, it is essential that the Council of Europe re-position itself and, in so doing, re-assert its value. Indeed it will be up to us to give new political direction to this process and to challenge any of the threats that our ever-changing times may pose. The Council of Europe has played an important role in ensuring that our people today live within democracies where freedom of expression, the rule of law and the right to seek redress are upheld unequivocally.

By joining the Council of Europe, Malta, did not merely embrace the principles of the organisation, it also granted its people the right to individual petition. Furthermore, in November 1998, we ratified Protocol Number 11 and in so doing, accepted the need for a stronger Court. A few months ago, we amended our laws to bring them fully in line with the European Convention of Human Rights, following certain judgements given by the Court.

Given the current state of affairs and wishing to see this invaluable institution become even more conscious of today’s concerns, I welcome and support the set of proposals designed to guarantee the long term effectiveness of the European Court of Human Rights. Indeed I augur that Malta will continue to contribute and actively participate in the discussions currently taking place within the appropriate Council of Europe working groups.

In the forthcoming six months, we also hope to assist and encourage the group working on reforms. I look forward to chairing the 112th session, during which it is hoped that a concrete set of proposals will be presented. We are indebted to all those, since the Irish Presidency, who have made their own contribution towards finalising this project.

Madam Chair,

At this juncture, I would like to reaffirm my Government’s unwavering commitment to the fight against terrorism. This is a fight which continues to be ever more vital, especially when one considers the huge impact of terrorist activities on the lives of ordinary and innocent people. We must put up a common front to fight this scourge whilst simultaneously finding ways and means of tackling its root causes.

In this context, I would like to compliment the Multi-Disciplinary Group on International Action against Terrorism, which has in a short time produced international guidelines that reflect the principles of the Council of Europe. In the same vein, we also welcome the new protocol amending the 1977 Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism. This will be given due consideration by the Maltese authorities with a view to bringing about the signature and eventual ratification of this protocol in the near future.

I am happy to note that the suppression of the financing of terrorism has been identified as one of the priority areas of the follow-up to the 110th Vilnius session. As the Chair of the MONEYVAL Committee, I wish to assure you that we will continue to encourage the invaluable work of the Council of Europe in the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism. Measures to ensure compliance with recognised international standards need to be further encouraged as the proceeds of crime continue to threaten the stability of financial institutions and, ultimately, democracy and the rule of law.

Madame Chair,

Malta’s active participation in the Euro Med process has taught us that continued dialogue is not only essential but also useful as a confidence-building measure. We welcome the efforts made by the North-South Centre in this field and embrace this new initiative of creating a partnership with our South Mediterranean friends.

Malta participates in a number of Mediterranean fora and actively pursues dialogue with its partners. In fact, in a few weeks time, approximately forty successful candidates, from various parts of the Mediterranean, will be conferred with a Master's Degree in Human Rights and Democratisation at Malta’s University. This one year multi-disciplinary programme, co-ordinated by the University on behalf of a partnership of Universities and Human Rights institutions from both sides of the Mediterranean, has already reaped significant results.

We believe that dialogue not only enhances the mutual respect of each other’s cultures, it also helps to highlight common problems between nations, which in many cases can best be solved through a common strategy and close co-operation. No matter the geographical location of a particular country, we all tend to face problems of a somewhat similar nature, such as illegal immigration, the displacement of people, the trafficking of drugs and terrorism. To overcome these and other obstacles that may be placed in our path, the close co-ordination of national policies is essential.

Madam Chair,

May I once again extend my warm thanks to you for all you have done over these last six months, and in the spirit of continuity, allow me to state that we warmly accept the legacy you will be bestowing on us and look forward to the challenges lying ahead in the coming six months.

Thank you.