Minister for Foreign and European Affairs Evarist Bartolo expressed Malta’s strong support for the Union for the Mediterranean as it is the only regional structure that addresses the common challenges of the Mediterranean region. Minister Bartolo attended the sixth regional forum for the Mediterranean, organised by the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) in Barcelona. This forum brought together the 42 members of the UfM, 27 of which are the European Union Member States, while the other 15 are the members coming from the Balkans, Middle East and North Africa.
Minister Bartolo said that while we belong to a common geographical space, we also belong to distinct political and socio-economic spheres, and with this political fragmentation we are weaker to address common problems.
“We know what the problems are global warming, inequality, demographic imbalance, conflicts, immigration and the depletion of natural resources. We have many excellent reports with proposed solutions. We are weakest when it comes to regional political leadership and coordination.”
The minister said that we need to address the “climate crisis and COVID” issues in world politics. “We have too much division and polarisation. We need dialogue and cooperation. In addressing the ‘political virus’ of conflicts and disputes we need honest encounters, without masks and no social distancing. We need regional governance to address the Mediterranean challenges as a whole. The Union for the Mediterranean must be given the role to do this, not to compete with the European Union and the African Union but to complement and coordinate the implementation of policies that we need to address our common challenges”.
The Union for the Mediterranean covers six main areas linked to business and employment; education; social and civil affairs; energy and climate action; transport and urban development; water, the environment and blue economy (dealing with the sustainable use of the sea for tourism, commerce and fisheries). Malta also participates through one of its own diplomats, Ambassador John Paul Grech, who serves as the Deputy Secretary General of the UfM for Social and Civil Affairs, alongside Maltese public entities which participate in implementation of projects designed by the UfM.
During this meeting other foreign affairs ministers intervened and stressed the importance of recommendations being transformed into concrete action, which is already being carried out by the UfM but needs to be further strengthened for the benefit of the Mediterranean peoples. Minister Bartolo was accompanied by Permanent Secretary Christopher Cutajar during this meeting.