President of Malta Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca received the President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella at the Grandmaster’s Palace in Valletta at the beginning of President Mattarella’s state visit in Malta.
Addressing a joint press conference, President Coleiro Preca said that although President Mattarella and herself have met quite often, “it is always a great pleasure to have the opportunity to reaffirm our country’s mutual respect and share our thoughts and discuss current issues and relations between our two countries.”
President Coleiro Preca said that Malta and Italy’s geographical proximity has always made both countries special neighbours with the development of excellent relations over time, adding that such excellent relations continue to this today. Both governments and authorities are continuously working, practically side by side, on various important collaborations which “continue to strengthen the bond.”
Malta and Italy’s bilateral relations go a long way back in history. The five consecutive Financial Protocols between 1979 to 2002, financed by Italy, the positive cooperation at government level as well as collaboration between private entities and non-governmental entities from Malta and Italy as a result of joint projects under EU Funding Programmes, bear testimony to these long-standing bilateral relations.
“Another important step in our bilateral connection”, President Coleiro Preca said, “is definitely the successful completion of the Malta-Sicily interconnector.” The President also said that Malta looks forwards to the same level of cooperation between both countries for the development of a natural gas pipeline. Here, the President commended Italy for being a promoter of alternative energy in the Euro-Mediterranean Region, through projects such as ‘elmed’ and ‘Tunur’, and commended the Maltese Government for supporting these projects.
The President said that Malta will continue to look forward to further cooperation and collaboration with Italy, and mentioned the potential signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Sicily, which will encompass a number of important areas, such as healthcare, trade, education, and culture.
On trade, President Coleiro Preca said that Italy remains Malta’s biggest trading partner, and it ranks first in imports, and fifth in exports, with bilateral trade exceeding a billion Euro year after year. Moreover, there are approximately 3,320 firms working in Malta with Italian shareholding, a fact which “is also evidence of our close collaboration.”
On tourism, the President said that Italy retains its place as the second largest for inbound visitors to Malta, and it similarly remains one of the main sought-after tourist destinations for Maltese tourists.
President Coleiro Preca said that Malta and Italy have also enjoyed, and still enjoy, strong socio-cultural relations over a span of fifty years, through a number of cultural events, educational exchanges, and over 60 town twinnings beween Maltese and Italian towns and villages. The President said that Malta eagerly awaits the appointment of the new director of the Italian Cultural Institute.
Lastly, The President said that Malta stands in full solidarity with Italy to help deal with the current migratory pressure from the central Mediterranean route, and said that Malta believes that relocation remains a key measure in order to alleviate the pressure on frontline EU member states such as Italy by sharing the responsibility in dealing with applicants clearly in need of international protection.
Original article found on The Malta Independent