May I first of all, Prime Minister, warmly welcome you and your delegation to Lancaster House today. This is your first official visit as Prime Minister and we are absolutely delighted to have you with us. I am sorry that our lunch cannot be at [end p1] No 10 but we are still in the throes of redecorating and I did not want you all to have to pick your way through scaffolding and ladders. But we hope you will come back and see the results.Prime Minister, Your Excellencies, My Lords, Ladies and Gentleman.
Your visit takes place on a very important day—the day we remember the Battle of Britain in which a handful of [end p2] extraordinarily brave young men faced the might of the Germain airforce and prevailed, saving this island from invasion. And that leads us to remember, too, Malta’s own valiant fight and sacrifice in the Second World War in the cause of resisting tyranny, something which we in this country will never forget and which was of course recognised by the award to [end p3] Malta of the George Cross, the only country ever to receive it.
Prime Minister, since you took office a little over a year ago, you have started on a very important programme of reform and opening up of Malta’s economy. I am sure you will encounter difficulties: those who embark on major changes always do. [end p4] But I am equally sure that you will not be deflected. The problems always emerge well before the benefits. But provided you stick to what you know has to be done and explain your policies to the people, they will give you their support, because they too can see what is needed and are prepared to take on extra burdens now if they are convinced that it [end p5] will give them and their families a much better life in the future. Moreover, people can now see more clearly than ever that the policies which bring economic growth and success are those which encourage free enterprise and give incentives to do better.
So we wish you every success with your reforms. You have asked us for technical assistance [end p6] in some areas and, as I told you this morning, we shall do our best to help.
We have also noted and very much welcomed the priority you have given to rebuilding Malta’s relations with her traditional friends in Europe and the United States. Malta’s remarkable history and its involvement over the centuries with so many different civilisations—the [end p7] Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Romans, the Arabs, the Normans, the Italians, the British—does of course give you a very special position, a cross-roads between Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. There are also the broad contacts that come from your membership of the Commonwealth. All this gives you special insights into [end p8] the problems which affect us, and this is one of the invaluable contributions which Malta makes to world affairs.
But despite these many cross-currents, we still in our hearts think of Malta and the Maltese people as part of Europe, as part of that great cultural and political tradition which has given so much to the world—democracy, respect for the [end p9] individual, the concept of liberty under the law.
Your Association Agreement with the European Community is one expression of your links with Europe and we believe that there is still great potential for developing that Agreement and bringing Malta and the twelve member states of the Community still closer together. [end p10]
Another aspect is the very large number of personal links between our two peoples, to which is added the very substantial number of British tourists—over half a million this year—who go to enjoy Malta’s hospitality.
It was to reinforce these links and strengthen our traditional friendship that you and I this morning, Prime Minister, have put our [end p11] names to a joint press statement which sets out the ideals and goals which Britain and Malta have in common, and expresses our determination to work closely together to pursue them. I believe that this marks a new and very important stage in our relations.
It is not based on nostalgia: there is no need for that because we are secure in our [end p12] friendship. It looks to the future and the ways in which Britain and Malta can co-operate: against terrorism, in dealing with drug trafficking, in trade, in the Commonwealth and at the United Nations, all in ways which reflect the basic similarity of outlook between our two Governments.
Prime Minister, it is nearly twelve months [end p13] since we met at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Vancouver and I invited you to pay this visit. In that time, you have made great progress in reforming the economy and restoring Malta’s traditional friendships. We admired your refusal to be intimidated by opposition to the visit of HMS Ark Royal. We respect your commitment to genuine [end p14] democracy and to the best interests of Malta. We hope that you will take back from this visit confirmation of the very real affection in which Malta is held in Britain.
May I ask you all to rise and drink a toast to the Prime Minister of Malta and to the future success and prosperity of that [end p15] brave country and to the friendship between Britain and Malta.
Ritratti: Pinterest/ Stephen Deguara