The first meeting of the advisory Council for Maltese Living Abroad took place over two days on Tuesday and Wednesday 18th and 19th September at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Malta’s capital city, Valletta.
The day before commencement of the meeting, the members of the Council had the opportunity to meet with the Prime Minister, the Hon Dr Lawrence Gonzi, at the Auberge de Castille.
The first day started with a welcome speech by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Dr Tonio Borg, who is the ex-officio chairperson. He spoke about the role of the Council and other aspects relating to what is expected of the Councillors.
In his speech, Dr Borg said that during the last Convention, the Government had made it clear that the time had come to establish a mechanism, preferably set up by Law, that would be an official vehicle of communication and representation of Maltese living aboard. “Today this promise is being fulfilled. This comes after the approval by the House of Representatives late in 2011 of a Law on the Council of Maltese Living Abroad. Following a lengthy process of consultation the representatives if Maltese communities as well as five experts in the field of migration were nominated,” said Dr Borg.
Dr Borg said that the Maltese Diaspora is one dispersed in various corners of the world but notwithstanding the distances that might divide our communities and the different environment of each one, a precious line connects them all. He wanted these common factors to gain more strength by means of a Council that represents in the widest possible terms, the different communities of Maltese abroad. Amone these factors he mentioned the interest the communities nurture in their country of residence, their ties to Malta, the preservation of culture and language within our communities and integration in the country of adoption.
Dr Borg said that the Council is in a position to bring great benefits. “Allow me in this respect, to suggest that we come up with doable proposals rather than grandiose projects that could, in view of their intrinsic ambitious goals, die at inception. It goes without saying that there are small things that we can do; more scholarships and aide to Maltese language teachers and students, more knowledge on the history of migration in Malta, more recognition in Malta on the fact that the idea of migration has ended and more emphasis on the concept of a Maltese generation that lives both in Malta and abroad,” said Dr Borg.
Dr Borg said that urged the members of the Council to work together to ensure the success of the Council. “Definitely, we need to show the unity we have, so that the Maltese communities, in Sydney, Melbourne, Toronto or San Francisco, or in any other city or country were Maltese have established their home feel that this Council is theirs,” said Dr Borg.
Dr Borg said that Malta is small and its resources are also equally small. Yet together we can establish structures without all the pomp and circumstance that can promote Maltese Culture abroad; in particular in countries were we have embassies that can assist. “The agenda for these two days is long, and we will not discuss everything during this first meeting. I encourage all Maltese living abroad to understand that this is their Council; even those Maltese communities that due to the small number of members are not represented in the Council,” said Dr Borg.
With these words of encouragement, Dr Borg declared open the first meeting of the Council for Maltese living abroad.
Dr Borg then introduced the Hon Dr Mario de Marco, Minister for Tourism, Culture and the Environment (MTCE) who made a speech about the Maltese Cultural Institute and how this plays a crtical role in the implementation of the Goverment’s international cultural policy. More presentations followed, namely one by Mrs Marika Grech and Mr Caldon Mercieca (MTCE) as well as Mr John Buttigieg (MFA) relating to the proposed Maltese Cultural Institute. A more detailed report on this will be posted on this website in the near future.
In the afternoon there were presentations by the various delegates from the various regions, namely, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States as well as the European Union.
A special presentation about passports was presented by Mr Gaetano Vella, Director of Passports and Mrs Linda Zahra, Director of the Public Registry.
The first day concluded with a discussion about procedural matters, relating particularly to setting up mechanisms of teleconferencing, preparation of annual reports and other relating house-keeping issues.
At the close of the day session, members proceeded to the Emigrants Commission to be shown the Migration museum. This has now reached an advanced stage of preparation and there are already several facilities for the electronic viewing of many aspects of the migration history.
The following day, Wednesday 19th September, was taken up with a discussion of Article 3 of the Council for Maltese Living Abroad Act 2011, dealing with the various responsibilities of the Council under the Act. Prof Joe Pirotta acted as moderator for this session.
Over lunch, the group paid a visit to the President of Malta, HE Dr George Abela, who welcomed and chatted informally with the individual members.
The afternoon was taken with further presentations on issues of relevance to the Maltese community. Mr Joe Mizzi, a consultant at MFA spoke about legislation that concerns citizenship while Dr Vanni Xuereb, (Head of MEUSAC) spoke about the role of this organisation vis-à-vis Maltese living abroad.
The meeting came to an end with rapporteurs summarising the key topics and issues discussed at the 2-day meeting.
All meeting participants felt that the objectives set for the Council’s first meeting had been met. Several views about a whole range of issues were discussed, and several recommendations were made. The intention is for Council members to communicate electronically over the next twelve months to conduct Council business and develop further the details of these recommendations before its next face-to-face meeting to take in Malta a year from now.
CLICK HERE to download Dr Tonio Borg’s speech in English
CLICK HERE to download Dr Tonio Borg’s speech in Maltese