Where does Malta stand in a world moving towards multipolarity? This is one of the most pertinent questions our country will be facing shortly, as the world continues to move away from unipolarity, dominated by the US, to a multipolar world with various regional powers.

The last time the geopolitical world was characterised by multipolarity was before World War I. Multiple powers dominated Europe, all vying for the control of resources to further expand their fortunes and guarantee their future. Yet, with the first shots of World War I, the world was never the same again. Then, at the end of World War II, a bipolar world emerged dominated by the US and the Soviet Union.

In the current circumstances with the ongoing war in Ukraine, many academics posit a return to multipolarity in a world dominated by the US, China and other regional powers. While Ukraine has dealt a huge blow to Russia, the latter is still a power to be reckoned with. And, lest we forget, Russia’s nuclear deterrent is intact.  During the foreign affairs budget estimates debate, I called for a discussion on Malta’s position going forward. I believe that this debate is crucial. As a sovereign nation, we need to chart our future foreign policy by embracing the challenges and opportunities that await us in an emerging multipolar world. And to do this, we need to steer away from partisan politics.

With neutrality at its core, our foreign policy features the hallmarks of a bipolar world. Despite the movements in geopolitics and international relations, neutrality is still as valid as when enshrined in our constitution. The concept of neutrality cannot be discarded as it gives our country a chance to win over friends who appreciate Malta’s genuine quest for peace. This should be our starting point. That said, neutrality can never be our sole guarantee for security and we cannot afford the error of misconstruing neutrality as an insurance voucher for automatic security.

It is important to explore enhanced NATO cooperation across various fields, such as cyber security cooperation, to strengthen our security and mitigate our vulnerabilities. Other EU countries with similar neutrality clauses are engaged in such collaborative programmes with NATO. At the same time, this discussion must be framed within the context of EU membership. The world is constantly changing and the EU of 2004 was very different to what it is today.

The EU is often criticised for being unresponsive to crises and is regarded as a mere source of funds in some quarters. While this may be true at times, I find it strange politicians across the bloc emphasise the EU’s failures while conveniently omitting its heterogeneous character.

Our neutral position should not come at the cost of liberal values- Randolph De Battista

Ultimately, member states are responsible for taking decisions within the structures of the Council of the EU. As a country that has significantly benefitted from EU membership in many sectors, tangible and intangible, we cannot fall into this trap.

The EU is a normative force for democracy, peace, prosperity, civil rights, the rights of minorities and social justice, a beacon of hope for millions of people.

These values are Malta’s values and we should take pride in sharing the EU’s values as a country.

This leads to another important question. As we move to a multipolar world, how can we reconcile our EU membership obligations with our foreign policy?

Our neutrality does not hinder us from voicing concerns when peace is threatened in our region and beyond. Our neutrality, values and foreign policy place upon us greater responsibility to speak up when atrocities are committed, irrespective of the culprit. We must always speak up when we see a threat to the livelihood of children and families. This is what we stand for.

The Maltese government has taken the right course of action on the Russian invasion of Ukraine by condemning the Kremlin’s actions and providing humanitarian support to the Ukrainian people.

Asserting our neutral position should not come at the cost of the liberal values we have come to cherish. Moreover, our foreign policy should be dynamic to reflect the changing times we are experiencing. We should enhance our efforts to promote the principles we believe in.

As a member of the UN Security Council from January 2023, Malta will be able to contribute to international peace and security in a meaningful manner.

Despite our limited resources, we must continue to strengthen our collaboration within the EU, the UN and other multilateral fora, while exploring new avenues of further cooperation.

Randolph De Battista is an MP and PL CEO.

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