The freedom which Malta achieved with the closure of the military bases 40 years ago was not an exercise in isolationism but a means to making the country equal with all other countries, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said on Thursday.

Speaking at the foot of the Freedom Monument in Vittoriosa in a commemoration organised by the Labour Party, Dr Muscat said promises made 40 years - that Freedom Day would lead to progress and economic wellbeing, were being realised.

Without specifically mentioning Brexit, Dr Muscat said that at a time when around Europe and the world many spoke of freedom in terms of leaving some bloc or group, Malta was celebrating freedom which actually gave it the right to be present around the table with other countries on equal terms.

Freedom was not about splendid isolation but a means to play an effective role in the world community.  

"Without freedom we could not set our course and be part of something which is larger. Those who try to use Freedom Day to whip up extreme nationalism never understood what (Prime Minister) Dom Mintoff sought to achieve," Dr Muscat said. 

"The freedom which Mintoff, Borg Olivier and Vassalli sought was the freedom to make Malta equal to other countries, not to isolate it."

Freedom Day was a point of arrival as well as a point of departure, setting Malta off on the road to progress in many spheres including social justice but also civil rights and equality. His regret, Dr Muscat said, was that some civil rights were not granted sooner.

Still, more needed to be done in the area of equality.

More needed to be done for women in Malta to be truly at par with men. All needed to have the same pay for the same work, and all should have the same work opportunities.

It was for this reason that the government had launched a courageous initiative to bring about a stronger representation of women in national decision-making. It was unacceptable that just 27 women had been elected to parliament since elections were first held. It was indeed a pity that such a reform was not carried out earlier. 

Concluding, Dr Muscat said Freedom Day - March 31, 1979 - was a milestone which was part of a series of other historical milestones including the granting of Independence and the declaration of the Republic and all these days should be a source of unity and pride for the people.

Following his address Dr Muscat lit the freedom torch at the top of the monument.