Italy and Malta maintain a special relationship, distinguished by deep-rooted political, cultural and commercial ties, as well as shared historical experience and tradition. During my first year as Italian Ambassador to Malta, I did my utmost to strengthen even more existing connections and create new ones, in any possible relevant field of bilateral and multilateral cooperation.
After the challenging years of COVID, we are reviving the Italian presence in Malta, starting with events connected to the 76th-anniversary celebrations of the Italian Republic.
For example, this Sunday, at 8pm, the recording of an experimental musical event, ‘Ave Maris Stella. Polifonia di voci e sirene’ will take place at Valletta’s Grand Harbour.
The performance – which is free, directed by Maestro Marco Mencoboni and dedicated to our friendship – will be enacted from boats moored in the Grand Harbour. The event will be audible in the area along Floriana; in particular, the spaces of the King’s George Recreational Ground (located in front of the Embassy of Italy), at the left corner of the Upper Barrakka Gardens, at the Telgħa tal-Kurċifiss, at the Herbert Ganado Gardens and along the section facing the quay of Triq Girolamo Cassar.
The Italian and Maltese people have a truly unique relationship, started long before the two states were born. Italy has constantly supported Malta, providing strong political and economic backing. Even today Maltese friends often remind me of such support, implemented through five financial protocols that offered critical assistance and capacity building in a wide range of areas over more than 20 years (1980s to early 2000s).
Italy has been one of the staunchest supporters of Malta’s membership of the EU, on political terms and also in providing substantial help to facilitate the transition to European legislation and standards. Projects disseminated all over Malta bear witness to that collaboration: upgrading of road network, waste disposal and treatment, restoration of extraordinary Maltese cultural heritage, support to the search and rescue capabilities, addressing floods and exceptional meteorological events and much more.
Today, the relations with Malta could be defined, in my opinion, as a virtuous example at a bilateral, regional and European level. Such relations are strong at the highest institutional level and at people-to-people level.
I would like to recall, as a symbol of such a friendship, the numerous gestures of support by the Maltese authorities for Italian citizens in Malta. Among many, management and repatriation of Italian citizens during different COVID-19 pandemics waves. Further to this cooperation – notwithstanding the limits imposed by COVID-19 – during my first year as Ambassador of Italy we managed to significantly increase political, economic, cultural and people-to-people relations between Rome and Valletta.
At a political level, we promoted numerous missions of key Maltese ministers in Italy and we established some key instruments to proceed with dialogue on bilateral and multilateral topics, such as environment, maritime and energy matters.
As to cultural activities, we resumed the initiatives of the Istituto Italiano di Cultura, promoting – as an example – Maltese classical musical heritage through Italian performers, starting with Maltese composer Girolamo Abos. The choir of the Farnesina performed his brilliant Stabat Mater a few weeks ago, as a premiere in the same church where the composer was baptised.
As of today, Italy is by far Malta’s first commercial partner. Italy can offer Malta the highest level of expertise in numerous fields
As to people-to-people contacts, we recently concluded a twinning agreement between Pisa and Valletta and we are working on more twinnings.
At the economic level, we are engaged to support bilateral trade flows. As of today, Italy is by far Malta’s first commercial partner. Italian companies, from the pharmaceutical sector to manufacturing and shipping services, maintain a long history of presence here. With the support of the Italian-Maltese Chamber of Commerce, the Embassy of Italy will continue to facilitate the creation of contacts and opportunities, while providing necessary assistance to increase both Italian investments in Malta as well as Maltese investments in Italy.
Notwithstanding the challenging times of COVID-19, our commercial relations remained strong in every business sector.
In the upcoming months, Italy and Malta will need to work together to take advantage of opportunities generated by the so-called ‘twin transitions’, green and digital, both agreed and stimulated at European level. I am aware that Malta gained a sound reputation for effectively making use of EU funds. I am sure this will pave the way for effective cooperation in numerous sectors.
Long-standing relations, widespread diffusion of the Italian language and geographic proximity are key elements for the enhancement of Italo-Maltese business relations, especially in maritime, pharmaceutical, ICT, medical sectors and tourism sector.
As to the promotion and increase of Maltese exports, these are highly concentrated in a few sectors. Based on my experience, I would encourage using also existing connections and spaces in Sicily to increase synergies on logistics, maintenance and servicing. This would support the export of Maltese goods and services to Italy, to other EU countries and other states in the Mediterranean region.
Italy can offer Malta the highest level of expertise in numerous fields. So far, apart from the pharmaceutical sector, the largest manufacturing employer on the island is a multinational producing high-tech electrical components while another Italian investment made possible the local production of textiles.
We are working together to double the existing electric interconnector and to increase a sustainable energy connectivity in the coming years.
Let me also recall the contribution of Italian companies and academic centres on the preservation of Malta’s cultural heritage, which included extensive work on fortifications, restoration of several buildings and paintings as well as several Italian-led archaeological missions operating on Maltese archipelago.
Provided that Italian and Maltese priorities are very similar at the EU and multilateral level, the embassy will focus on facilitating all possible contacts to enhance and strengthen bilateral cooperation.
Our relations represent a positive example of the potential in the Mediterranean: we show that it is possible to build bridges, promoting dialogue, stability and growth in the region.
In cooperation with the University of Malta and the competent local authorities, I will also do my best to make sure that the Italian language will be learned, used and encouraged in Malta.
To remain updated with those initiatives, I invite our Maltese friends, as well as Italian citizens, to keep an eye on websites of the embassy and the Istituto di Cultura as well as on our social media channels. You can find our official profiles on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Fabrizio Romano is Italian Ambassador to Malta.