President Eddie Fenech Adami yesterday opened the headquarters of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean (PAM), Spinola Palace, in St Julians, noting that the significant event signalled Malta's determination to persist in its Mediterranean vocation.

The island would continue to strive to achieve its set objectives of stability, security and prosperity for all, the President said, adding that peace and security in Europe were directly linked to peace and security in the Mediterranean.

Unveiling a commemorative plaque, marking the historic palace as the seat of the general secretariat, Dr Fenech Adami said the Maltese and other countries in the region were striving to promote Mediterranean issues on the European agenda.

Dr Fenech Adami congratulated the parliamentarians for taking on the challenge of establishing a parliamentary assembly that dealt solely and comprehensively with Mediterranean issues.

It was the Inter-Parliamentary Conference in Nicosia in 1983 that laid the groundwork for the realisation of the first parliamentary forum that incorporates all the national parliaments on the Mediterranean littoral. Since then, Dr Fenech Adami noted, Maltese parliamentary delegations have taken the lead and worked incessantly to set up the parliamentary assembly.

The fourth Conference on Security and Cooperation in 2005 gave the green light to finally establish the assembly, and, at its inaugural session in Amman last year, in recognition of the hard work of the Maltese parliamentary delegation, it was decided that Malta would host its seat.

"It is now up to us, as Mediterraneans, to make the parliamentary assembly a success," Dr Fenech Adami said.

PAM is holding a three-day meeting in Malta until tomorrow. The opening of the second session was addressed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Anton Tabone and the president of the Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly, Abdelwahed Radi.

Inter-Parliamentary Union president Pier Ferdinando Casini had to cancel his visit due to personal reasons.

Mr Radi said that "all roads lead to Malta" and that getting here was the result of a long and detailed process of negotiations.

PAM's mission was to develop cooperation among its members by promoting political dialogue and understanding. The Assembly was an important vehicle for political diplomacy and would serve as a forum for political and economic cooperation among cultures, civilisations and religions. Mr Radi pointed out that there were still many political differences and disputes that needed to be urgently addressed in the Mediterranean. "We cannot afford to operate in a political vacuum as our actions will be judged on the results we achieve."

The Mediterranean region lacked a comprehensive form of union and Mediterranean cooperation was limited to sub-regional groupings that did not incorporate all countries, Mr Tabone told the participants.

"Unity should constitute the overarching theme of the assembly," he said, adding that the Mediterranean parliamentarians had the tools necessary to promote closer cooperation and understanding in the region.

The opening session was followed by the signing of the headquarters agreement, which defines its juridical status, by Deputy Prime Minister Tonio Borg and Mr Radi.

Spinola Palace was built by the Grand Prior of Lombardy, Paolo Rafel Spinola, in 1688.

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