As Jeanne A.K. Hey puts it in her introduction to Small States in World Politics: Explaining Foreign Policy Behaviour, “small size does not automatically translate into vulnerability in the international arena”.
Yes, we should acknowledge our boundaries but, at the same time, we should bear in mind that Malta still has an important role to play in the international field, as history has shown.
A perfect demonstration of this would be the 1967 proposal by Malta at the United Nations, which resulted in the adoption of the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Effective participation in multilateral fora is a crucial pillar for Malta’s foreign policy strategy, which was launched for public consultation earlier this month. It is important for Malta to contribute on matters which are of significant interest and to continue to support the international rules-based system.
We continue to uphold the importance of promoting international cooperation, firm in the belief that global problems require global solutions, which can only be achieved through active collaboration and dialogue.
Apart from participation at the United Nations, on a European level, effective participation is also essential in the EU institutions.
Through its legislation, the EU impacts on our daily lives and, thus, it is imperative for Malta to participate, raise any possible concerns and proposals to protect its national interests and its citizens.
While perhaps the UN and the EU are the two main multilateral fora, its participation in other settings such as the Commonwealth, the Union for the Mediterranean, the 5+5 Western Mediterranean Dialogue and other fora are also noteworthy.
We should bear in mind that Malta still has an important role to play in the international field, as history has shown- Christopher Cutajar
Such participation continues to increase Malta’s standing in the international community as a reliable and principled partner, responsive to and aligned with evolving global needs.
The external network and representations abroad are also of crucial importance for this strategic pillar. While Malta’s foreign policy has been conditioned by its immediate neighbourhood, which still remains a priority due to the direct impact of developments in our region, Malta seeks to develop and strengthen bilateral relations with other strategic regions in the world.
Apart from consolidating the diplomatic presence in Asia and the Gulf region, we are also aiming to establish positive and beneficial relations with South America.
Indeed, Malta is in the process of establishing its embassy in Brazil, its first mission in South America.
Malta is also targeting to strengthen its relations and presence in the African continent, in line with the ministry’s strategy for Africa. The ambassador of Malta to Ethiopia and a diplomat have recently set foot in Addis Ababa to establish Malta’s first-ever diplomatic presence in this Sub-Saharan country.
This is part of the ministry’s strategy to seek new political and economic links and to maximise opportunities for influence in strategic regions.
For a small nation-state like Malta, our human resources are perhaps our best asset and the role of the Maltese diplomatic corps is greatly valued as the promoter of Malta’s foreign policy on the international front, crucial in achieving the objectives laid out in the strategy.
Have your say! The foreign policy strategy was launched for public consultation and is available online on konsultazzjoni.gov.mt. The consultation period closes on December 8.
Christopher Cutajar is Permanent Secretary for Foreign and European Affairs.
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