President Emeritus Eddie Fenech Adami was yesterday awarded the Robert Schuman medal for his contribution in taking Malta into the EU.

With humility I recognised I did not play a small part

The President of the European People's Party, Joseph Daul, presented his group's highest honour to the former Prime Minister, during a poignant ceremony at the Upper Barrakka Gardens.

A grateful and emotional Dr Fenech Adami said he would cherish the medal because he lived through the times of Robert Schuman, a Christian Democrat and former French Prime Minister who died in 1963, regarded as one of the EU's founders.

"With humility I recognised that I did not play a small part in ensuring Malta's full and active participation in the EU. I am proud of what I have done... what we managed to do together."

While thanking his late wife for her unconditional support during tough political times, Dr Fenech Adami paid tribute to his PN colleagues and recalled how the party never doubted its vision.

He pointed out that he ended all his political speeches with an appeal for values particularly Christian values, "which distinguish this small country".

"I cannot claim to have a life of active political participation ahead of me but I assure you that I observe everything with interest and I want our country to keep moving on this same path to achieve even more prosperity," he said.

Meanwhile, his close friend and colleague Louis Galea, now audit dean in the European Court of Auditors, recalled the PN's efforts to etch out a future for Malta during the "foggy" days of socialism.

"If Robert Schuman was the founding father of the EU, Eddie Fenech Adami was the founding father of Malta in the EU," he said, praising Dr Fenech Adami's vision and stamina, which ultimately led to consensus in Malta over EU membership.

Dr Galea appealed for people to remember the EU's achievements and ask important existential questions about the relevance of the union today.

While stressing the importance of the separation of Church and State, Dr Galea argued that it was wrong for Christian politicians to pose for rites and rituals and then act with a secular vision of the universe.

Mr Daul, who was in Malta in 2007 to award the same medal to another Maltese President Emeritus, the late Guido de Marco, praised Dr Fenech Adami for helping bring Malta out of the socialist era where democratic values were trampled upon.

It was only thanks to his "vision, energy and tenacity" that the Maltese could now feel home everywhere in Europe.

"We will not forget the Labour party's opposition. Thankfully you were there to explain the benefits of membership, by saying the truth."

Mr Daul also praised Dr Fenech Adami's successor Lawrence Gonzi for his economic achievements.

"Prime Minister, we are convinced by your achievements. I hope the Maltese are also behind you and appreciate the work you are doing."

Dr Fenech Adami was nominated by MEPs Simon Busuttil and David Casa, members of the EPP.

Former awardees include the late Pope John Paul II, German chancellor Angela Merkel, and President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso.