Honourable Prime Minister,
Honourable Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries,
President Emeritus Dr Ugo Mifsud Bonnici,
Members of Parliament,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you Mr Mills for your kind words. May I request you, in my name and on behalf of the Government and People of Malta, to reiterate my congratulations on the occasion of Independence Day to His Excellency President Barak Obama.
I am delighted to be here with you this evening to commemorate Independence Day and to assist at the dedication of the imposing, new embassy building at Ta' Qali.
American Independence Day is significant not only for Americans but also for all freedom-loving people. I say this because, as is well-known, the preamble to the Declaration of Independence spells out in a clear manner one of the most famous expositions of principles that continue to inspire us all and particularly those Peoples who may not be enjoying political freedoms and human rights but earnestly aspire to them: I quote:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organising its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness".
These words ring as fresh, true and relevant today as they did when the declaration was adopted by the Congress in 1776. Indeed, just a few months ago we could not have imagined how many Peoples would suddenly, and almost in unison, make an appeal to their rulers that they expected their human rights and freedoms to be respected and that they wanted to see the necessary changes to make this happen.
It is interesting to recall with regard to the right of self-determination of all Nations that, as early as 1853, Abraham Lincoln, in a letter to Macedonio Melloni, questioned the legitimacy of colonialism including specifically that with regard to Malta and other British possessions. Lincoln wrote: "True liberty will never exist before the recognition to all peoples of their legitimate independence".
My reference to Abraham Lincoln reminds me of last year's Fourth of July reception at the Upper Barrakka Gardens when my friend Ambassador Douglas Kmiec read from that great American President's speeches with Aaron Copland's wonderful music in the background. I wish to salute Ambassador Kmiec and to thank him for the sterling work he carried out with such grace and dignity to see Maltese-American relations strengthen even further.
Freedom, democracy and human rights are values which must be treasured and defended whenever necessary. The turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East continues to be a source of great concern to the international community. We recognise the right of Peoples to choose their own governments according to free and democratic principles based on the rule of law. On numerous occasions, Malta has joined the International Community in condemning the violent repression of the democratic protests and expressions of dissent wherever they occur. Malta has been among the first countries to call for an immediate ceasefire and a complete cessation of all violence in Libya and has expressed its resolve to implement the relevant UN resolutions. It has also played its role in the evacuation of expatriates fleeing the fighting.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Diplomatic relations between Malta and the United States of America were established on 21 September 1964, the day of Malta's Independence. Today we are witnessing the inauguration of new American embassy premises. I consider this large, modern building in which the American Government has made considerable financial investment as an expression of the permanent commitment of the United States to continue strengthening further its cooperation with Malta at the political, economic and cultural levels. Malta values highly its friendly relations with the United States which are built on solid foundations of shared values and principles.
I would like to express Malta's gratitude to the United States for its continued assistance in the resettlement of refugees. The total of resettled persons with international protection leaving Malta for the United States of America since 2007 has now reached the figure of seven hundred and eleven (711). Malta attaches great importance to this resettlement programme as it helps to alleviate the ever-growing burden of immigration on the Maltese islands. This US assistance, on a particularly sensitive issue for Malta, confirms the strong bond of friendship between our two countries.
I am particularly pleased to note that the Convention for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income between Malta and the United States entered into force on the first day of January of this year. One hopes that this instrument will provide an incentive for more economic exchanges and investment between our two countries. It is worth recalling that another bilateral treaty dealing with Certain Aspects of Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters entered into force on 1 February last year.
Malta looks forward to continue working with the United States in all matters of mutual interest in the coming months and to intensify further the traditional strong ties of cooperation and friendship for the benefit of our two Peoples.
Ladies and gentlemen,
May I now invite you to raise your glasses and drink to peace, understanding, freedom and prosperity among all Nations and to the excellent relations between Malta and the United States.