de Marco

President of Malta

Speech made to the Assembly

Tuesday, 27 June 2000

I first addressed the Assembly under a British President, Sir Geoffrey de Freitas, and the Secretary General was Peter Smithers. That was in 1967, which is a long time ago. It is a privilege and a great pleasure for me to address the Assembly today, and as this is my first visit to the Council of Europe as head of state of my country, it is a walk down memory lane.

I first came to Strasbourg as a member of Malta’s delegation in 1967, and sat in the Assembly for almost twenty years, up to 1987.1 came here as a young MP when I was 35 years old. I left the Assembly on becoming Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Interior and Justice when I was 55 years young. One of my first acts as Minister for the Interior and Justice was to present to Malta’s House of Representatives a bill incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights in domestic legislation.

In my first twenty years in Strasbourg, I saw the European idea mature. The scars of war were being removed and becoming relics of the past. Spain and Portugal were still one-party states, Greece was having problems with democracy and the colonels were in power, Turkey had its issues with the military, but those twenty years also saw the return of Greece, Turkey, Spain and Portugal to democracy and witnessed their great contribution to the Council of Europe. I remember listening to Mario Soares, then Foreign Minister of Portugal, and I saw the bust of Salvador de Madariaga being inaugurated by His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain.

Here we feel truly at home, joined with other members of this family who share our basic concepts and philosophy and who are prepared to build on the native heritage of this, our Europe.

I was an active member of the Cultural Affairs Committee, and we studied and understood the revolt of youth in Europe and across the Atlantic in the concluding years of the 1960s. We witnessed events in Prague and the harsh application of the Brezhnev doctrine in central and eastern Europe. When I was a member of the Legal Affairs Committee, the evolution of human rights, the effectiveness of the European Court of Human Rights and the first experiences in the exercise of the right of individual petition were fundamental to my belief in the Council of Europe as a beacon of democracy and the rule of law. The Council of Europe and this Assembly in particular were a constant source of encouragement and support for my country when we faced difficulties.

I served also on the Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities. In my first twenty years, I saw the Assembly move from barrack-style premises to the beautiful Palais de l’Europe. I attended debates of the highest standard, and heard parliamentarians, politicians and statesmen set the seal on democratic values, stability and security in Europe. In representing a European state in the Mediterranean, I often took the floor in this Assembly to promote the Mediterranean dimension in the Council of Europe’s activities.

On 5 May 1990 – Europe day – I was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malta. I returned to Strasbourg as a member of the Committee of Ministers, and I took part in the great renaissance of the Council of Europe, which saw Finland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Romania, Latvia, Albania, Moldova, Ukraine, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and the Russian Federation become members of the Council of Europe in quick succession.

My membership of the Committee of Ministers came to an end on 26 October 1996 when the party of which I am part went into opposition. That had one positive effect: I was once again appointed as part of Malta’s delegation to the Council of Europe. It was a return to my roots. The Assembly was different from that in which I had sat ten years before. Next to me sat a Russian parliamentarian, and close to my place was a delegate from Ukraine. The monitoring of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, the restructuring of the European Court of Human Rights and the globalisation of the economy were the main items on the agenda.

I had the privilege of being elected the first chairman of the newest and largest committee of this Assembly – the Monitoring Committee. As such, with my colleagues in that committee and with the very able assistance of the Council of Europe’s Secretariat and of Bruno Haller, the Clerk of our Assembly, we began to create a philosophy of monitoring, linking our parliamentary process with that of the Committee of Ministers and creating an adequate monitoring procedure.

In September 1998, the Nationalist Party was returned to office in Malta, and I went back to being Foreign Minister. Seven months later, I was elected President of the Republic. You can perhaps now better understand why I refer to my coming to Strasbourg as a stroll down memory lane.

I want to speak today, however, not so much about memories as about the future, and the future of the Council of Europe. The Council comprises representatives of forty-one member states. The area extends from Reykjavik to Vladivostok, from Helsinki to Valetta and from Lisbon to Tbilisi. Never in their multi – millennial history have the peoples of Europe been brought so much together as they are in this Assembly. We are united behind the principle that guided the founders of the Council fifty-one years ago.

Between 1989 and 1999, we witnessed a renaissance of democracy in central and eastern Europe, with twenty-one states, which had for fifty years or more been denied democracy and the rule of law, returning to and upholding those values. The population of the Council of Europe states is 800 million. We must acknowledge that, although this may possibly be the best European Parliamentary Assembly in existence, and the European Court of Human Rights has established itself as a pace setter in the development of fundamental human rights with a dimension that goes beyond its jurisdiction, there is none the less a political weakness in our Council. Of the forty-one member states, fifteen are members of the European Union and another thirteen have applied to join it, of which twelve, including my country, are involved in negotiations for enlargement. At least three more member states envisage applying for membership of the EU in the not-too-distant future.

Because of its economic relevance, the European Union – in particular, through the Single Market and the single currency, the emergence of a common foreign and security policy, the elected parliament, the monthly meetings of the Committee of Ministers and the at least six-monthly summits – has become a strong political force in Europe with a global political and economic image and effectiveness. We have to face that reality, which has the greatest impact on the relevance and effectiveness of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

We cannot change reality, but we can challenge it, and make of that challenge an opportunity — indeed, a unique opportunity. The participation of the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia – further expansion is possible – has made the Council of Europe a realisation of what Mitterrand described as the “greater Europe”.

In an interview with the Moscow News on 4 March 1990, Eduard Schevardnadze said: “The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has, in my view, every opportunity of becoming the future pan- European Parliamentary forum. Let us also take the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers made up of the foreign ministers regularly meeting twice a year. This could act as a basis for the corresponding organ of a future unified Europe.” The relationship envisaged for the future between the European Union and the Russian Federation – and, for that matter, Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova – does not involve membership, but would be regulated by bilateral treaties and regulations.

On the other hand, the concept of a greater Europe can materialise here in the Council of Europe. It is here that our common heritage, our common interests and our common concerns can best be conserved, developed and discussed. The Russian Federation and the Caucasian states believe in the European dimension, which the Council of Europe so effectively embodies. The Council of Europe needs the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Moldova and the Caucasian states at this moment of European renaissance.

The Parliamentary Assembly will continue to be the voice of a Europe of values, a coagulant of democratic security and the conscience of human rights. I suggest that the Committee of Ministers requires a sense of redirection. Foreign ministers from the European Union, as well as ministers from applicant countries, are impressed by the ongoing activity in the European Union. It would be very difficult, however, and, if I may say so, a serious mistake, if we were to ignore the challenge of a greater Europe in which a considerable part of Europe is involved but which, for its own valid reasons, does not form part of or has not applied to join the European Union.

In this very Assembly, on 6 July 1989, President Gorbachev first elaborated the concept of our common European home, or maison commune, referring to the architecture of our “common home”, how it should be built and even how it should be “furnished”. This “greater Europe” dimension will derive its political relevance from the Parliamentary Assembly and a revitalised Committee of Ministers, and in the representation of 800 million Europeans committed to an area of political stability, democratic security and human rights.

Europe can have an added relevance in world affairs not only through a sounder relationship between the Council of Europe and the United Nations, but through the creation of an ongoing dialogue with our southern Mediterranean neighbours. In the Council, Malta has been particularly insistent on promoting that Mediterranean dialogue, for we have constantly believed that stability in Europe and stability in the Mediterranean are inexorably intertwined. Ignoring that reality may have lasting damaging effects. The Mediterranean cannot be an impenetrable sea wall. The Mediterranean as a great divide spells disaster for future generations. The Council of Europe, through its ring of Mediterranean states, can be a positive force for dialogue and understanding in the region, for the Mediterranean is a sea that unites us as well as our destinies.

In my statement, I have underlined my vision for the Council of Europe. It is the vision of one whose views and politics have been largely formed and influenced by the Council, which is perhaps the best university for politicians, whether they be undergraduates, first-year politicians, as I was in 1967 when I first sat in this Assembly, or postgraduate students, as I was when I returned here in 1997. I believe in the Council of Europe. This is not an exercise in rhetoric; it is an exercise in everyday politics. Democracy, the rule of law and fundamental human rights constitute a sensitive plant that requires our daily attention. We want 800 million Europeans to believe that their future depends on that democratic stability and security and on the closer unity that the Council promotes.

The Prime Minister of a newly independent Malta, Dr Giorgio Borg Olivier, addressing this Assembly on Malta’s accession in May 1965, said of the Council of Europe: “Here we feel truly at home, joined with other members of this family who share our basic concepts and philosophy and who are prepared to build on the native heritage of this, our Europe.”

Let me add that I too feel truly at home here. During the fifty-one years of this Council, I have shared with it thirty years of my political life. Being back in the Council today is not only an exercise in memory lane; it is an exercise in the future – our common future.


Thank you very much, Mr de Marco, for your most interesting statement. As you know, a number of members have expressed a wish to ask you questions. I have divided them into three groups, and, if you are agreeable, I propose to start calling them immediately.

The first two members I will call are Mr Martinez Casan of Spain and Mr Toshev of Bulgaria, both representing the Group of the European People’s Party. They want to ask about stability and co-operation in the Mediterranean region. There will be no supplementary questions, because unfortunately there is not enough time. First, I call Mr Martinez Casan.


Welcome home, Mr de Marco. We are very happy about your decision, and Malta’s decision, to play a fundamental part in the process of European integration. What initiatives does your government contemplate to promote the development of stability, progress and respect for human rights in the Mediterranean, within the framework of the Barcelona process and the Euro-Mediterranean parliamentary forum, which originated in Malta?

Mr TOSHEV (Bulgaria)

I join my colleague Mr Martinez Casan in welcoming you back to Strasbourg, Mr de Marco.

I strongly appreciate Malta’s role in the development of Mediterranean co-operation, and your personal contribution to the enlargement of the European spirit in the region. What do you think are the chances for the successful involvement of the Arab states and Israel in co-operation and common policy to achieve peace, democratic stability and security, respect for human rights and the rule of law, and protection of the environment in the Mediterranean region, together with the European states of the Mediterranean basin? What role do you think the Council of Europe might play in such co-operation?

Mr de Marco, President of Malta

In Malta, we consider ourselves to be at the centre of the Mediterranean. The word “Mediterranean” itself means “the centre of the world”, and – we must be careful; we think so much of ourselves – we are at the centre of what used to be considered to be the centre of the world. As such, we must thoroughly understand the Mediterranean. We are facing a crisis: if the Mediterranean is not high on our agenda, it may become a great divide.

It takes only a few minutes to fly from Morocco to Gibraltar. One does not know whether the plane has started to go up, or started to go down. Malta is 60 miles from Sicily, and 120 miles from Libya and Tunisia – not to mention Turkey, which joins Europe and Asia. When we understand what “Mediterranean” means, how can we feel secure if we do not think about what is happening in the southern part of our own sea?

The principle that there can be no stability in Europe unless there is stability in the Mediterranean, and vice versa, originated in Malta and with the first Helsinki Agreement. We believe in that principle. We cannot have stability in Europe if we have an unstable Mediterranean; we cannot have a stable north Africa and Middle East unless we have a stable Europe. One impinges on the other.

What has Malta tried to do? I am one of the founding fathers – if I can use that term – of the Barcelona process, within which we tried to introduce a relationship between the European Union and the Mediterranean countries that do not form part of it. Yesterday I was in Barcelona, where the process began, and where we initiated a great idea.

I am not convinced that we are applying the Barcelona process with the degree of energy and initiative that is needed for a real, effective Euro- Mediterranean process, but processes are always like that. Sometimes we are up, sometimes we are down. I hope that the convergence of the European Union and the other Mediterranean countries will enable us to give the process the dynamism that it needs; otherwise, we may disappoint our Mediterranean neighbours.

Let us also make it abundantly clear that Europe is much more involved than we think in the Middle East process. We shall be able to find a solution for the whole of the Mediterranean process only through a solution to the Middle East process. Although I believe that Malta can contribute to finding a solution with or without European Union membership, it is essential that we contribute.

Our children will suffer if the Mediterranean becomes a great divide. Our future will be much better if we work hard to ensure that the Mediterranean is a sea that, rather than dividing us, joins our destinies.


Thank you, Mr de Marco. I have two questions, on Malta’s integration into the European Union, from Mr Iwiriski and from Mr Mota Amaral. First, I call Mr Iwinski, who is from the Socialist Group.

Mr IWINSKI (Poland)

Mr President, Malta, with Poland, belongs to the group of thirteen applicant countries. Would you be so kind as to tell us the position of Valletta on the institutional reforms of the European Union and on the necessity of establishing a precise date for enlargement? Do you think that 2003 is a realistic target?

Mr MOTA AMARAL (Portugal)

Thank you, Mr President. President de Marco, it is an honour to be your successor on the Council of Europe Monitoring Committee. In that role, I have tried to maintain your tradition of understanding and wisdom. Is Malta’s economy and society prepared for a quick accession to the European Union, or will it be necessary to negotiate a transitional period? Are,Malta’s authorities prepared and willing to use their traditional ties with neighbouring north African countries as a tool to enhance co-operation and dialogue with Europe in the Mediterranean region?

Mr de Marco, President of Malta

Thank you for your questions. The Government of Malta has reactivated our application. At Helsinki, the European Council has seen to it that negotiations with Malta are started. I am informed that those negotiations are moving ahead and are very positive.

It is very difficult for applicant countries to say whether 2003 is a realistic target, as not all applicant countries have done the same amount of preparation. It is perhaps best not to bind oneself to a certain date. In my experience, including as a foreign minister, I have shied away from specifying dates – as one can say what one will do, but not what others will do. My information is that Malta’s application is proceeding well. I have also been told that quite a few opening chapters have been concluded, and we are looking forward to concluding other chapters.

As you know, Malta does not have a unified approach on the government’s ultimate position. The ultimate decision will, of course, be for the people, who in a referendum will decide whether Malta enters the European Union. I think that most applicant countries will follow that pattern.

I thank Mr Mota Amaral for his reference to my former committee, the Monitoring Committee. Initially, things were not that easy for the committee, as some people thought that it would be a policing committee. I thank our colleagues and members of the Secretariat who helped us so much, especially at the beginning. I also notice that our committee’s first secretary is in the Hémicycle.

The committee developed a philosophy of monitoring: that monitoring is not about policing, but about helping a country. Countries are sovereign states, and we do not

police sovereign states. We have to go through the special process of using the logic of persuasion. In my political life, I have always believed that we can accomplish most by using the logic of persuasion.

Again, I thank the Monitoring Committee members, who made the committee function so very well.


Mrs Schicker, a member of the Socialist Group, wishes to ask a question about irrigation in Malta.

Mrs SCHICKER (Austria) (translation)

Mr President, we are able to gather from your very warm-hearted speech that you have always felt at home at the Council and in this chamber and continue to do so. However, perhaps you could reply to a specific question I should like to ask you on farming in your country.

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to go to Malta with the Council’s Environment Committee and we were able to see for ourselves what great efforts your country is making as far as the environment is concerned. We were given graphic examples of the fact that water supplies are still a big problem for fanners and more hard work will be necessary in this connection.

I should therefore like to ask you, Mr President, how and within what timescale you and those responsible can ensure farmers are provided with more irrigation plants, since it is only possible to irrigate about 3% of cultivatable areas at the moment. I know this is a very specific question.

Mr de Marco, President of Malta

Mrs Schicker said that I feel very much at home in the Council, and that is hue. I do not, however, feel very much at home with agricultural problems, as agriculture is not my specialty.

The water supply in Malta is assured because of one very important fact – we have the world’s largest conservation dam, the Mediterranean sea. We produce 50% of our fresh water by reverse osmosis, and therefore do not lack drinking water. However, Mrs Schicker asked about water supplies for irrigation. We use the St Anthony’s process to ensure adequate supplies of irrigation water. Nevertheless, we need to do much more to address that issue, and I agree that we need to concentrate our efforts. We hope that, through greater efforts and more concentration, the problems that we have had will be solved.


I have one more name on my list: Mr Van der Linden. He seems unsure about whether he wants to ask a question.

Mr Van der LINDEN (Netherlands)

My question concerns enlargement of the European Union to include Malta, but I have already discussed the matter with my friend. If Mr de Marco wants to add anything to what he has already said about the future of the Council of Europe, perhaps he would say whether he thinks that the Council should be closer to the European Union or to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe in the future.


Do you want to do a little intellectual irrigation, President de Marco?

Mr de Marco, President of Malta

I may be better at the second aspect of irrigation than the first.

The OSCE is an important regional organisation. It was as a result of my proposal that the OSCE became the regional instrument for peacekeeping in terms of chapter 8 of the United Nations Charter. That was taken up in Helsinki, too. One of the necessary evolutions of the United Nations Charter in the twenty-first century is that the original arrangements be given more relevance than they have had so far. Most of the conflicts have been regional. If we have more regional arrangements, peacekeeping will be more successful because it will be carried out through a delegated system of political peace-keeping efforts.

I wish to dwell on one important issue: the future of the Council of Europe. The OSCE is a very important forum whereby, through the presence of the Atlantic countries -I refer in particular to the United States and Canada – there is a direct process with the Russian Federation. However, that is a transatlantic approach to security issues in Europe. What we need is a different approach – an approach that only Europe can take. It is my firm conviction that the Europe of our Council has a dimension and a future, because only this Council can provide the golden thread that binds us all as Europeans, whether we are in western, central or eastern Europe or, indeed, in Caucasian Europe. Herein lies the greatness of the Council of Europe.

The Council of Europe has not only a magnificent past but also a real future, so long as we know where our future lies. Our future is in providing the golden thread – the “espace”, as the French would say – of stability, democracy, and security, which binds us, up to Vladivostock, with the states of the Caucasus. Perhaps those are the states that need to be closer to Europe.

That is why I believe that the Council of Europe has a future. It binds together Europeans who, for some reason or other, will not apply for membership of the European Union, or at least will not do so in the foreseeable future. They want to be considered as part of Europe and to share our common European heritage and our common European concerns. The Council of Europe can have a real future only if we understand that Europe is not just the old Europe that existed when I was a parliamentarian here between 1967 and 1987; the new European dimension is a greater one, in which the two Europes are not divided but are together in this Council.

The eastern European countries – particularly the Russian Federation, the Ukraine and the Caucasian states – need to be brought closer to Europe, and we need them, too. That is my approach to the future of the Council of Europe.


Thank you very much indeed, President de Marco. That concludes the questions to you. We are grateful to you for your statement and for the glimpses of wisdom that you gave us in answering our questions. We shall now reward you with lunch.