Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion Carmelo Abela said that the Central Mediterranean experience in exploiting interconnectivity to help develop business opportunities could serve as a useful model for the Connectivity Agenda of the Regional Cooperation Council, the regional cooperative framework for countries in Southeast Europe.
The Minister was addressing the 12th annual international conference known as the Dubrovnik Forum, held in Dubrovnik, Croatia, on Saturday 1st July 2017, under the theme ‘Adriatic-Mediterranean Cooperation and Security in Southeast Europe’. The focus of this year’s Dubrovnik Forum was on the Adriatic-Mediterranean Area, and aimed at addressing common security and stability challenges in the Mediterranean and neighbouring areas through strengthening cooperation and fostering dialogue, while taking up the opportunities for concrete and future actions. The Forum also placed an emphasis on the developing business opportunities in the Eastern Mediterranean region, as well as on the intercultural dialogue, underlining youth mobility and education.
“We encourage the countries of the Adriatic-Mediterranean and South-East Europe to continue developing the potential for further market integration, competitiveness, and sustainability,” Minister Abela said. “This will result in a more cost-efficient movement of goods and services in the Western Balkans, as well as between the region and the European Union.”
Malta has also been delving with the potential for growth in business interconnectivity and transport solutions, the Minister pointed out. Being an island, the sea could be viewed as an obstacle and an isolating factor, but Malta chose to see it as opportunity and a means for business interconnectivity and transport solutions. He recalled that, during the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU, the Council endorsed the content of the Valletta Declaration on the EU’s maritime policy, which places competitiveness, decarbonisation, and digitalisation, as the guiding principles that will serve as a basis for the EU’s maritime transport policy up to 2020 and beyond. These principles aim to ensure that maritime transport remains an attractive way for transporting goods and people, and becomes even more environmentally-friendly. This policy should also serve as a catalyst for investment and innovation. He referred to avionics as another opportunity for the interface between transport, business, and interconnectivity. From Malta’s experience, he said, such industries require a strong educational base support and capacity-building, therefore, is key.
Minister Abela added that Malta is also in the process of successfully exploring ways of exploiting its interconnectivity potential in the energy sector. A few months ago, an electricity interconnector with Sicily was inaugurated, and the Maltese government was now working on a similar project for a gas pipeline, also in collaboration with Italy. Furthermore, as a result of foreign investment, a new gas-fired power station has been built, and is now operating.
On the margins of the Forum, Minister Abela held a bilateral meeting with Marija Pejčinović Burić, Croatian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign and European Affairs. Amongst the topics discussed were the achievements of Malta’s Presidency of the EU, and potential ways to enhance bilateral trade. This year marks the 25th anniversary since diplomatic relations between Malta and Croatia were established in 1997.