Vella says Malta’s ‘natural understanding’ of Arab and European societies makes it perfect meeting place

Addressing Med Forum 2016, foreign affairs minister George Vella hails Malta's role as a neutral meeting place for intercultural dialogue between European and African Mediterranean countries 

Foreign affairs minister George Vella
Foreign affairs minister George Vella

Malta can act as a catalyst to bring Mediterranean countries together amid a period of vast turmoil, foreign affairs minister George Vella said.

“Here in Malta, we have a natural understanding of both the Arab and the European worlds and I believe we can act as a neutral meeting space,” he said. “The region is currently besieged by problems related to extremism, migration and unemployment, and it is crucial that we talk about these issues with our youth, and not to them.”

He added that Europe must provide African countries with the “necessary conditions” to convince African people to remain in their countries and visit Europe “on a voluntary basis to improve their competences”.

“I realize that this is somewhat of a utopic vision but we must try and achieve it,” he said.

Vella was speaking at a press conference to mark the third edition of the Med Forum – a joint initiative by the foreign affairs ministry and the Anna Lindh Foundation aimed at bringing youths from Mediterranean countries around the table to discuss means of countering “the forces fuelling polarisation and extremism”.

Around 1,000 civil society activists and officials from the EU, the UN, the Arab League and the Union for the Mediterranean have arrived in Malta to participate in the forum, that is being held at the Mediterranean Conference Centre. 

The Anna Lindh Foundation’s executive director Elisabeth Gigiou similarly hailed Malta’s role as a “bridge” between the European and African Mediterranean counries.

“There is a growing realization that civil society and youth have a crucial role to play in fighting radicalisation and promoting integration,” she said. “Europe does needs more border security to counter terrorism, but in the meantime we do not want countries to become isolated and for Europe to become a fortress with walls erected everywhere. We need youth and civil society to think of ideas to preserve mobility with growing security constraints.”

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