50 YEARS OF MALTA-UAE DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS
H.E Maria Camilleri Calleja, Ambassador of Malta to the UAE and Permanent Representative to IRENA
As Ambassador of Malta to the UAE and Permanent Representative to IRENA, Maria Camilleri Calleja has been instrumental in strengthening Malta-UAE relations. She stands as a symbol of the enduring relationship between Malta and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and has been instrumental in fostering bilateral ties that span over five decades. She shares some insights with the GTM team in preparation for the upcoming Malta National Day.
According to H.E Maria, the diplomatic relationship between Malta and the UAE was officially established on November 20, 1973, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
The friendship was further solidified in 1978 when a 28-million Dirhams loan was approved from the UAE to Malta for port expansion. Over the years, the relationship has grown to include various sectors such as health, technology, research, and more.
The frequency of official visits between the two nations has increased significantly in recent years. Notably, the Hon. Dr. Ian Borg, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade, visited the UAE twice within a year, signing multiple cooperation agreements. The President of Malta also visited the UAE in 2023, discussing various themes including the war in Ukraine and renewable energy investments.
H.E Maria also reiterates that the economic ties between Malta and the UAE are robust, with real GDP growth reaching 6.9% in 2022 in Malta. The trade volumes have also increased substantially, and Maltese companies are keen on exploring various opportunities in the UAE market.
The daily direct connection between Malta and the UAE through Emirates Airlines further enhances the potential for commercial and investment activities.
MALTA AND THE UAE AT UNSC
Both Malta and the UAE are non-permanent members of the UN Security Council.
Malta’s ambition to serve on the UN Security Council stems from its desire to make a significant contribution to the preservation of international peace and security. While acknowledging the challenges ahead, Malta pledges to spare no effort to contribute positively to the strengthening of cooperation and multilateralism in favour of an international order based on the rule of law. As a Mediterranean country, Malta will also ensure that security challenges in the immediate neighbourhood are given priority.
According to H.E Maria, Malta has identified four priority thematic areas: children and armed conflict, climate and oceans, women, peace and security, and literacy. These align well with the UAE’s priorities, offering an opportunity for both nations to work closely together for peace.
Malta was the first country to officially place the issue of climate change on the political agenda of the United Nations General Assembly. Furthermore, as a pioneer in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Malta is determined to raise awareness about countries and peoples who are facing rising levels of sea, especially small island developing States.
During its Presidency of the UN Security Council, in line with the outlined priorities established and the credibility built over the years, Malta organized an open ministerial debate in the UN Security Council on the implications of the rising level of sea for international peace and security.
Malta sincerely hopes that through this event, it has highlighted one of the disastrous repercussions of climate change and provides the countries most affected with a platform to highlight the challenges associated with the rise of the sea level.
Malta also hosted a landmark event on children in armed conflict. This briefing focused on the prevention of grave violations against children in armed conflict. Malta welcomes the coordinated approach between the Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict and the Office of the Special Representative on Violence against Children.
The cultural similarities between the two countries date back to medieval times when Malta was under Arab rule. Recent exhibitions like the Maymouna Stone Exhibition and the Cippi of Malta at Louvre Abu Dhabi have further strengthened the cultural relationship.
The Maimunah Stone is one of the most important Islamic artefacts from the Arab period in Malta and dates back to 1174 AD. Its surface is beautifully carved in Kufic script citing a memorial prayer about the passing of a young Muslim woman named Maimunah, together with Qur’anic verses on the subject of death.
The Maimunah Stone is representative of an era when Malta and a good part of the Western Mediterranean were part of the Berber Emirate known as Al Moaheddin (the people who believe in one God). However, nowadays the Stone puts on a different kind of attire – as the centre piece of a relationship between two museums, two peoples and two countries.
The Embassy is pleased to have had the opportunity to work with two professional bodies – Heritage Malta and the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization, and the exhibition of the Maimunah Stone will stand forever as a reminder of the strong bonds of intercultural and interfaith understanding that exist between the two countries.
In Addition, tying to the concept of sharing history and knowledge with the world, the Embassy of Malta supported by the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism, together with Heritage Malta, the Louvre Abu Dhabi and Musee de Louvre in Paris, embarked on a year-long journey between 2022 and 2023 with the objectives of reuniting two artefacts, discovered in Malta, but residing now within the collections of two different museums.
The two ancient Maltese pillars known as the Cippi of Melqart have been reunited for an exhibition in Abu Dhabi after being apart for 241 years. The Cippi are currently on display at the Louvre in Abu Dhabi, where cultural talks and presentations are explaining their historical and archaeological significance.
The future of Malta-UAE relations looks promising, with both countries committed to enhancing their bilateral ties. The focus is on continuous dialogue, networking, and achieving prosperity on both bilateral and international fronts. H. E. Maria Camilleri Calleja plays a pivotal role in this evolving relationship. Her efforts in strengthening the political, economic, and cultural ties between Malta and the UAE are commendable. As she often says, “This is by no means the end of the road; it is a build-up on previous work with the scope of reaching higher ground.”