President of Malta Dr George Vella affirmed that the foreign policy of Qatar has made it a country of great importance at the international level, pointing out that Qatar is being viewed as an honest mediator in many regional and global issues. In an interview with Qatar News Agency (QNA) on the occasion of his visit to Doha, the president said that with the problem of energy supplies in Europe due to the Russian-Ukrainian war, Qatar has become an important player in this scenario.
He praised the excellent bilateral relations between Malta and Qatar, saying that it is based on mutual respect, respect for the sovereignty of the two countries and non-interference in internal affairs, which made it a relationship of equal partners and said that the talks he held with His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani were important and dealt with issues of bilateral co-operation between the two countries and opportunities for developing economic relations and investment, in addition to discussing current international issues.
He added that the talks also touched on the importance of activating the pending agreements and memoranda of understanding between the two countries, explaining that the implementation of the agreements signed between the two sides will contribute to creating new co-operation opportunities between the two countries and strengthening bilateral relations. He noted that his discussion with the Amir also dealt with various interests in the region and the situation in Afghanistan, Syria and Libya, stressing that the only solution to these issues is diplomacy and dialogue.
The president referred to the prospects for investments between the two countries, explaining that there are discussions at the private sector level between Qatari investors and their Maltese counterparts regarding investment opportunities in Malta, which has a very important geostrategic position in the Mediterranean and is a member of the European Union, in addition to having a non-permanent seat in the Security Council next year. He added that Malta also has a very open economy and a well educated population, which means that an investor in any sector will find the right atmosphere, and the Maltese government will be helping as much as possible to make things as easy as possible so that investment does materialise.
He said that there are already Qatari investments in Malta in the banking sector between Banif Bank and Al Faisal Corporation, and there is also a commercial exchange in some foodstuffs, noting that there are discussions about an investment that was proposed between Corinthia and UDC. "Let's hope it materialises because it is a very important investment for both sides," he said, stressing the importance of investments in energy and education.
The president spoke about the importance of the role played by Qatar in the region and in the Afghan crisis, as well as in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between the United States and Iran, saying "we're hoping that the next meeting of JCPOA will take place here in Doha."
He said that the European Union views the countries of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, including Qatar, with great importance, pointing out that just this month the European Union has published the European Council conclusions on the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, speaking about them as being strategic partners. That is something which never happened before, he explained.
He added that the 17-page European document reviews all sectors in which the European Union sees the possibility of working with the Gulf countries in the future, whether in education, investment or energy. The president considered the document very encouraging.
On the other hand, the president of Malta spoke about the developments that Qatar witnessed, especially in the sports sector. He noted the development of sports facilities in Qatar, as well as infrastructure and transportation services on the occasion of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, pointing out that the tournament period will be very important.
In his conversation with QNA, the president spoke about refugees and migrants movement, specially irregular immigrants, to Europe, saying that the number of migrants moving across the Mediterranean increased, but the numbers of migrants coming to Malta decreased, which means more migrants are going to Spain, Italy and other countries. The issue of migration will get worse because of climate change, as there will be more people fleeing from hunger, drought, crop failure and desertification, so they will move north to try to reach Europe.
He added that Malta is a small country, so "there are restrictions on the number of people that can be accommodated and there is a saturation point, after which there will be no capacity to absorb refugees even if we wish to do so." He also explained that in addition to the lack of facilities, Malta cannot offer refugees or migrants opportunities that they left their country for, adding that they left their countries to have a better opportunity in life. "We have always believed in the issue of solidarity ... these people don't leave their countries to come to Malta. They leave their countries to come to Europe; Italy, France, Germany and the rich countries."
He pointed out that Malta, through its successive governments, have appealed to the European Union countries to show solidarity, so that the Union can divide among them the migrants that arrive, but this was not achieved, as certain countries in the European Union simply do not want anything to do with accepting refugees. He explained that the issue at the moment is quite static, and it's being debated repeatedly, adding that France recently made some proposals to try to mitigate the situation, but unless certain number of countries agree among themselves, the situation will remain as it is. He said that Malta cannot continue to receive refugees, because it eventually create problems.