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Helen Clark Speech - President's Luncheon Malta

Rt. Hon Helen Clark
19 May 2004

President's luncheon, San Anton Palace, Malta
Mr President, ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you for those kind words. It is hard to believe that it is nearly two years since I had the pleasure of welcoming you to New Zealand in your then capacity as Prime Minister. I am delighted to be here making a return visit to Malta. I have visited this country on three previous occasions and have a great interest in its history at the crossroads of Europe. To come now as Prime Minister is a special privilege, and I am honoured by the warmth of your welcome.

This is a time of change for Malta, with your entry into the European Union fewer than 3 weeks ago. The EU is a significant partner for New Zealand across a broad range of international issues, and it is our second largest trading partner. Malta’s accession to the Union adds another element to the relationship between our two countries. New Zealand is looking forward to having another good friend in the Union. I am sure that Malta’s contribution will be distinctive and important, adding even more colour to an already varied European flag.

Mr President, New Zealand values its long relationship with Malta. We have a shared history going back to New Zealand’s participation in World Wars One and Two in Europe. Later today I will be laying a wreath at the Pieta Military Ceremony to honour the New Zealand servicemen and women who are buried here or who were lost at sea. Some were evacuated from Gallipoli during World War One, and some lost their lives during those critical and difficult years of the Second World War when Malta was under siege. Those who made it home to New Zealand brought stories and memories with them which have created deep links with Malta. We are well aware of the bravery and courage of the Maltese people during the most difficult days of World War Two and of the award of the George Cross in recognition of that.

Our shared membership of the Commonwealth is one of the foundations of our modern relationship, but that’s not all we have in common. We have similar points of view on many important international issues, and we have co-operated closely in areas such as the Law of the Sea. Each of us understands what it is to be an island nation with a relatively small population and with the advantages and the challenges which flow from that.

Our relationship has been enhanced this morning with the signing of the Working Holiday Scheme, something the President and I discussed in 2002. It will allow young people from Malta and New Zealand to spend up to a year working and travelling in each other’s countries. This will help us to keep up to date our people-to-people contacts, forged so many years ago in times of danger and deprivation.

I hope to return to Malta for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting here next year. The legendary hospitality of the Maltese people augurs well for a very successful CHOGM.

May I now propose a toast to the president and people of Malta.


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