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Speech at the foot of the Monument marking the Great Seige Victory 1565

Is not this monument a particular piece? Founded at an important moment in the beginning of Malta ’s Twentieth Century political development and becoming, by time, a symbol of the cultural, social and political identity of the Maltese people.

The bronze figures of the monument dedicated to the Maltese Fallen in the Great Siege of 1565, cast by the hands Antonio Sciortino, personify Faith and European Civilisation, courageously defended throughout history. Like Sciortino, yet through the different medium of poetry, Dun Karm, our National Poet, in his Ode to Victory (L-Ghanja tar-Rebha), weaves so nicely, in narrative form, our character as a people in defending our beliefs and roots.

Since 1921 to date, the political sieges won by some of Malta ’s leaders of the Twentieth Century, became Maltese Common Political Heritage.

At the peak of colonial influence, before Malta and the World were distracted and besieged by the threats of the Second World War, the monument For the Fallen was commission, paid and inaugurated by the Maltese People, then represented by the Chief Justice, Sir Arturo Mercieca.

Although Sicortino’s monument was primarily meant to represent the Maltese Fallen in the defence of Malta, its people, and their faith during the Great Siege, it soon became a symbol of Malta’s First Constitution granted in 1921 - the beginning of a new era, with the Maltese people governing themselves. Sciortino’s monument also became the symbol of Malta ’s quest for Independence and a symbol of the re-integration into its roots of European Civilisation.

In retrospect, the people’s quest for Independence and their search to fold back into the roots of European Civilisation can be seen in Sciortino’s Monument as prophetic, or, in political terminology, as visionary for the time it was erected.

The 7th of September commemoration, at the foot of this beautiful monument, has always been a serious moment of reflection for Malta and its People. It is a time for us to reflect on our past, to look towards our future responsibly with a spirit of renewal, while keeping our commitment to maintain our earned liberty and human dignity.

It was no coincidence that in a debate last February between Romano Prodi and all the Capital Cities of the newly enlarged European Union, Valletta chose this monument as the symbol our identity.

Just as Sciortino’s Monument also represents, to a certain extent, our First Constitution and Malta’s walk trough its political developments, it can also be translated in today’s political development, when Europe is drawing up its First Constitution at a time when the enlargement process came to an end by the signing of the Accession Treaty in Athens, on the 16th April 2003.

Just as the political vision of Maltese politicians of the first half of the Twentieth Century became for the Maltese people Common Political Heritage, the political vision of some of the European leaders of the beginning of the second half of the Twentieth Century, such as De Gasperi, Schumann and Monnet became European political heritage.

Their vision developed into a unique political model, designed and built on the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity and on the respect of diversity of the human being and his culture.

This European political project, which came straight from the drawing board of Europe , rebuilt political stability. It became an instrument of peace for the people of Europe . The European Union is, in itself, a reaction against war and a concrete action plan for peace and for the protection of human dignity.

Europe and Europeans renounce war, as in the past we have paid too much a price at war. In one month alone of April 1942, 6,000 tonnes of bombs were dropped over our grand harbour area – a price too high paid by lives and destruction.

Peace, stability and democratic prosperity in the past fifty years, have become European Common Political Heritage strengthening the European Civil Society.

It is the duty of all member states of the European Union to protect this heritage and to foster peace in the interest of the Union and in the interest of those neighbouring the frontiers of the New Europe where political, social an economic stability are still weak.

· Close to the new boundaries of the New Europe, diversity remains the basis of conflict, whilst diversity has proved to be a major strength for the unity of Europe .

· Close to the boundaries of the New Europe, democracy remain an undeveloped model, unknown, or at least desired by the people. In Europe , democracy enhanced political prosperity and has found its basis in the respect of human dignity and the fundamental human rights of citizens.

· Close to the new boundaries of the New Europe, economic instability slows down social development, whilst in Europe social inclusion has been improved by the application, in practice, of the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.

The European model of governance, established and developed in the last fifty years is the only concrete proof, in political theory, of putting into practice political, social and economic stability and prosperity. This is our European Common Political Heritage, which we are called to share in. The values of this established heritage are, this time, not cast in bronze but written on paper of our First European Constitution.

In this context, Europe remains responsible for its people and for bridging the gaps with neighbouring civilisations.

Malta has a role to play in the building of this New Europe.

Malta . The island of Paul of the First Century of Christian Faith; Valletta founded by the Knights of St. John and aided by Pope Pius V in the Sixteenth Century. Maltese -  a language based on semitic origin and continental influance. Our administrative system influenced by English governance. Our Jurisprudence and law based on European Continental doctrine. It is this mixed and varied influence that has formed our social, political and cultural background, developing in us a unique character. Diversity is our identity and our strength within the newly enlarged Europe.

Malta, deep rooted in European Civilisation, with our stratigic our position, our history and our own diversity within the Mediterranean region, can be the main gateway for cross cultural dialogue, translating concerns and bringing either side of two divides of the world in this region, closer together. This role is considered more necessary, today, as tensions in the Mediterranean may seem to have eased, considering the recent positive developments in our neighbouring North African Coast and with Libya coming closer to foster peace and understanding.

Malta and Valletta , with our history, identity, diversity and roots are a synthesis of the European Union. The fortifications of Valletta are not a barrier as they were to the enemy when they were designed and built. Today, the Bastions of Valletta are a symbol of what Europe stands for; faith, fortitude, perseverance, liberty, inclusion and solidarity.

Just as Valletta, the Citta’ Nuova, was built from the terrible attacks and destruction of the Great Siege, the European Union, then the Community, emerged from the horrific blitz of the Second World War.

Malta , unsinkable and unbeaten in Siege and War, defended the people and their values of Liberty and respect for Human Dignity - principles which have been, many a time, compromised by Europe before its unification.

Valletta does not deserve another siege. It would be worse if we are its aggressors. Valletta deserves more value sensitivity towards the conservation and protection of its unique political and cultural heritage - a World Heritage Site and one of the Capitals Cities of the European Union.

Valletta deserves all the well-planned capital projects like the City Gate project planned fifteen years ago, the building of the Opera House, planned fifty years ago and a serious plan for the derelict shameful state of Fort St. Elmo, which shaped the fate of our city. However, Valletta needs more downsized-manageable projects for our capital rather than major capital projects that remain on paper.

New pavements for pedestrians, the need of an efficient integrated transports system for Valletta and a new parking regime are some of the projects which the capital needs to improve our quality of life and which cannot be financed solely by the Local Authority due to the high costs involved.

Valletta cannot stand alone to resist the new siege on our infrustructure, caused by lack of funding, inefficiency and commercial insensitivity. These attacks are direct hits on people’s lives.

This new siege on Valletta is a harsh one and affects the quality of life of individual like a hidden virus.

Valletta has its own mission to keep the name of Citta’ Nuova as one of the Capital Cities of Europe and as a World Heritage Site and actions by all must be put in practice to overcome successfully the sieges hitting our city. This victory can only come with the participation of all stakeholders becoming more sensitive, responsible and committed to seriously contribute to the conservation of the Citta’ Nuova, a living symbol of our Political and Cultural Heritage in a New Europe which is emerging.

Finally, at the foot of this beautiful monument, close to one of the nicest Cathedrals of the Christian World, and on this solemn day of the Seventh of September, I cannot close my address without thanking those who watch over us – God and the Virgin Mary, as we celebrate the feast of her Birth tomorrow, the Eight.

To them, I humbly pray that we strive to defend the Christian faith and preserve the values that have moulded European Civilisation; and to uphold the appeal made by Pope John Paul II that, as humans, as a family, as a community and as a nation we live in justice and work for peace in the interest of all mankind, at a time when violence and intolerance are irrationally besieging civil societies.
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