European Commission President, Jean Claude Juncker, stated that Malta is a good defender of European values and praised the Maltese people which, he said, are courageous and with positive energy.
The former Luxembourg Prime Minister, whose term of office ends at the end of October, said he feels much closer to Malta. The state today recognised his work by honouring him with the National Order of Merit of a Companion of Honour during an investiture ceremony at the Palace in Valletta, presided by President George Vella.
Malta recognized Juncker’s contribution in the promotion and strengthening of relations between Malta and the EU.
Jean Claude Juncker said that the qualities that distinguish the Maltese people are tolerance and resilience. He also mentioned peace, the respect of human life, democracy and human rights.
“Malta is defending truly European values that I would like to pay tribute today. They are values that must always be protected and never taken for granted. They define who we are as people,” Juncker said.
Jean-Claude Juncker added that these are non-negotiable values and he referred to the respect to rule of law, the fight against corruption and crime, and press freedom.
He recalled that at the start of his campaign for EC President in 2014, he chose Malta to present his plan for solidarity in the European migration policy. He said that he did not do this accidentally.
“It cannot be that the small island in the Mediterranean has to bear the full weight of migration towards Europe, yet often you have to and each time you show the utmost bravery and humanity because this is who you are and this is what our union should be.”
Juncker said he is proud with the European Union’s work in the migration sector, however he recognised that this is not enough as long term solutions are needed.
Juncker further stated that the Maltese economy is expected to grow with a faster rate than that of other EU member states and recommended that the country invests in a sustainable future.
President George Vella said that the majority of the Maltese recognise that great changes occurred in Malta in the past 15 years. “Successive governments from 2004 when we joined the European Union to date have sought to strengthen the European Union values and reflect them in their policies.”
The President praised the work of Juncker as President of the European Commission, including the establishment of the European investment plan, the European fund for strategic investment, the investment in education such as guarantees for youths and Erasmus plus.
He also mentioned the 5G action plan and the creation of a fund for Africa, and also the implementation of the Paris agreement on climate change.