Fit-Times tal-lum kien hemm artiklu ta’ Tonio Borg, Vici Prim Ministru u Ministru tal-Affarijiet Barranin, bl-isem ta’ “Implementing ‘Greater Malta’“:
The week-long Convention of Maltese Living abroad recently came to an end. The meeting convened 10 years after the last gathering was intended to propel a proper discussion of the achievements and aspirations of our Maltese brethren who have chosen to reside abroad.
The traditional concept of emigrant has been now substituted by the idea of ‘Greater Malta’ comprising the Maltese diaspora made up of different communities outside Malta. Some emigrated to far-flung continents, seeking a better life at times of economic paralysis or plight; more recently, others have settled temporarily in the European continent mostly in Brussels and Luxembourg working within European institutions, members of the European civil service.
The convention had a dual purpose: examining past achievements and planning the future.
In the past decade, Malta’s citizenship laws have been liberalised in favour of people of Maltese descent, In 2000, dual nationality was extended automatically and retroactively to first-generation of Maltese born abroad, separating the concept of double citizenship from that of emigration.
Besides, the abhorrent rule requiring 19-year-olds to take the difficult decision of choosing between Maltese citizenship and that of a foreign country was done away with once and for all.
In 2007, a bolder step was taken, that of making eligible for citizenship any person of Maltese descent who proves that any of his ancestors in the direct line was a Maltese born in Malta. In brief, nationality was extended for the benefit of second and subsequent generations of Maltese born abroad.
The fulfilment of the aspirations of Maltese living abroad on citizenship reflects the government’s commitment to treat people of Maltese descent wherever they are, at par, in rights and benefits, as Maltese living in Malta.
It is not partisan to point out that all reforms relating to nationality laws have been proposed, piloted and executed by a Nationalist government, admittedly by unanimous approval of the House of Representatives.
But what about the future? The government is committed to scrupulously monitoring a proper follow up to the 2010 convention. This it will do through the setting up of an institution, the title or name is irrelevant, which will comprise Maltese living abroad and those living in Malta to implement viable suggestions and recommendations which have come out of the convention or which will be submitted from now on.
I repeatedly stated during the convention that the rights of Maltese communities living abroad should not be at the centre of our political agenda once every decade, but every day. The newly set up institution for Maltese abroad will secure that in every measure and action, public authorities will keep in mind the dimension of the rights and interests of the Maltese diaspora.
As expected, most of the interventions during the convention hovered around the promotion of Maltese language and culture. I have experienced first-hand the affection for the Maltese language and culture in different communities abroad. Volunteers dedicate their spare time to teach Maltese on Saturday mornings in Sydney, and federations of Maltese schools have been set up in Australia and Canada. These efforts by dedicated people who cherish their Maltese roots should not be allowed to wither.
The government is committed to channel its human and financial resources in one institute which will coordinate and muster the different synergies for the promotion of Maltese culture abroad; our embassies and diplomatic representations abroad can serve as a proper venue for such cultural activities.
In 10 years’ time, the next convention will scrutinise in a more professional manner the workings of such an institute; 2010 has been a watershed in the history of Maltese living abroad; our plans for the future will be brought to fruition and the 2010 convention will be recognised as the propelling factor in what will be achieved.