Speech by the Honorary Consul of the Czech Republi
Speech by Mr Tonio Casapinta, Honorary Consul of the Czech Republic to Malta on the occasion of the visit by the Chairman of the Senate of the Czech Republic
Your Excellency, Honourable Senators, Mr Ambassador and Mrs Seckcova, Friends,
On behalf of the Maltese-Czech Society, may I say that it is a great privilege and a source of personal satisfaction to host you at this gathering and to welcome you amongst us as our esteemed guest on the first day of your Official Visit to Malta. Your Visit marks yet another important milestone in the bilateral relations between the Czech Republic and Malta, two countries so diverse in their geography, culture and language, emerging from vastly different historical experiences, who have however secured a warm and friendly relationship based on mutual solidarity and respect. Your Visit today further serves to strengthen and deepen this relationship.
I believe that the timing of your Official Visit is significant on two counts. Firstly, it takes place during the month when we commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of the Velvet Revolution of 1989. We all recall how, following decades of persecution and repression, the forces of democracy and freedom finally, and peacefully, overturned the totalitarian regime and established democratic ideals and the rule of law at the very heart of the Czech political system. This was the turning-point for the Czech Republic, the real start of its journey as a democracy, and as an open and modern economy, so much so that, merely fifteen years later, your nation is ready to assume its rightful place within the European Union.
I stress the significance of this anniversary particularly because, as we are all aware, Your Excellency was at the forefront of this struggle, from the earliest days of Charter 77, right through to December 1989 when you assumed the leadership of the Civic Forum. Since then you have been one of the leading architects of the Czech Republic's political regeneration, sustaining a steadfast sense of purpose and morality in every aspect of your political life. This contribution culminated in your election in December 1996 as the first Speaker of the Senate, and is also borne out by your recent strong showing in the Presidential elections.
Secondly, your Visit takes place during the year when, following long and arduous negotiations, our countries have both become members of the European Union. Even though bilateral relations have gone from strength to strength ever since these were formally established back in the nineteen-seventies, in the run-up to accession Malta and the Czech Republic discovered even closer ties and interests, based on a shared vision of securing a better quality of life for our peoples within the EU. Now that this shared goal has been achieved, I am sure that our joint activities within the Union provides an even greater impetus and direction for our bilateral relations.
In this regard we are building on a strong foundation of co-operation that has increased particularly since the establishment of the Consulate of the Czech Republic in Malta in 1995. From its very inception, the Consulate sought to develop relations between our two countries, an aim very much facilitated by the excellent support we have consistently received from the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Rome. I am pleased to say that this effort and commitment has been rewarded by a series of tangible achievements in our bilateral co-operation, particularly in the fields of culture and tourism.
Allow me to mention just a few examples ...
In the cultural sphere, a number of events have been organised over the years to showcase and promote Czech culture. These range from annual Czech Cultural Weeks, to Czech Film festivals and musical concerts. Only last week, the Consulate was proud to host a magnificent performance by a leading Czech choir as our contribution to the Czech Year of Music. In addition to these ongoing events, my Consulate is also committed to securing a long-term basis for closer co-operation in this sphere, particularly through a bilateral Educational and Cultural protocol. The setting up of the Maltese-Czech Society has also provided a forum for bringing our two peoples closer together, and has proved to be a point of reference for the many Czechs who reside in Malta, who are valued members of our community, and who contribute to our society in many different spheres of activity.
Significant progress has also been registered in the tourism sector, where in ever-increasing numbers Maltese tourists have been discovering the beauty and vitality of the Czech Republic, so much so that it is now one of the leading destinations to which we flock year after year.
My Consulate is very proud to have played a role in bringing our two countries and our two peoples closer together and is committed to further enhancing the bilateral channels of co-operation. I am sure that your Vist to Malta will contribute greatly to achieving this goal.