The challenges and issues facing the Southern Mediterranean were the focus of a panel opened and closed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion Carmelo Abela at the 2017 Bled Strategic Forum. Held in Slovenia this week, this prestigious event was attended by over 1000 high-level participants from the world of international affairs, including Prime Ministers, Ministers, and senior representatives from international organisations like NATO, OECD, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Frederica Mogherini, and the European Commission’s First Vice-President Frans Timmermans.

Minister Abela opened the session (with nine panellists from nine countries including Palestine, Greece and Italy) by explaining the current situation in the Southern Mediterranean, what effects this was having on the wider region, and how peace and security would not be achievable in Europe without stability in the Mediterranean. While noting that development is key in Africa, the need for more investment and trade was emphasised, as well as the international community working together to stop further escalation of conflict. He spoke about Libya being not just an important issue for Malta due to proximity, but also the Mediterranean, especially when it comes to the challenges migration poses. He also stressed that Libyans need the help and support of the EU and other international actors to solve their issues themselves, achieving the long-lasting peace needed to secure economic and political stability.

Apart from providing a much-needed high-level platform for the discussion of pressing regional and global issues, the Bled Strategic Forum also offers opportunities for bilateral meetings with key stakeholders, plus diplomatic and political leaders hailing from 70 countries. Minister Abela had many important meetings, from discussing regional challenges with Frederica Mogherini and the Secretary General of the Union for the Mediterranean Fathallah Sijilmassi, to areas of collaboration with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Macedonia Nikola Dimitrov, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Montenegro Srdjan Darmanovic, and the Israeli Ambassador to Malta Eyal Sela. Defence issues were discussed with the Deputy Assistant Secretary at the US Department of State Hoyt Yee, plus the reinvigoration of diplomatic and trade relations with India with the Minister of State for External Relations of the Republic of India Shri M J Akbar.

Organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia, and now in its eleventh year, this year’s discussion sessions ranged from nuclear security to water management and the future of the EU, amongst others. Minister Abela also met with the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Slovenia, Karl Erjavec, Prime Minister of Slovenia Miro Cerar, and the President of Slovenia Borut Pahor.

Source: Government of Malta