MALTA AND PORTUGAL: THE WAY FORWARD

Joseph-A-Filletti

– Joseph A. Filletti, Malta’s Ambassador to Portugal

“Just over a year ago, I had the honour to present my Letters of Credence to H.E. Anibal Cabaco Silva, President of Portugal as Malta’s non-resident ambassador.”

Historical Links

Very few people know that it was a Portuguese Admiral who first came to our rescue during the uprising against the French in 1798. At a crucial time of this historic event, Lord Nelson sent word to Admiral Marquis de Nisa that he would not make it in time to Malta, and the latter promptly entered Maltese shores with some 3000 able-bodied seamen and bolstered the fighting power of the local insurgents with some 400 muskets.
During the unveiling of a plaque at the Upper Barracca Garden some years back, Prof. Henry Frendo aptly remarked that “We have put up 1001 plaques but not one about the contribution by the Portuguese navy!”
But our links with Portugal go even further back in time. There were no less than three natives of Portugal who were elected Grandmasters to the Order of St. John: Luis Mendes de Vasconcellos, Antonio Manoel de Vilhena, and Manuel Pinto de Fonseca. It was Antonio Manoel who, among other notable endeavours, laid the plans for the building of Floriana and erected a roofed theatre in Valletta which still bears his name.

Bilateral Relations at Political Level

Direct diplomatic relations between Malta and Portugal were established in 1968. Since then, they have remained stable, friendly and fruitful. More recently, and aside from the closer and elaborate contacts within the EU and other international and regional organisations, both countries have worked closely in the 5+5 Group which held its last Summit here in Malta in October, 2012 and which welcomed, amongst other eminent chief politicians, the Portuguese Prime and the then Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Exploring Potential Sectors of Mutual Interest: Tourism and Education

Among a number of sectors that may well lend themselves to potential business ventures, by way of example, I would definitely include the tourism industry and the teaching of English to Portuguese students in one of our reputable schools. Unfortunately, the lack of direct flights between the two countries seriously hampers the realisation of a continuing and healthy opening in both areas. Our Embassy has been constantly trying to attract a reliable airline company to take up the challenge and offer this new route. There is much more to Portugal for Maltese tourists then a fleeting visit to Fatima and its immediate surroundings as a pilgrim, whilst our English Language schools have a lot to offer to Portuguese students by way of quality in the level of teaching, competitive prices and a safe, friendly and attractive environment. I see no other specific reasons why Malta could not tap the Portuguese student potential in the way it has so far and over the years managed to attract other foreign students from say Spain and Italy. Financial constraints have indeed somewhat blurred this lucrative market but the possibility of attracting other students from countries like Portugal should not be overlooked. It is pertinent to note that contacts at tertiary level are already on-going. Just to mention a few, there is a good level of interchange by way of research and joint programmes, notably with our Department of Radiography within the Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of Malta with three Higher Education Institutions in Portugal, namely the Istituto Politecnico de Coimbra, the Universidade do Algarve ad the Istituto Poilitecnico do Porto. In other words, if one were to look around more carefully, there is much more than meets the eye.

The Setting Up Of a Portuguese-Maltese Chamber of Commerce

The need to spur a better understanding of each other in the business sector called for a more tangible and pro-active interaction. To this end, the idea to set up a viable venture in the shape of a Portuguese-Maltese Chamber of Commerce was mooted among a number of interested stakeholders with the help and unstinting efforts of the Malta Mission. Among those who deserve a special mention in this regard are Dr. Augusto Athayde, Honorary Consul for Algarve, Dr. Ray Bondin, our former Charge’ d’affaires for Malta in Lisbon and another Maltese compatriot Mr. Roderick Micallef, then General Manager of the prestigious Corinthia-Lisboa Hotel, and now Vice-President of the Corinthia Group of Companies, Ms. Claire Azzopardi from Malta Enterprise, and Mr. Neville Aquilina, Director, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On his part, the newly-appointed Charge’ d’affaires ad interim, Mr. Walter Mallia, left no stone unturned to co-ordinate and steer the project to a creditable conclusion.
Of course, this stage is not the end of the matter but rather the beginning of an exciting and promising venture. Indeed, we are looking already forward into the possibility of a similar project linking Malta with Porto in Northern Portugal.
It is also most interesting to note that by way of strengthening even further business connections and awareness between both countries, I have held talks with Mr. Klaus Pedersen representing the Malta Chamber of Commerce who is very keen in formalising a collaboration agreement between the Portuguese Business Council in the Malta Chamber as well as working closely with the new Chamber which is in the offing..

October Launch of the Portuguese-Maltese Chamber of Commerce

A formal Launch of the Portuguese-Maltese Chamber of Commerce is due to take place on October 17 in Lisbon with the support of Corinthia-Lisboa and our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the participation of the Head of Banif Bank, a Portuguese Bank with commercial connections with Malta. It is of the utmost importance that such a worthwhile initiative continues to thrive. To reach this goal, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is partly sponsoring the creation of a website offering a multiple of services and information to would-be entrepreneurs seeking pastures new. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has done its best towards achieving a successful and lasting outcome of this new venture between Malta and Portugal.
Long may it endure!

Joseph A. Filletti

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Welcome to our site.
Next 17th of October the Chamber of Commerce Portugal – Malta will be launched at the Corinthia Hotel in Lisbon at 18.30hrs.
I am sure it will be an important day for the strengthening of the good existing relations between our countries , both at Cultural and Economic levels. .
Should we consider the International Economic Crisis , the confirmation that it will be up to the private sector to participate decisively in the economic recovery emerges with intense clarity.
No doubt Malta and Portugal share a common culture as well as a few pages of the Mediterranean History , and let us hope that such roots will constitute a solid basis for the development of future innovative and dynamic projects, which will bring knowledge , prosperity and wealth.
Actually the new born Chamber is expected to function as a platform for the promotion of business between Portuguese and Maltese Entrepreneurs and Businessmen , and be seen as an efficient tool for the growth of the Maltese and Portuguese Economies.
However , we would also like to see this Chamber as a bridge between the northern African markets to which Malta has tight links , and the lusophone world .
May this project prove to be useful and enhance the already existing dynamic trade between Portugal and Malta.
I would also like to thank the Embassy of Malta to Portugal and the Malta Enterprise for the support given to this project.
Hoping to meet in the near future ,

Thank you very much

Augusto de Albuquerque de Athayde
President of the Chamber of Commerce