The Directorate-General focuses its efforts on ensuring that Malta’s foreign policy objectives on bilateral and regional issues are pursued, not least through active participation in the European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) as well as other fora. These efforts include the preparation of positions for interventions at the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC), the relevant Council structures, including working group meetings. The DG is sub-divided into two Directorates, one dealing with European Affairs and another with External Relations and Mediterranean Affairs.
External Relations and Mediterranean Affairs Directorate
Malta’s relations with non-European countries and its position on a number of international political issues are co-ordinated by the External Relations and Mediterranean Affairs Directorate. Such positions are also expressed, where appropriate, at the EU level within the relevant Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) structures.
In the regional context, active participation in the Euro-Mediterranean Process, now transformed into the Union for the Mediterranean incorporating the participation of all littoral Mediterranean States, and designed to serve as an engine for the implementation of practical projects, remains a top priority. Malta’s involvement in other regional fora and initiatives of direct relevance to the Mediterranean region, namely the European Neighbourhood Policy, the Western Mediterranean (5+5) Dialogue and the Union for the Mediterranean are likewise co-ordinated by the Directorate.
In consonance with the Ministry’s strategic objective of strengthening bilateral relations, particularly with neighbouring countries, the Directorate continues to actively nurture Malta’s external relations on a bilateral level while ensuring focus on matters of direct interest. The Directorate focuses largely on Malta’s relations with its immediate neighbours, and others further afield such as the United States, Russia and China with whom Malta has traditionally always enjoyed very good relations. The Directorate is also responsible for Malta’s political relations with African countries and the African Union, as well as for monitoring developments in the Middle East.
European Affairs Directorate
The Directorate European Affairs manages Malta’s overall bilateral relations with the Member States of the European Union. It is also responsible for Malta’s links with Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, N. Macedonia, Iceland, Kosovo, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Montenegro, Norway, San Marino, Serbia, Switzerland and Turkey as well as with the Holy See and the Sovereign Military Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta.
The main objective of this Directorate is to create, maintain and enhance strong and mutually beneficial ties with all these countries. Its role is to formulate and coordinate national policy in their regard so that Malta’s interests are best protected whilst its relations with its European neighbours are kept at their best possible level. The Directorate also manages official high-level visits to and from partner European countries, coordinating and helping in their organisation as required.
The Directorate European Affairs spearheads the Ministry’s bilateral European initiatives, promoting mutually advantageous exchanges at all levels and helping set in place agreements that regulate matters of everyday importance for the people of Malta and those of its European interlocutors.
In addition relations with the Western Balkans states, including the EU perspective of the countries that are yet to open EU accession negotiations, also fall within this Directorate’s remit.
(UN and international organisations, Commonwealth, human rights, disarmament, terrorism, environment, migration, maritime, sanctions and export control, candidatures, contributions, international institutions in Malta)
The Directorate Global Issues is responsible for overseeing issues relating to the United Nations and other international organisations, including the Commonwealth. It also handles issues relating to human rights, disarmament, terrorism, environment, migration and asylum, maritime matters, sanctions and export control, candidatures and contributions.
The Directorate coordinates and prepares the briefs for Malta’s delegations to the UN General Assembly. It also coordinates Malta’s periodical presentation of reports to various UN bodies such as the Human Rights Council and its subsidiary bodies, the Universal Periodic Review, the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Within the ambit of migration and asylum, the Directorate liaises with the Ministry for Home Affairs and National Security and the Permanent Representation of Malta to the EU in covering technical meetings as well as Senior Official discussions both in Brussels as well as in other capitals. The Directorate oversees the external dimension of migration policy and liaises with a number of international organizations and local entities in the drawing up of national policy and outreach activities.
International Development and Economic Affairs
(Development and Humanitarian Assistance, Commercial Promotion, Cultural Promotion, OSCE, Council of Europe, Economic Affairs, European Parliament, MFA Focal Point for EU Presidency)
The Development Unit is responsible for Malta’s official development and humanitarian assistance policies and programmes and ensures Malta is suitably represented in the relevant EU and UN discussions and, in collaboration with other partners (including local Non-Governmental Development Organisations), and also directs the Ministry’s bilateral assistance to developing countries in accordance with OECD-DAC rules. The Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) is the EU’s major financial instrument for development cooperation in the 2014‐20 period and a series of meetings are being held in Brussels between the Commission and Member states. The Partnership Instrument for Cooperation on the other hand is there to promote EU interests in third countries.
The European Development Fund is the key instrument for delivering EU assistance for development cooperation with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states. European Economic Partnerships are negotiated between the EU and ACP regions which are involved in a regional economic integration process. The Millennium Development Goals aim towards the eradication of poverty and hunger in under-developed countries. The Post-2015 Development Agenda aims to further focus efforts in this regard. The European Year for Development 2015 will aim at increasing awareness among EU citizens on this subject.
With 57 States from Europe, Central Asia and North America, the OSCE is the world’s largest regional security organization. It offers a forum for political negotiation and decision-making in the fields of conflict prevention, crisis management, and post-conflict rehabilitation. It also puts the political will of its participating States into practice through its network of field missions.
The Council of Europe is the continent’s leading human rights organisation. It includes 47 member states, 28 of which are members of the European Union. All Council of Europe member states have signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights, a treaty designed to protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
The Commercial desk is the Ministry’s focal point on the Joint Stakeholders Working Council (JSWC), which serves to coordinate Malta’s promotional activities abroad as well as identify strategic approaches on how to exploit new opportunities in emerging markets as well as in those countries where the Ministry can take a more leading role in the promotion of foreign direct investment. The desk also assists our Embassies with the commercial requests they receive as well as with the organisation of any business related events they organise abroad and provides relevant assistance to foreign business delegations visiting Malta. The desk also monitors international economic developments, with the assistance of other Ministries as well as our Embassies and Permanent Representations abroad.
Cultural Diplomacy Unit
The Cultural Diplomacy Unit was established in 2013 with the intention to implement the Ministry’s Cultural Policy. The main purpose of the Unit is to promote Maltese culture and identity abroad through the creation of networks that focus on Malta’s importance as a country in the midst of the Mediterranean and member of the European Union. It is the intention of the Unit to build a solid infrastructure that would enable Maltese Missions abroad to have the possibility to make Malta visible through cultural means as well as build a high-level exportable portfolio that represents Maltese culture at its best. The role of the Unit is also to exchange and disseminate culture-related knowledge with local and foreign stakeholders to help achieve the objectives of its mandate in the best possible manner.
Another arm of the Cultural Diplomacy Unit is the Cultural Diplomacy Fund which was launched in 2012. The Fund is managed through the Unit and an appointed board consisting of representatives from Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs. The aim of the Fund is to incentivise Maltese Missions abroad to organise and participate in cultural events that reflect the Maltese cultural idiom as well as the intercultural dimension attached to such events. There are presently two annual calls for proposals originating exclusively from Maltese Missions Abroad.
The Protocol Directorate is the first point of contact of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs. Public relations play a prominent role in this Directorate’s remit, from Protocol officials welcoming newly accredited Ambassadors or High Commissioners, as well as seeing them off when their term of duty expires, to the answering of a broad range of questions put forward by the general public.
State and Official Visits
The organisation of state visits is one of the foremost roles of the Protocol Directorate. The Directorate, in conjunction with the Office of the President (OPR) and the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) coordinates the logistics for both State and Official Visits.
On the other hand, Protocol Directorate also plays a pivotal role in the organisation of official visits, through advising on correct ceremonial procedures, assisting incoming and outgoing delegations at the airport, booking transport, publishing official and cultural programs and in liaison with the Police, coordinating security measures.
Protocol Directorate is entrusted with the appointment of new Ambassadors or High Commissioners accredited to Malta. This procedure entails seeking the agrément of proposed Ambassadors or High Commissioners by the sending state to the formal Ceremony of the Presentation of Credentials organised by the OPR. Similarly, Protocol Directorate asks for the agrément of Maltese Ambassadors or High Commissioners deployed abroad and assists them with the receiving states’ Ceremony of Presentation of Credentials.
Protocol Directorate assists the newly accredited Ambassadors or High Commissioners, as well as other diplomatic staff, in ensuring that the immunities and privileges accorded to them by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961) are administered correctly. Such services include the provision of vehicle diplomatic registration plates in conjunction with the Licensing and Testing Department (ADT), the endorsement of duty-free alcohol, tobacco and personal effects, VAT reimbursement and the booking of the Ministerial Lounges at the Malta International Airport.
This Directorate is also entrusted with the accreditation of Honorary Consuls representing Malta abroad, and conversely, foreign Honorary Consuls representing their sending state.
Diplomatic clearance for vessels, aircraft, Military visits and use of Military Uniforms
Another competence of the Protocol Directorate is the processing of requests received from resident and non-resident missions seeking diplomatic clearance for the authorised passage of aircraft and sea vessels through Maltese airspace and territorial seawaters respectively.
These clearances involve the combined effort of Protocol Directorate, the Defence Matters Directorate, the Department of Civil Aviation, the Armed Forces of Malta and the Malta Maritime Authority.
General consular assistance
The Directorate for Consular Services and Maltese living Abroad may be described as the showcase of the Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade (MFET) as it deals directly with services aimed at the general public. With the invaluable assistance of Maltese diplomatic staff serving abroad, the Directorate provides a broad array of services to Maltese individuals, ranging from medical assistance, assistance to victims of crime and loss or theft of travel documents amongst others.
In such situations, the Directorate acts as the point of contact between the individual who is abroad and his/her family at home, facilitates financial transactions when required, and in countries where Malta has a diplomatic presence, ensures that Maltese diplomatic officials, whenever possible, visit and assist the person in distress. The Directorate also helps in searching for Maltese citizens reported missing while abroad or provides information to the family who seeks information in this regard. All requests for information are treated in full confidentiality.
Arrest or detention while abroad
Whenever a Maltese national is arrested or sentenced by a foreign court, MFET acts as the means of communication between the detained individual and his family in Malta, and tries to ensure that the convicted citizen has access to adequate legal representation in a language that he or she may understand.
Emergency or crisis situations
Whenever a country or region is affected by an emergency or crisis situation, such as a natural disaster or terrorist attack, the Directorate serves as the point of contact between Maltese nationals who may get caught in the crisis and their concerned families at home. In such cases, the Ministry sets up an ad hoc Emergency Crisis Centre, equipped with emergency telephone lines to address the public’s queries. The Directorate also maintains constant communication, through its Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates, with the local authorities where the crisis occurred and with other EU member states to ensure that it receives the latest official information on the particular crisis.
Visa applications and travel advice
The Directorate provides general information concerning visa requirements and visa application procedures to Maltese nationals wishing to travel abroad. It also provides regularly updated travel advice to Maltese nationals who may need to travel to countries where the political situation or otherwise may not be conducive for travel.
The Directorate has a legalisation unit which issues Apostilles or Legalisations. Apostilles and legalisations are authorised endorsements of public or commercial documents that are officially recognised by both the country of issue and the country in which they are to be used.
Local and foreign governments offer a number of scholarships for Maltese citizens who may wish to continue with their studies abroad. Following an official notification of an offered scholarship, the Directorate issues a press release, distributes and receives applications from interested parties, and coordinates interviews, where applicable. The Scholarship Unit within the Directorate also offers practical guidance to successful candidates.
Every legal process that involves Maltese and foreign jurisdictions, seeks the Consular Services Directorate’s assistance, which through its network of Embassies and Consulates abroad, serves as the main point of contact between the juridical authorities of the countries concerned.
The main objective of the Consul on the Move (COTM) Programme is to provide a number of consular services, which normally are available at Malta’s Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates General abroad. The initiative started in 2016 following the introduction of the biometric passport, which require the applicant to physically call at the Mission to apply and have his biometric data captured. Besides passport applications, the services offered through the COTM include applications for life events certificates and Maltese citizenship. The Programme conforms with the government’s policy to bring its services closer to the citizens. Currently the service is available in five main countries with the largest number of Maltese residents, namely: Canada, USA, UK, Australia and New Zealand.
The Directorate for Consular Services and Maltese Living Abroad coordinates the annual visits together with the High Commissions, Embassies involved as well as give advice on any issues related to the programme with a view to ensure that the mobile service offered to Maltese citizens resident abroad is of the highest possible level.
Maltese Living Abroad Unit
The Directorate has a Unit specifically dedicated to the Maltese Living Abroad. The Unit has the purpose of safeguarding the interests of Maltese citizens living abroad.
Amongst other issues, the Unit handles the following:
- Gather information and policies advice related to Diaspora issues;
- Keep regular contact with all stakeholders related to the Maltese living abroad;
- Monitor local legislations and EU regulations potentially affecting Maltese Living Abroad;
- Provide consultation and advice to Government on Diaspora matters;
- Maintain close and effective liaison with Malta’s overseas diplomatic missions;
- Keep close contact and assist the Secretary of the Council of Maltese Living Abroad. The Council is established by Act XX of 2011 (CAP 515);
- Ensure the continuation and implementation of decisions made by the Council for the Maltese Living Abroad (CMLA);
- Assist the Secretary of the CMLA in the organization and convening in Malta of the annual CMLA Meeting as well as other meetings taking place from time to time via video-conferencing;
- Assist in the preparation for the Convention for the Maltese Living Abroad;
- Maintain a register of NGO’s and Associations of the Maltese living abroad;
- Maintain a register of successful Maltese living abroad;
- Promote and encourage the voluntary registration of Maltese citizens living abroad, known as Notification D’
Maltese Living Abroad website: https://malteselivingabroad.gov.mt/