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‘Islamic elements must be accepted’

Europe must learn to accept an Islamic element to governments in North Africa, according to Foreign Affairs Minister Tonio Borg.

He argued that what mattered most was not the religious underpinnings of a government but rather its respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

Dr Borg was speaking to a gathering of diplomats and students at a Euromed conference organised by the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies in which he gave an overview of Malta’s relations with its Arab neighbours.

Malta’s involvement in Libya was underscored by the 2,400 visas Malta had issued to Libyan nationals in January and February of this year, while 320 Maltese businesses had expressed interest in joining a trade delegation to Libya.

The Arab Spring had further convinced Malta that its vocation as an interlocutor between Europe and the Arab world needed to be pursued with greater insistence, Dr Borg said.

He said the EU had to be willing to increase financial assistance to Arab Spring countries, as unemployment and tourism revenue there plummeted.

While expressing the hope that Egypt – “North Africa’s largest democracy” – would make good on its promise to extend civil rights and liberties, the Foreign Minister noted that Syria remained a matter of concern.

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