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Borg Olivier eyed good relations with the Soviet Union

Diplomatic relations were established in 1967

In the presence of Prince Philip, George Borg Olivier addresses the crowds attending the official handing over of the Independence instruments in September 1964. Photo: Department of Information

In the presence of Prince Philip, George Borg Olivier addresses the crowds attending the official handing over of the Independence instruments in September 1964. Photo: Department of Information

Former prime minister George Borg Olivier sought to “befriend” the Soviet Union after Malta’s Independence, at a time when the rest of Europe already had official links with Moscow.according to a new book.

The book, A Materialist Revision of Maltese History: 1919-1979, was authored by historian Mark Camilleri and will be published next month by Sensiela Kotba Soċjalisti.

According to a Cabinet memorandum dated July 22, 1966, Dr Borg Olivier – who, apart from being prime minister was also minister of the Commonwealth and foreign affairs – argued that Malta had held off having official relations with the USSR for far too long.

He believed Malta could no longer do so, as it would antagonise the Soviet Union, given that the island was the only European State that did not have such links.

Diplomatic relations were formally established a year later, in 1967 - although the USSR was not to have an embassy here until the 1980s. 

Mr Camilleri writes in A Materialist Revision that the former Nationalist prime minister headed the first post-Independence government on a pro-Western, pro-Nato, anti-communist ticket.

The book refers to an incident involving a Maltese-owned commercial tanker, the Doris, as the turning point in Malta-USSR relations. The tanker entered Odessa to unload grain from Argentina, and given that Malta had no taxation agreement with the USSR, the vessel was required to pay extra charges for the unloading.

As a result of the incident, Malta and the USSR negotiated an agreement to prevent extra port charges for both sides. However, the issue of opening a Soviet embassy in Malta was postponed, the author writes.

Mr Camilleri begins his narrative by examining the riots that occurred on June 7, 1919. The book is the second in a four-part series presenting the author’s materialist revision of Maltese history.

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