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By Ambassador Daniel Rondeau, French Ambassador to Malta.

For hundreds of years the delicate art of diplomacy was mainly concerned with issues of war and peace. Some battles which had to be avoided, and others had to be fought and won. An ambassador’s essential task was to inform his sovereign of the stakes involved, of the forces at play and of possible alliances.

The ambassador was the person who tried to establish the truth about the country where he was stationed and his duty was also to make his country known and to extend its influence. Ultimately, diplomacy is all about forging friendships for the mutual benefit of all parties involved.

As ambassador, I feel it is my responsibility to ensure that such friendship is nurtured and developed and the protection of the environment should be given its rightful place, at the centre of our diplomatic actions. Just like every other country across the globe, especially industrialised ones, Malta has its fair share of environmental issues to deal with. But it is not just industrialised countries that face environmental challenges; other countries are often collateral victims of the rampant industrialisation our planet has witnessed.

I think in particular of the scarcity of drinking water, a problem which is not new, but a complicated one for the Maltese government, especially in summer, when the archipelago must provide water to a considerable number of tourists. The quality of water and its availability can very quickly become a strategic issue. The Maltese government decided to face the problem in a courageous manner and I am proud that it was a French company, Dégremont, that was selected to build the most important water treatment plant in Malta. Thanks to this installation and a close cooperation between this French company and the Maltese officials in charge of water supply, Malta will become a reference for the entire Mediterranean region when it comes to water and the quality of the sea. This is something Malta can be proud of as the Mediterranean is our common good.

I have walked quite a lot on the shores of the Mediterranean, in many countries and I must admit that I was often absolutely revolted to see that the sea of Homer had come to resemble a dustbin. Fortunately, in Malta, the Mediterranean is often clearer and cleaner than elsewhere and its quality will further improve when the Dégremont plant is inaugurated next February. In fact, I have asked our Minister for Environment, Mr. Borloo (another Frenchman in love with Malta!) to come here to inaugurate the plant together with his Maltese counterpart.

The environment is not only about the quality of water; the air, the problems linked to pollution and to waste and its treatment... it is also about the safeguarding of the environment’s natural beauty, which is our heritage and the heritage of future generations. However, I find that we speak too little about it and this is a situation that I would like to see change in the near future.

Beauty exists everywhere in Malta. In the countryside and on the shores, on the intricate lacework formed by the creeks, in deep water bays suitable for anchorage and in the inlets with their terraces of cultivated land, surrounded with low walls made of dry limestone, bay-tree or prickly pear hedges. Beauty is also to be seen in Malta’s urban areas, in the towns circumscribed by kilometres of historic buildings and walls, many of which are in the process of being restored.

The Mediterranean has endowed upon us a sense of moderation and of beauty. It is essential to preserve this beauty, which is a gift of our past to our present time.