Malta on the International Sphere: A Small State’s Perspective
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Malta on the International Sphere: A Small State’s Perspective

Produced By Michela Zammit; Dennis Grech; Kimberly Zammit, Date: Jun 01, 2020
In literall jargon, small is equated to size, however when this term is used to define a state, more often than not, we are faced with the question of what constitute a small state. There is ongoing debate as to what constitutes a small state. Opinions differ to say the least.  Academics have failed to establish just one definition of small states, many seem to argue that size is defined by the country’s landmass whilst others are of the view that “smallness” can be perceived by their role in international hierarchy.

With an area of 316 km2 and a population that falls well below the 1 million mark, it should not come as a surprise to anyone that Malta is one of the smallest states in the world at least in terms of landmass. However, our island’s landmass has not stopped Malta, from rising to the occasion time and time again and actively contribute to debates within the international community.


“Small size does not automatically translate into vulnerability in the international arena.”[1]

This quote perfectly mirrors Malta’s foreign policy as Malta uses its geographical position, a small island-state in between two major continents, Europe and Africa, and its neutrality, well in international affairs. These two facts, Malta’s geographical position and the island’s neutrality, help establish Malta as an honest broker. In fact, Malta can be seen as a great champion of soft power. This is as Malta has always been vocal and determined to work towards the strengthening of peace and security in its immediate neighbourhood, the Mediterranean, which is directly linked to peace and security in Europe and the rest of the world. Today’s regional challenges have evolved considerably and Malta firmly believes that initiatives in the Euro-Mediterranean region offer the suitable framework to address these challenges through dialogue and cooperation, with the final aim of reaching the full potential of the Northern and Southern shores of the Mediterranean.

The country’s potential is not mirrored by its size. As an European Member State, Malta is a proud active member of a Union whose intrinsic values have contributed to stability, growth and prosperity to the region. Since the Malta Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Malta has continued to work unabatedly to bring the EU closer to its citizens and to ensure the EU remains relevant and credible. Firm in the belief that the EU is the best platform to address the issues all the Member States face, we have continued to underline that European solutions are required to solve European challenges.

Fully recognising the importance of having a rules-based multilateral system with the United Nations at its core, Malta continues to uphold the importance of promoting international cooperation firm in the belief that global issues require global solutions which can only be achieved through active collaboration. The eradication of the structures that have promoted cooperation and brought prosperity and stability for decades needs to be stopped. In the words of John Donne, “No man is an island”. As history has continuously shown, and as indeed we are witnessing today with the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, we need to revitalise and refocus our efforts through multilateral endeavours which can secure lasting solutions.

Over the years, Malta have sought to take various steps towards contributing towards promoting dialogue on different issues, from Law of the Sea and Oceans matters to Climate Change and Ageing. Malta has also established itself as the jurisdiction of choice for all types of innovative and avant-garde technologies. Recognising the capabilities these technologies offer, Malta passed the first regulatory framework for blockchain, cryptocurrency and Distributed Ledger Technology in November 2018. We have also sought to harness relations both with International organisations as well as with partner countries. It is also an honour to have been appointed as a Co-Chair of the United Nation’s (UN) Steering Committee on Partnerships for Small Island Developing States, a responsibility which Malta shall seek to take ahead with a commitment and understanding that size does not determine resilience.

At a time when one of the greatest global challenges is the eradication of poverty, achieving the SDGs and harnessing the potential they represent is beyond the reach of any single country, irrespective of size and prowess. Malta has registered progress in a good number of sustainable development targets. Data published in the 2019 SDG Index and Dashboards Report places Malta in the 28th place, out of 162 countries. This is a recognition of our collective actions in the drive to mainstream sustainability.

Our ambition is clear yet, over the years, the central fulcrum of our foreign policy remain our people. Each and every decision is taken with the best interest of our people and that of the international community at heart, for it is our people that make a nation.  We are an island nation whose unique identity, traditions and language have been at the centre of each and every milestone of our history,  have evolved into a determined, resilient and modern nation, a country whose voice, outlook and vision for the future are a living example that size is just a concept. Attitude is what drives us.

Michela Zammit, Counsellor
Dennis Grech, Counsellor
Kimberly Zammit, Second Secretary

[1] Jeanne A.K. Hey, “Introducing Small States Foreign Policy”, in Small States in World Politics. Explaining Foreign Policy Behaviour (Boulder, London: Lynee Rienner Publisher, 2003), 2.