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The Ministry Of Foreign Affairs History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the principal agency through which the state conducts its relations with the outside world. In many countries, this important position is held by the Minister of Foreign Affairs who is considered as one of the most senior members of government, because to conduct the foreign policy of a state is, in effect, to have a determining voice in the development of the state. Diplomacy is the means by which the foreign policy of a state is delivered and for this reason the diplomat has to work hand in hand with the foreign minister towards the implementation of national policy. Alternatively, foreign policy is an ancillary to domestic policy and serves its need.

The organisation of the diplomacy of a state is divided into two major parts. As a Government Department it operates through a Head Office in the capital city in charge of the basic responsibility of the conduct of foreign affairs. It is linked to a network of Missions in cities abroad and together, the Ministry and the Missions overseas are responsible for the promotion of the country’s interests abroad.

Maltese diplomatic history began on the attainment of independence from the British on 21st September 1964. Prior to this date it cannot be said that Malta had a ‘foreign policy’ of its own. As in almost all other areas of government, policies originated and were exercised by the colonial power and hence, the elected Maltese Government had absolutely no say, much less conceived or controlled the relations of the

Island with other countries.

However, this situation was not unknown to the Maltese people as such was the prevailing situation even between 1530 and 1798, since the Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St John considered Malta as its Principality after obtaining the islands as a fief from Emperor Charles V. The Order maintained a structure of Ambassadors who were resident in the capital cities of various European states including the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, the Kingdom of Bavaria, France, the capital of the Holy Roman Empire, and the Holy See whilst a number of European States also had their Ambassadors in Malta. These gentlemen, were in effect the equivalent of the modern Charges d’ Affaires and were generally called Ministers. [1] The administration of the Islands being completely in the hands of the Order, the Grandmaster of the day had the privilege of bestowing certain offices to the Maltese which were however rarely of an executive nature. [2] 

During the transition period between 1798 to 1800 from the departure of the Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St John’s from to the end of the French occupation and the arrival of the British in Malta, there was no significant change in the participation or control of the Maltese on Malta’s internal or far less foreign policy.

During the British rule that extended from 1802 to 1964, the Maltese Public Service was ‘no more than vehicle(s) by which British policy in Malta could be successfully implemented’ [3] and there were only three fields in which the Maltese government could have relations with other foreign countries: immigration, financial aid and commerce and Maltese external relations were handled exclusively by the British Governor acting on the instructions of the Colonial Office in London. As a consequence there could not be any Maltese ambassadors or consuls accredited to foreign countries. However, even before internal self-government became effective, in 1929 the British Government had agreed to the establishment of a representative Maltese Office in Australia and later in London, under the direction of a ‘Commissioner’ rather than ‘High Commissioner’, on the understanding that ‘neither post would be considered a diplomatic office’.

The Maltese Civil Service had over the 160 years of British Colonial rule acquired experience on the administration of domestic affairs of the island – namely finance, public works, health and education [4] . In the period between 1958 until 1964 the higher civil service prepared the ‘economic and administrative foundations upon which Maltese sovereignty was based’. [5] On the 21 September 1964, for the first time in their history, the Maltese people gained the possibility of formulating and conducting their own foreign policy. Thus Maltese diplomatic history started in 1964 when Malta, as a sovereign state, became a member of the United Nations.

Chapter One

The Nationalist Party strove to implement a foreign policy based on three pillars as outlined in their 1962 Electoral Program and namely Malta’s place within the Western bloc with a particular emphasis on the Mediterranean and the Commonwealth, the offer of services to the causes of the United Nations and that opportunities offered by the Common Market would be exploited. [6] 

On 29th September, 1964 Malta applied for membership of the United Nations and by Resolution 196 (1964) become the 114th Member State in the United Nations on 1st December 1964 [7] in the ‘Western European and Others Group’. The first statement of Malta to the General Assembly, made by Prime Minister Dr George Borg Olivier ‘concentrated on presenting its (Malta’s) role as a bridge between Africa and Europe and analysed the implications of this matter for Malta, establishing Malta’s unique role in the Mediterranean’ [8] . In this regards, it can be stated that from this very first contribution, the Maltese Government took and continued to take an active role in the proceedings of the United Nations, both in the General Assembly [9] and especially so when elected to the Security Council in 1983 – 1984.

Notwithstanding Malta’s status as a micro-state, its perseverance in the international fora was not to be underestimated as can be seen by the number of stands taken at the United Nations [10] with regards to disarmament, aid towards developing countries and peaceful settlement of disputes. But perhaps the most important issue put forward by Malta was its proposal to the United Nations on 17th August 1967, concerning the concept of the Common Heritage of Mankind to the international seabed and ocean floor and subsoil thereof, which eventually resulted in the International Law of the Sea. [11] 

The main objectives of the Maltese government initially were security, economic independence and political stability. For this reason even before the achievement of Independence, the Maltese government felt the need to create a distinct unit that would be responsible solely for Malta’s Commonwealth and other international relations. This was not an easy task due to no infrastructure and the lack of trained personnel within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs [12] , more so in dealings in the diplomatic field.

Bilateral relations were established immediately on Independence with Australia, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States of America and various countries sought to have their embassies accredited on the Island. Between 1964 and 1971 Malta forged diplomatic relations with countries across the globe [13] and its foreign policy firmly embedded it in the western hemisphere as a matter of course [14] .

Chapter Two

In June 1963, the Maltese Government issued an internal call for applications for the recruitment from within the Civil Service, of Officers ‘willing and competent to participate in the representation of Malta abroad’. [15] The aim was to create a small, compact, highly efficient corps of diplomats who could represent and promote effectively Malta’s political and commercial interests abroad. A total of eighty Officers whose grade varied from Under-Secretary to Executive Officer applied.

Immediately on Independence, the Nationalist Administration took the first steps towards the creation of a Foreign Service and hence the establishment of a new Ministry falling under the responsibility of the Prime Minister [16] with responsibility for Commonwealth and Foreign Relations was created. Fredrick Amato Gauci, who was a graduate civil servant having previously served as Director of Emigration, Labour and Social Service and who had also been decorated for his service as Major in the RMA during World War II [17] . He was appointed Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs and entrusted with the task of putting into place the structure necessary for operations. In order to gain first-hand experience on the structure of a Foreign Ministry, Amato Gauci, was sent to London to study the operational system of the British Foreign Ministry.

Mr Amato Gauci concentrated on building the structure of the new Ministry on two binaries and his top priority was the identification of the necessary human resources to put the newly created service in a position to implement the administration’s policy. The organisation of the Head Office was divided into three sectors and consisted primarily of three distinct Divisions, namely the Political, Administration and Protocol and Missions abroad. [18] His second and equally important task was the identification of adequate premises located in a central and prestigious position which could accommodate visits by foreign dignitaries and also Maltese officers working in the Ministry.

Adequate premises in a central position but in the proximity of the Office of the Prime Minister at Auberge d’ Aragon needed to be identified and the choice ultimately fell on St George’s Chancery, a prestigious location in Palace Square at the centre of Valletta.

With much of the necessary groundwork accomplished, the formal establishment of the External Affairs Service of the Government of Malta was done through a call for applications for Envoy [19] . Amongst the qualities required were, experience in executive or administrative capacity in business or Government service, knowledge of languages and experience gained in travel and work abroad. The grade of Envoy was on the par of the Commonwealth and Foreign Affairs Secretary. A total of seventeen applications were received but the only candidate considered to possess all requisites was Mr Philip Pullicino MBE, who had made a successful career in the United Kingdom Overseas Civil Service. Ambassadors were appointed not merely for their political allegiance but in certain posts depending on their competence. [20] 

The call for the recruitment of the Officers in the Grades of Counsellor, First Secretary and Second Secretary was published in March 1965. [21] Individuals who satisfied any of the following basic requirements could answer the said call for applications: possession of a degree in law, science, arts, commerce, economics or accountancy; Officers of the executive or administrative grades with five years’ service; or Regular or ex-Regular officers of the Armed Forces of Malta. Age limits were set. All Candidates had to have attained their 26th birthday on application however candidates appointed to the grade of Counsellor could not be above fifty years of age, a First Secretary could not be above forty-five years of age whilst a Second Secretary could not be above thirty-five years of age. A fundamental requirement in the call for applications was that successful candidates would be required to sign an undertaking to serve abroad at any time and also that they would be required to undergo courses of training in Malta and abroad.

A total of 53 applications were received however only 6 candidates were successful in the selection process with the appointment of two Counsellors, two appointments as First Secretary (the third candidate having declined the appointment) and no appointment as Second Secretary as the only successful candidate subsequently declined the offer of this post. The successful candidates were nominated to follow courses in diplomatic studies at prestigious educational institutions and specifically the Carnegie Endowment Institute in New York, Oxford University and the Universita’ degli Studi, Rome. Further training in the form of attachment to British Embassies was also envisaged. [22] 

When compared to Officers in the General Service, the grade of Counsellor was comparable to that of Assistant Secretary, (£1,110-50- £1,250) [23] , the grade of First Secretary to Administrative Officer (£860-40-£1060) whilst a Second Secretary was comparable to a Higher Executive Officer (£705-30-£810).

The subsequent recruitment effected in 1966 [24] was only for posts of First Secretary and Second Secretary and for the first time was open to female candidates, who would however receive three-fourths of salary rates in Malta [25] but would be entitled to receive the same allowances as their male counterparts whilst serving abroad. Applicants could not be over 50 years of age whilst the minimum age requirement was not amended and kept at 26 years, as in the first call of the previous year. The need to widen the areas of expertise of applicants was felt and applicants with executive, administrative or journalistic experience were also invited to apply. Whilst twenty seven applications were received, only one first Secretary and four Second Secretaries, including the first female diplomat in the Maltese External Service were appointed [26] . Further recruitment exercises which were carried out in 1967 [27] and 1968 [28] for both First Secretaries and Second Secretaries resulted in the appointment of only six Second Secretaries from a total of eighteen applicants, whilst in 1968 when the call for applications was restricted only to the recruitment in the grade of Second Secretary, three Second Secretaries were appointed from a total of twelve applicants.

While all these organisational activities were going on at home, adequate premises in the various capitals were being selected to house the Chanceries and official Residences. In most instances the properties were leased; however official premises were eventually purchased in New York and Washington in 1968 [29] and Brussels and Libya in 1969. [30] 

With the Maltese Diplomatic Corps still in its infancy, the diplomats posted overseas faced difficulties in conditions of employment. These difficulties regarded post classification allowances, rent or adequate lodging for officers below the rank of Ambassador and especially the provision of medical treatment abroad for the individual officers and the members of their families accompanying them on their posting overseas. ‘The Pay and Allowance Regulations’ [31] , which became effective 1st October 1966, and which were supplementary to Estacode [32] and the Administrative Instructions [33] formed the basis for the calculation of allowances which Officers in the External Service were entitled to during their posting overseas. Amongst the conditions stipulated one could find the rates of various allowance depending on the grade and country of posting of the Officer in respect of Expatriation, Wife and Child, Entertainment, Domestic Service, Medical Insurance and Rent. However Medical expenses proved to be a bone of contention for many officers when faced with exorbitant medical cost not covered by the Medical Insurance. This situation was solved when Mr Amato Gauci’s successor, Mr Joseph Rossignaud obtained approval from the Ministry of Finance for reimbursement of ninety per cent of medical and dental costs incurred by officers serving overseas. [34] 

During the headship of Mr Amato Gauci, the Ministry, for the first time compiled the ‘Administrative Instructions.’ [35] The Instructions constituted a compendium of operating instructions to be consulted by Diplomatic Staff on a range of subjects ranging from diplomatic practise, administrative and financial procedure. These Instructions are still available today and remain actual as regards the diplomatic and consular practice. Over the years, various attempts were made to update these Instructions so that they could effectively help diplomatic officers to respond to the ever-increasing exigencies of modern diplomatic and consular functions. The administrative and financial procedures employed at the Ministry continue to be those established by the Public Service Management Code and the Financial Regulations, in force throughout the whole public administration as updated from time to time.

In a matter of a few years the Ministry of Commonwealth and Foreign Affairs had established its identity as a leader in the implementation of policy and on the change in administration in the 1970s, notwithstanding its relatively small staff complement, was an active actor in the Maltese political arena.

Chapter Three

The Labour Party (MLP) won the general elections in June 1971 and immediately strove to execute the far reaching changes which had been advocated on while in opposition. Dom Mintoff as Prime Minister, who like his predecessor assumed the responsibility of the Foreign Ministry, had ‘a new, wider vision of Malta’s place in the world’. [36] The main aspects of the Labour Government’s foreign policy, even in its second and third terms, were influenced by Malta’s domestic policy whereby the island’s strategic position were exploited into attracting investment and trade activity, securing financial aid [37] and creating economic activity. Furthermore, the creation of a Mediterranean awareness in the spirit of cooperation for peace and progress leading to the withdrawal of foreign fleets [38] from the Mediterranean and the vision of a neutral Malta [39] was advocated. A further move by the Labour administration to break with the past was the proclamation of the Republic of Malta on 13 December 1974. [40] 

In the United Nations, Malta started to disassociate itself from the Western European ad Other Group and sought closer links with the Group of 77 and the Non-Aligned Movement through membership in both groups. Mintoff’s intransigency on the conviction for a demilitarized Mediterranean free from superpower influence [41] momentarily disrupted the 1975 Helsinki Conference on European Security and Cooperation. The Maltese Government had hoped to have four security guarantors, two from either bank of the Mediterranean, however the only Protocol for financial, economic and technical assistance was agreed to with Italy in 1980. This Protocol implicitly roped back Malta into the western hemisphere.

Major changes were taking place in the Ministry, where a changing of the guard at the Headship had taken place with the appointment of Mr J. Rossignaud, a senior civil servant, to the post of Secretary. Due to the increase in personnel [42] , the need to identify appropriate premises became a priority. Palazzo Parisio which contains architectural style and rich features necessary to do credit to the Ministry of Foreign was chosen [43] and the move took place in October 1973.

The Recruitment into the External Affairs Service was discontinued due to the lack of response [44] and in concurrence with the Government’s policy to achieve greater flexibility in the Public Service by curtailing the variegation of grades. The Foreign Service Grades were subsequently absorbed into the General Service as of 1 February 1974. [45] Under this reorganisation, former Foreign Service officers were still liable to serve abroad according to the exigencies of the Service whilst General Service officers in the grades ranging from Clerk I to Head I, were required to undertake to serve the Ministry as and where required for a pre-determined period. As a consequence, a call for applications for ‘Posting to Overseas Missions’ was issued on 17 August 1976, thereby completing the implementation of this re-organisation. [46] The recruitment of Diplomatic Officers at a later date supplemented the arrival of new blood in the Ministry.

The prominence given to foreign policy-making by the Labour administration was further enhanced when, during the third legislation, the Prime Minister chose to appoint Dr Alex Sciberras Trigona as Foreign Minister. [47] 

The policies adopted between 1971 and 1987 were ‘a radical recasting of the security cum economic arrangements that been moulded in Malta’s colonial history’. [48] Diplomacy, as a government activity then refers to not only a particular policy instrument but also the whole process of policymaking and implementation. Further Maltese representations were established in European capitals [49] in an effort to actuate the foreign policies of the day thereby obtaining valuable assistance for the actuation of domestic policies whilst also accentuating Malta’s importance on the international scene. The extent of the island’s diplomatic presence extended to the Gulf (Riyadh), Maghreb (Algiers), East Asia (Pyongyang), Middle East (Baghdad) and Eastern Europe (Moscow).

During this same period, notwithstanding limited human and economic resources as recruitment into civil service had been temporarily interrupted, and also inadequate telecommunication infrastructure, the Foreign Ministry was instrumental in hosting a continuous stream of high-level foreign delegations with the conclusion of a substantial number of bilateral agreements resulting in beneficial assistance to Malta.

No Secretary in place in 1987

Chapter Four

The chief thrust of the foreign policy of the new Nationalist government on its return to power in May 1987 was a realignment with Europe [50] and the attainment of full membership of the then European Community. [51] The neutrality clause however, threatened to prove an obstacle in view of the Community’s objective of fuller integration even on a political level, as signalled in the Single European Act. [52] Nonetheless, when the Commission of the European Union issued its Opinion or Avis on Malta’s application [53] and an Update Report in 1999 [54] , it did suggest that a constitutional amendment might be necessary to clear the legal difficulties that neutrality might constitute, where Malta was to be admitted as a full member. The new administration also adopted a shift in voting patterns in the United Nations and detachment from NAM and the Group of 77.

Dr Vincent (Censu) Tabone, assumed responsibility for the Foreign Ministry and endeavoured to undertake a complete re-organisation of the Ministry and its policies. The application for membership in the EU necessitated the establishment of the EU Directorate within the MFA [55] in 1990, which was entrusted with the task of reviewing the compatibility or otherwise of Maltese legislation with European law [56] and keeping government organisations informed of developments within the EU by offering advice and assistance. This necessitated the recruitment of professional officers (namely economists and lawyers) under the directorship of Dr Joe Borg. [57] 

Reform of the public service to transform the bureaucracy, improve governance and accountability was a priority for the Maltese Government and following the publication of the PSRC Report [58] , and specifically that Public Service responds ‘efficiently to the changing needs for effective government [59] ‘ and the Operations Review of the structures and administrative facilities of government, major restructuring of the public service was initiated. The classification structure of the Public Service, which in 1990 had some 100 different salary scales, was replaced by a more simplified structure of just 20 scales and newly established professions and occupational groups gained status. A main objective of the Public Service Reform was the reorganisation of departments service-wide to avoid duplication of work and the Foreign Ministry, like all other governmental departments, underwent a major reform in its organisational set-up with the establishment of a Legal Affairs Section, Protocol Section and the re-introduction of a Library [60] . The Passport Office which had since 1964 formed an integral part of the Foreign Ministry [61] was transferred to the MHASD in 1992.

Further human resources were necessary in the light of the opening of strategically selected new missions in Beijing, Cairo, Tunis, Athens and Madrid. [62] But for foreign policy to be implemented efficiently and cost-effectively necessitated the re-establishing of an ‘ad hoc’ diplomatic corps [63] , whereby the Ministry would have the service of a professional and specialised body of officials, [64] who will be required to fill all vacancies in overseas posts at the various grades from First Secretary to Ambassadorial level. [65] In 1992 approval was finally forthcoming from the PSC for recruitment of First Secretaries into the diplomatic service through public examination 


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