(MENAFN - Arab News) Malta, being a member of the European Union, is keen to further bolster ties with GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) nations, including Saudi Arabia, said Prime Minister of Malta Lawrence Gonzi.
Gonzi, who was in Manama on Monday on the second leg of his visit to a number of GCC countries, unveiled a roadmap of future Maltese-GCC cooperation, which he believes would bring both the GCC and the EU closer.
The prime minister is to visit all GCC nations, except Saudi Arabia, which he is to visit on separately considering its size and diverse economic base.
"We need a separate visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as part of our efforts to seek opportunities in various fields of common interest," said Gonzi.
"While we cannot ignore the current challenges facing the global economy, nor become complacent, we must also not lose sight of our own strengths. If confidence in our strengths falters, our willingness and ability to exploit these strengths will be lessened," he told the audience of a one-day financial seminar.
"As the financial crisis started to unfold and propagate, the voices of those who believed that financial integration was to blame got louder and the confidence of those advocating protectionist measures got stronger. However, they were wrong. It is not integration that was to blame for financial instability and its impact on the real economy but policy and supervisory failures," he added.
Malta's financial services sector, he said, has been resilient enough not only to withstand the impact but also to continue moving steadily along the growth path. Last year, the sector grew by 22 percent over a year earlier.
"This robust performance at a time of such adversity confirms our strong fundamentals as well as our potential to expand further. This high degree of resilience was also confirmed by the latest Moody's report," he said.
During his visit to Manama, Gonzi held talks with his Bahraini counterpart, Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa, and discussed issues of trade, tourism, investment and bilateral cooperation.
Malta's Minister of Finance, the Economy and Investment Tonio Fenech and his Bahraini counter-part Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa signed an avoidance of double-taxation treaty.
By Mahmood Rafique