Central European Time Zone UTC+01:00
Capital City Valletta
National Day September 21
A CAREER DIPLOMAT with an impressive CV behind him, Malta’s High Commissioner Joseph Cole arrived in London in August. He and his wife Bernardette return to the capital, which was their home for three years between 1998 to 2002 when he served as Deputy Head of Mission at the High Commission. They know the city well and he and his wife have made frequent visits to the city since.
Growing up as the youngest of four children, Mr Cole was brought up in a “very conservative environment stressing punctuality and respect.” His younger years were spent involved with the Scout Association of Malta, an organisation that still interests him today.
After joining the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in December 1977, Mr Cole’s first posting was as Consul General in New South Wales, Australia (1983-85). After a short year at the Ministry of Finance and Commerce, he returned to the Foreign Ministry, where he remains today. After his stint in London, he represented Malta at various international forums, including the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002. That same year, Mr Cole accompanied the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on an official delegation to China. This work continued as the High Commissioner represented Malta at various EU meetings, including the EU General Affairs Council, the Foreign Affairs Council and the EU Working Groups on the Law of the Sea, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe from 2003-06.
In 2006, Mr Cole was appointed vice-chairman of Malta’s National UNESCO Commission, concurrently serving as Director for Global Issues at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mr Cole then became Director General for European and Economic Affairs, as well as chairman of the Malta Sanctions Monitoring Board, serving in both capacities for three years. He was also a member of the Malta Council for Economic and Social Development for a year.
Appointed to the rank of Ambassador in 2011, high profile roles followed as Malta’s Ambassador to the US and High Commissioner for Canada (2013-14), and then Ambassador to the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Norway (2014-18). “Gathering experience by serving in other countries and being exposed to different political systems and environments helps to build character and see challenges from different perspective,” he comments. “I believe that my past postings will make my experience in the UK a little bit easier.”
The most memorable day of his career to date came as Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2013: he had the opportunity to meet His Holiness the Pope. “The tradition in Malta is that every time a new Prime Minister is elected, the first official visit abroad is made on His Holiness the Pope. Hence, together with my wife, I formed part of the delegation.”
The various other tasks that came across his desk in this role included political issues with EU Member States, Australia, Canada, the US and China. He attended Foreign Affairs Council and General Affairs Council meetings in Brussels each month with the Foreign Minister, and advised Malta’s President, Prime Minister and Foreign Ministers on current political issues. “My duties also included attending to complex administrative issues at head office as well as Malta’s overseas diplomatic network,” he recalls.
As High Commissioner in the UK, Mr Cole says his “challenges include enhancing the already good relations Malta has with the UK; assessing how the eventual outcome of Brexit will effect Malta and what measures need to be taken to ensure that bilateral relations remain strong and effective; and endeavouring to promote Malta as an investment and commercial hub in the Mediterranean.”
The High Commissioner responds tentatively when questioned how he thinks the UK-Malta relationship might change post-Brexit. “Like other countries, we are closely following the negotiations between the UK and its European partners. It would be prudent to wait for their conclusion before commencing strategic thinking on how to manage the outcome of Brexit.”
Mr Cole is confident of Malta’s ongoing impact on the global stage. “It is incredible what a small country like Malta can do in the diplomatic field,” he exclaims. “Our past diplomatic initiatives in the UN in respect of the Ocean Bed and Climate Change are milestones in Malta’s diplomatic history. The continued success of Malta’s membership of the EU will continue to be a positive challenge. As will be keeping on track the steady expansion and economic progress the country has made in recent years.”
Dr Michaela Muscat says that Malta’s 2017 Presidency of the Council of the European Union is making Maritime Affairs a priority