Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will address Maltese lawmakers via videolink in Parliament today – the first time a president of another country to address the island’s chamber in such a manner.
Speaker Anġlu Farrugia, who will introduce the Ukrainian president, told a meeting of the House Business Committee yesterday afternoon that everything was set for Zelensky to make the scheduled speech at 4pm – subject to any problems on the Ukrainian side.
Strict security precautions are being taken by the police outside the building as protests are expected by the Malta Freedom Movement, which would demonstrate “in favour of peace and neutrality”.
Inside the chamber, the strangers’ gallery will be kept vacant until President Zelensky, Prime Minister Robert Abela and Opposition leader Bernard Grech finish their speeches. The committee had earlier agreed that the strangers’ gallery would be open to the public but that the decision was reversed and such a notice was given on the motion of the adjournment of the House last night.
In one of the new government’s first moves, Zelensky was invited to address parliament, during a phone call between the foreign ministers of both countries. President Zelensky is expected to ask Malta’s support for his bid to join the EU.
President Zelensky said on his Telegram channel last night that Ukraine had submitted the second part of the answers to a specific questionnaire which must be compiled by every country that aspires to be part of the European Union. “It usually takes months. But we did it all in a few weeks,” he said, describing the move as “another very important and not only formal step on our way to the European Union”.
Malta had sent medical supplies to Ukraine and closed its airspace to Russian airlines when the invasion broke out on February 24. Apart from aid, Malta joined other EU member states in imposing sanctions on key Russian individuals, banks and companies. COVID travel restrictions were waived for Ukrainians seeking asylum in Malta.
President Zelensky has so far addressed more than 20 global parliaments in a bid to drum up support in view of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He has also addressed four multilateral institutions – the UN Security Council, the European Council, G7 and NATO – and he also spoke virtually at the Doha Forum. His first virtual address was to the European Parliament on March 1.