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Honourable Prime Minister,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
Mr Paul Attard, President of the St John's Co-Cathedral Foundation,
I feel very honoured to have the privilege of being here today representing the German Government and to have the great honour of inaugurating the restored "Chapel of the Langue of Germany" of St John's Co-Cathedral in the presence of His Excellency, the Prime Minister, and together with the President of the St John's Co-Cathedral Foundation, Mr Attard. Even though I have seen pictures of the Chapel before and after the restoration, I am excited to be here and see for myself what fantastic results the restoration team has achieved. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the St John's Co-Cathedral Foundation and the restoration team for their remarkable work.
Visitors to Malta easily understand - when they come here -why St John's Co-Cathedral is among the most impressive monuments Malta has to offer. It is also without a doubt one of the most fascinating historic buildings in Europe.
During her visit to Malta and the St John's Co-Cathedral in January 2011, German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the Cathedral as "a forerunner of the European Union" as its eight chapels represent various nations of Europe at the time of the Knights. Moreover, the German Chapel on its own stands as an important and precious testimony of the shared history of Malta, Germany, and other countries with German as their mother tongue.
If you study the history of the Chapel, you will learn that it is was built and extended over the years piece by piece as a joint effort by many different European players. The Chapel of "the Langue of Allemagne", as it was referred to during the time of the Knights, was originally assigned to "the Langue of England" before it was re-assigned to "the Langue of Germany" in the Chapter General of 1603 when the Church of England was established.
The wall carvings were executed following the bequest of Knight Fra Christian Von Osterhausen who donated 1200 scudi for the adornment of this chapel in his will in 1664. Additional financial support was provided by the Prior of Hungary, Fra Francis de Sonnemberg. The altar painting, the paintings fitted into the lunettes on either side of the chapel, were a gift by Knight Fra Giovanni Ernesto Conte della Torre in 1667 and were executed in the seventeenth century by the Maltese artist Stefano Erardi (1630-1716). I am proud to say that this history of joint efforts concludes today with the restoration of the Chapel as a partnership project between our two nations.
The Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany provided a grant totalling around 150,000 euros through the cultural preservation programme for German heritage monuments abroad, while the St John's Co-Cathedral Foundation managed and Maltese and Italian masters executed the actual restoration.
This very successful joint project is an important symbol for both our countries and another milestone in the growing excellent relations between Germany and Malta not only in the field of cultural relations. Especially the recent past has been marked by a whole series of high-level visits to Malta and to Germany. There is a vibrant exchange between Germany and Malta on governmental and Parliament level. Our two nations work increasingly closely on various dossiers in the EU and we cooperate intensively to resolve issues such as the current debt crisis as well as irregular migration which are equally important to both Germany and Malta.
Our economic relations are strong and growing. German investment stands at almost 27 billion Euros making Germany the biggest investor nation in Malta. Around 60 German companies are operating in and from Malta. Germany ranks first on Malta's export statistics and is the fourth biggest source for imports to this country. An increasing number of approximately 140,000 German tourists staying overnight plus about 250,000 German cruise passengers come every year to Malta to see the beauty of your islands, the impressive heritage and rich culture, and to enjoy the hospitality of the Maltese people. And, I am very certain that a very high percentage of German tourists are visiting this wonderful cathedral as an extraordinary masterpiece of Baroque art which now has another gemstone added through our joint efforts.
The restoration of the German Chapel is an outstanding example of the fruitful cooperation between Malta and Germany. I believe in times such as these, where the euro area and the European Union face monumental challenges, it is very important to be reminded of the historical and cultural foundations on which Europe is built. To overcome the crisis and to strengthen European cooperation, we need more Europe, not less. And we need more of the European spirit, of which this Chapel is a witness.
Thank you very much.