Queen Elizabeth II opens Commonwealth meeting in Malta
Friday 27 November, 2015 12:00:00 am
Valletta, Nov 27 (AP/UNB) — Queen Elizabeth II opened the Commonwealth summit Friday on the Mediterranean island of Malta — a meeting that this year will focus on climate change and the threat of extremist violence.
The 89-year-old British monarch praised the accomplishments of the Commonwealth during her address to the other leaders of the 53-nation organization.
"Prince Philip and I first came to live here in Malta in 1949, the year the Commonwealth was founded," she said, hailing a vast advancement in freedom and human rights in the decades since then. "I have been privileged to witness this transformation and to consider its purpose."
Between 1949 and 1951, Philip was stationed on Malta as a Royal Navy officer and the future queen lived as a military wife, rather than a duty-burdened heir to the throne.
The Commonwealth links more than 2 billion people on five continents, including large countries like India, Australia and Canada and small island states like Tonga and Vanuatu.
Elizabeth, who said the Commonwealth is based on shared values, received a standing ovation from the Commonwealth's leaders. She was accompanied to Malta by her husband Prince Philip, her son Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, and Charles' wife, Camilla.
The queen paid tribute to Philip, praising his "boundless energy and commitment" to the Commonwealth, and Charles, who represented her at the 2013 summit in Sri Lanka and is expected to represent her at future Commonwealth meetings if they take place on other continents.
French President Francois Hollande plans to address Commonwealth leaders later Friday ahead of the U.N. climate change conference beginning in Paris next week.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, meanwhile, has announced plans to set up a Commonwealth unit targeting the extremist "scourge" that is fueling international terrorism.
Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the Commonwealth needs to become more relevant to the aspirations of its citizens.
"The Commonwealth must have an agenda with clear priorities, especially in the fight against radicalization and the tackling of the migration phenomenon, which can be challenged through education and employment," Muscat said.
"Terrorists are more scared of well-educated girls and boys who manage to get a good job than they will ever be of any army," he said.