That “not so eloquent” line from the end of a Humphrey Bogart movie came to mind recently when the thought dawned on me: why did I never realise that “The Maltese Falcon” was supposed to have come from Malta? Indeed, why do I never think about Malta? Or Cyprus?
You see: it is not just the fact that I have never been to the Mediterranean. It is one of those tangential issues that slips the mind: “my country” (Ireland) and Malta and Cyprus are three “small island” nations within the European Union. Islands of strategic significance in the Mediterranean and an island of reputed strategic significance in the Atlantic may not obviously have much in common, although this recent talk by an Irish foreign minister was of interest to me for throwing out an idea that I had also entertained: the “small” can potentially have their ideas, or opinions, shared and, in turn, spread within the European system as much as the “large”, providing they are fully engaged with all debates. Are “we” engaged?
You know, a large facet of European studies is very legalistic: witness studies like this one. I have studied law “but a little” but enough to know that legal studies generally require a full-time commitment. Not possible for me. Which perhaps makes it “all the better” that bodies such as the Council for European Studies, which also do an interesting free newsletter, are publishing good multi-disciplinary studies like this one that bring together authors from many different countries and, fortunately for linguistically-challenged individuals like myself, are all written in what is effectively my native tongue.
Often, noticeably absent from such studies are a) a focus specifically on the question of small states; and b) contributions by Irish authors. The latter trend perhaps automatically follows on from the former, although perhaps the b) could start thinking more conceptually about rectifying the a)? That is a question that I think I will make an attempt to address in the future, potentially without Cyclops vision, although somehow I doubt it will be the stuff that “dreams are made of”.
On a different tangent, another curiosity about Malta and Cyprus is that, although within the EU, they are also members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, which, if no longer effectively an economic bloc, is still a unit in international relations, encompassing all former territories of the British Empire (including India and Singapore and, so junkies for current affairs might tell you, possibly again someday Hong Kong). Ireland is actually the only state to have “ever” successfully left that bloc, although on a partitioned island subtle pressures to re-join are no doubt always present even if they are not necessarily noticed. But that is the subject of a different story.