VALLETTA, Malta -- The United States has moved its embassy in Malta from a cramped apartment on the outskirts of the capital city Valletta to a new $125 million state-of-the art complex in a rural area in the center of the island.
The move was intended for embassy officials to have bigger offices and a better working environment, but it was also deemed necessary for security purposes.
An embassy press statement at the inauguration last week said that since the 1999 enactment of the Secure Embassy Construction and Counter-terrorism Act, the U.S. State Department has moved 24,000 people to safer facilities.
This includes the new embassy in Ta' Qali, built on 10 acres of land away from the main road in Floriana, just outside the gateway to Valletta.
The embassy's top official temporarily, Richard M. Mills, hosted the inauguration ceremony on July 15, which was attended by Malta's President George Abela and Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi.
A terrace just outside the embassy atrium was named after former U.S. Ambassador Douglas Kmiec, who resigned in April after the publication of a report by the U.S. State Department's Office of Inspector General that claimed the diplomat had been spending too much time writing and speaking about his Catholic faith. Washington is still to nominate his successor.
In an article in the local media printed after the inauguration, Kmiec said that the new structure "of sufficiently ample size and personnel is justified because it is reasonable to anticipate Malta's own willingness to become an even more prominent 'partner for peace."' The embassy is "worth every single Lincoln penny," he said.
Mills said the new embassy is proof of the importance the United States gives to its diplomatic relations with Malta, a member of the European Union since 2004.
One of Europe's tiniest and southernmost states, Malta has been in the spotlight as unrest in North Africa in the spring sent thousands of migrants toward Europe.
The United States has taken about 600 of the refugees who landed in Malta through a resettlement program, giving some relief to the island nation that has been seeking permanent homes for the migrants.