Intervento Ambasciatore Lener in occasione del 75mo anniversario della Festa della Repubblica

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Your Excellency Sheikh Nayhan Al Mubarak Al Nayhan,
Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends,

It is with great pleasure and an even greater emotion that I take the floor to thank you for accepting the invitation to participate in the celebration of the 75th National Day of the Italian Republic. This is the first time in the last 15 months, indeed, that we are able to celebrate a National Day in presence, in a manner that still suffers from the health restrictions in force, but which represents a great step forward, compared to the recent past. On this occasion, my thoughts go to our friend and colleague Edminas Bagdonas, sadly passed away some days ago, who as Ambassador of Lithuania to the UAE had hosted one of the last National Days before the outbreak of the pandemic. Dear Edminas, I would have loved to have you with us tonight.

Let me say that I am very grateful to the UAE Authorities for allowing us to meet this evening, but I am even more so, because our physical presence here today has been made possible by the great efficiency in the management of the health emergency in the UAE, as also testified by the impressive results of the vaccination campaign. It is not by chance, on this regard, that Italy some days ago decided to extend to the UAE the protocol of “covid-tested flights” that will allow passengers originating from this country to skip quarantine at their arrival in Italy, pending the adoption of the EU Green Pass.
I wish to extend this gratitude also on behalf of all Italians living in the UAE, who have been able to spend this very difficult period in conditions of safety and ‘reasonable normality’ with probably no parallel elsewhere.

Talking about my fellow nationals, allow me now to switch to Italian to briefly address them.

Cari connazionali che vivete e lavorate negli EAU, anche a nome del Console Generale a Dubai, Giuseppe Finocchiaro (che non ha potuto organizzare il consueto ricevimento), vorrei rivolgervi non solo un saluto caloroso, ma anche un ringraziamento sincero per quanto fate nella vostra attività quotidiana per portare l’Italia, con la sua cultura, la sua capacità tecnologica ed imprenditoriale, la sua inclusività e la sua umanità in questo Paese così interessante ed accogliente. Come sapete, con circa 15mila presenze registrate, la comunità italiana negli EAU è la più grande del mondo arabo ed è più numerosa di quelle in Paesi ben più grandi degli EAU, come la Cina, l’India, la Russia. Il vostro ruolo per il rafforzamento delle relazioni tra Italia ed EAU è quindi di grande rilievo e preziosissimo per gli stessi governi, che trovano non solo la strada aperta dai contatti in ambito economico, culturale, scientifico, creati da voi nel tempo, ma anche un patrimonio di simpatia e di rispetto verso l’Italia, che anche è frutto della qualità del vostro lavoro.
Un sincero grazie, quindi, per quello che fate.

At the same time, on behalf of my Authorities I would like to renew the senses of friendship and collaboration with the UAE leadership: HH Sh. Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan, President of the UAE; HH Sh. Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Minister of Defense; HH Sh. Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces; HH Sh. Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

* * *
On the screen are photos from the exhibition “Invisible Squares”, taken during the spring 2020 lockdown. They are beautiful and at the same time chilling, because squares without people are like bodies without hearts: these photos, along with many other sad images that will remain etched in our memory, were the starting point of a long and sometimes bumpy road towards the goal of a return to normality, which today in Italy and Europe seems within reach. A path unfortunately punctuated by the loss of so many human lives, which is the most terrible legacy of this pandemic, as well as by the denial of sociality at a scale probably never experienced in the past.

Thanks to the progress of the vaccination campaign, however, today we can look ahead, recover hope, return to imagining and organising our individual and collective future, without forgetting, of course. If this is possible, if Italy is now able to reopen almost all activities and plan a “reasonably normal” summer season, this is due in large part also to its membership of the European Union, and in particular to the substantial economic resources that the EU has allocated to the recovery and resilience of the economies and societies of its Member States and to the supply of vaccines for its citizens. European resources, particularly those of the “EU Next Generation Plan”, are an extraordinary opportunity not only to accelerate recovery, but also to profoundly reform our economic systems, making them more competitive, more sustainable, more digital, and more attractive to future generations.

In this process, aimed also at addressing its weaknesses, Italy relies on its strengths, from the creativity and inclusiveness of its people to its broad, diversified manufacturing base, well integrated into global value chains, to the high levels of innovation and sustainability of its industry and agriculture, which add up to the enormous potential of its unique territory in terms of density and variety of historical and artistic heritage. While it is widely known that 70% of the world’s historical heritage is to be found in Italy and that the Belpaese is in first place for the number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites (55), perhaps not everyone is aware that Italy, the 8th largest economy in the world and 4th largest in Europe, is the 2nd largest manufacturing economy in the Old Continent and among the top 5 countries in the world for manufacturing trade surplus, or that it ranks 1st among the main European economies for the percentage of recycled waste.
The portraits of the great Italians on the rollups behind you, whose anniversaries we celebrate in 2020 and 2021 and whose work has helped to define the identity of today’s Italy, speak of the richness of our history. The same richness that, after this unprecedented global crisis, will feed our determination to contribute shaping a more sustainable, digital and inclusive future, with the human beings at its centre. That future that you will see flowing in the images that will accompany us during dinner, along with the music of a great Italian and world artist, Maestro Ennio Morricone, who passed away last year.
The strength of our past, therefore, behind us, the prospect of the future before us.

* * *
That same prospect of the future, I would add, is so strong and widespread in the United Arab Emirates. In 2021, the UAE is celebrating the Golden Jubilee with great pride for the extraordinary results in terms of the economic and social development it achieved in just 50 years and which place this country at the top of numerous international rankings. In fact, rather than being a prospect, in the UAE the future has become a feature of the present, as confirmed not only by the success of the probe “Hope” mission to Mars or the startup of the first nuclear power plant in the region, but also by the countless innovative projects in the sectors of e-government, renewable energies, mobility, health, agriculture that are developed every day throughout the country.
Italy pays great respect and sincere admiration to the UAE, not only for what this country attained in such a short period of time, but also for its ability to provide itself with a strategic vision for the next 50 years. Talking about vision, it is not by chance that the UAE, being one of the main hydrocarbons producers at global level, hosts today the International Agency for Renewable Energy (IRENA), which provides the international community with the research and networking capabilities needed to accelerate the green transition. I take the opportunity to thank its Director General, Mr. Francesco La Camera, for being with us tonight.

For Italy, the UAE has over the years become a major partner, with whom we share excellent political ties, with a constant consultation among leaders and a structured strategic dialogue at the level of Foreign Ministers (the last session of which was held last November); extensive and articulated economic relations, which in 2020, despite the pandemic, have made the UAE the first market and the first supplier of Italy in the MENA region (with a record exchange of 8.4 billion dollars); deep and dynamic cultural links, which will be further strengthened thanks to the recent establishment in Abu Dhabi of the first Italian Cultural Institute in the GCC and the forthcoming opening, also in Abu Dhabi, of the first Italian international school; an articulated network of relations in the scientific and technological sector, fuelled by a lively presence of brilliant Italian scholars in UAE universities and research centres, which play a central role in strengthening bilateral cooperation in innovation in all sectors.

* * *
In this context, EXPO2020 Dubai (the first global event after the outbreak of the pandemic) will be a great opportunity to make a quantum leap in our bilateral relations, which have already been nurtured by the very close ties established in light of the experience of EXPO 2015 in Milan. Italy will participate in EXPO2020 with an extremely innovative Pavilion in terms of design and content, based on the fascinating theme statement ‘Beauty connects people’, on which we will show a video later. As pointed out by President Sergio Mattarella in his speech to the diplomatic corps on the occasion of our National Day, QUOTE “the terrible experience of the pandemic and its effects have highlighted the profound interdependence of the destinies of our peoples: only effective forms of coordination have proven useful in combating and defeating it. This cooperation is called upon to support the opportunities offered by a new season of civil and economic recovery and rebirth – a new beginning for an international community that wants to successfully meet the challenges of sustainable patterns of life and of the fight against inequality”.

EXPO2020 can therefore be also a platform for dialogue on the major issues of common interest related to the objectives of the UN 2030 Agenda, from climate to health, access to education, food, and water security, social and gender inclusion, also in connection with the role Italy plays this year as President of the G20 and co-host of COP26. As stated by Prime Minister Mario Draghi at the “Global Solution Summit 2021” some days ago, QUOTE “with the G20 Presidency, Italy is determined to lead the paradigm shift. The world needs the whole world, not a collection of individual States”. UNQUOTE
It goes without saying, of course, that the full success of EXPO2020 in terms of international visitors will also depend on how quickly we can make progress on the global vaccination campaign, in line with the solemn commitment to ensure timely, global, and equitable access to vaccines made in the Rome Declaration signed at the end of the Global Health Summit last 21 May. Before being a global health security goal, this is indeed a major humanitarian duty, in which the UAE is already playing an important role, thanks to its manufacturing and logistic capacity in this sector.
* * *
Dear friends, let me warmly thank all the sponsors whose generous support made this evening possible and in particular our diamond sponsors Banca Intesa Sanpaolo, Maserati, and Vivaticket. You can find the logos of them all on the screen, on your menu, and in the rollups all around.
Along with them, I would like to thank the Saadiyat Jumeirah Resort that is hosting us tonight, and particularly his General Manager Mr. Savino Leone, as well as chef Simone Federici from “Mare mare” restaurant, who prepared a “tricolore” dinner for us.
A big thank also to YaYa for arranging brilliantly the audiovisual contents and the technical details of this event.
Last but not least, a special and friendly thank to my deputy, Counsellor Alessandro Neto, who will end its mission in the UAE in a few weeks, leaving a long-lasting mark of the excellent work performed in this country in the last four years. I am also particularly grateful to my colleagues Valeria Gravagno, Simonetta Grisanti, Katiuscia Lupo and Letizia Riccardi for having brilliantly organized this event. To all of you, grazie!

* * *
We saw earlier a series of photos of completely empty Italian squares. I would like to conclude now by showing you a series of photos of the same squares, finally back to life, as we hope it will be soon for all the squares around the world.
With gradualness, prudence, hope, and reaffirming its strong partnership with the UAE, Italy is ready to restart.
Thank you.

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