When they ask me where I served in the military, I reply: in New York, with Francesco Paolo Fulci, the “iron ambassador”, the diplomat defined as a legend by Madeleine Albright. Once, he told her with proud courage: “I am not a sergeant of the marines but the ambassador of Italy.” She ended up admiring him. Fulci was mainly a master for me and for generations of colleagues at the Farnesina. Ours, that of the “Fulci boys”, was a military service in its noblest meaning, because he taught us the honour of giving our heart, tendons and nerves for the good of Italy, to protect its interests and to not feel inferior to anyone, proud and aware of our history, without being ensnared in it, building the future of the Country every day. We learned that every endeavour is achieved with work, discipline, meticulous preparation, and perseverance. This is what led to the 27 out of 28 electoral victories at the UN: a record that forged a reputation of invincibility, to the point that foreign ambassadors would say: “If Italy shows up, let’s think it over before running as candidates.” It was because in the art of diplomacy – also made of ploys, negotiations, flattery, assaults launched and suffered with a sabre or a foil – there must always be an underlying spirit of chivalry. I’m referring to the ability to accept the rules and verdicts of the competition, knowing that everyone is competing to win, that no one will compromise, and that’s how it should be. It also means frankness in being loyal to allies, as with Albright, and respecting worthy opponents. When he was called to the podium at a UN summit, we couldn’t find him: he was at a foreign colleague’s desk to give him a heads up, with transparent elegance, on the fact that he would attack him strongly. He taught us to give consistent and particular attention to smaller countries, often neglected. He promoted a more democratic vision of the organization. With him we learned the importance of cohesion to achieve success. Team spirit, empowering each member, comes before all else. It comes before mutual sympathy and dislikes, before the virtuosity of soloists, of individual ambitions. In difficulties, Italy always got back up on its feet thanks to these collective qualities which, as Minister Di Maio likes to repeat, we must always hold above everything else. We were to be the first to have to present ourselves abroad as a Country united around national interests. He used to tell us: “No battle, no matter how hard it may be, will ever be lost if the team is united.” He always fought against the bad Italian habit of self-flagellation: never indulge in pitying yourself or your country, even in the face of great difficulties. This is what is needed to make an excellent public official or business executive. I can testify that Ambassador Fulci exalted these characteristics. The country will miss him. We will all miss him.
Ettore Francesco Sequi, Secretary General