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Speech by the Hon. Minister to ANCE

(The authentic text is only the one actually delivered)


I wish to welcome and thank:

-the President of ANCE, Gabriele Buia;

-the President of the Standing Committee on Works Abroad and the Vice President of ANCE, Giandomenico Ghella;

and all the other top executives of ANCE, representatives of the Institutions, entrepreneurs and construction contractors who are with us here, today.


I am delighted to take part in an event which is perfectly in harmony with the model of economic diplomacy that I have promoted since the very first day of my mandate at the Farnesina.

I would like to tell you about the diplomatic incident I barely missed in pursuing our economic diplomacy! I shall mention neither names nor Countries. I was meeting with “a President” (the Tunisian President) and a staff member called me away to sign a most urgent letter addressed to a Foreign Affairs Minister of “another Country” where I am supporting a member company of ANCE bidding for a tender. I interrupted the meeting with an excuse and left the room to sign the letter.

 This made the head of Protocol shiver! But supporting ANCE is the essence of economic diplomacy. Supporting ANCE is foreign policy.

When one of your companies builds a bridge in a foreign Country, that bridge is not only a piece of infrastructure but it is a means to bring Italy closer to that Country.

The value of a large contract awarded with the support of the Farnesina goes well beyond the amount entered into the company accounts because it contributes to giving vitality to bilateral relations. Think of the positive impact that the recent contracts awarded to Italian companies in Qatar and Russia have had on diplomatic relations.

As the data presented by President Buia and by Vice President Ghella confirm, you are global players, successful entrepreneurs at home and on international markets. You are an integrated body of national champions who can implement the most complex projects in the world, often assisted by an important universe of small and medium-sized enterprises that contribute to and share in the success of the project.  

 I am not surprised that the construction works in progress at present are worth more than 120 billion. This is an indicator of unique dynamism and leadership in strategic and highly competitive sectors.

Many of the companies that we support abroad are construction firms. This emerges from an independent survey that we recently commissioned to Prometeia. Economic diplomacy has generated 16.4 billion euros, namely 1.1% of our GDP, and more than 230,000 jobs.

The more than 750 projects included in the survey, that are supported by the Farnesina, are infrastructure or construction contracts.

But more can and must be done. We have “built” together a wide range of instruments, now we have to continue to change pace and work simultaneously and more energetically on various fronts.

First of all at the level of institutional assistance, where it is possible to bank on Italy’s political achievements and image in a given foreign Country.

 As you know, the origins of the missions abroad may be traced back to ANCE, to the creation of the Situation Room for internationalization chaired by the Farnesina and the Ministry for Economic Development (MISE), and to the political missions of considerable economic importance.

 Their source may change, but the commitment does not. I think that on every possible occasion ANCE must be present as often as possible. 

Amongst the many areas of the world of strategic importance for us I’ll mention one: the Western Balkans. We might say that economic diplomacy begins with our next-door neighbours! I know that some of you participated in the past missions to Montenegro and Serbia; others are planning missions to Bosnia (4-5 July with Minister Del Rio) and to Macedonia (scheduled for November).

I am putting the emphasis on the Balkans because this is a year of great political commitment by Italy in that area. We are already working for the organization of the Trieste Summit of the Western Balkans to be held on July 12. Your attention to the Balkans is of fundamental importance. Without forgetting that there are still many opportunities to be seized.

The second point that I would like to highlight is that every great success is backed by a lot of “market intelligence” work by the Farnesina. Embassies often provide “first-hand information” – before it is entered into databases – on the upcoming tenders and on the projects up for bidding. That is the point in time when a system-wide action is the key to success.

It is with this spirit that I have had the idea of enriching the program of the Annual Conference of Italy’s Ambassadors at the end of July not with “B2B” but “A2B” meetings, that is to say “Ambassadors to Business” meetings. I hope many of you will be there.

I think you are all aware of the daily work that our Ambassadors do abroad: it spans from raising awareness of local authorities on tenders, to providing support in enhancing business with the Contracting Authorities, to pursuing out-of-court dispute settlements.

The daily flow of information between the Ministry and ANCE is vital.

I would also like to remind you that the Directorate General for the Promotion of Brand Italy periodically organizes Thematic Task Forces on airports, ports and railways which have already produced successful business initiatives. Take advantage of these opportunities!

The third aspect I would like to emphasize is that assistance by the Institutions and “market intelligence” are fundamental ingredients, but they are not enough. Nowadays it is crucially important to combine technical-economic bids with financial packages.

I am glad to see that the President of SIMEST, Mr Rebecchini will be taking the floor. I would like him to know that I am only too willing to look into ever stronger and winning schemes for institutional and financial coverage.

As regards the more general issue of resources, I certainly uphold the request by the leaders of ANCE to increase ICE’s budget for missions abroad and for incoming activities. I will put this issue to the attention of the Minister for Economic Development and to the President of ICE. 

At the same time, we must enhance human resources. Embassies and Consulates are your home base “abroad”. Therefore, I invite you once again to make use of them, not only during possibly critical steps in the life of a project, but also when developing the business.

This is why it is ten years now that the Farnesina has a liaison officer with ANCE. And there are joint projects in the “pipeline” for training diplomats to provide support to the construction sector abroad. 

 I would like to conclude by mentioning two cases: one from the past and one from the present. The story of two great dams, two great works of foreign policy.

The first, from the past, is the Tarbela Dam in Pakistan. The project started in May 1968 and was completed in April 1976. Italy was project leader (with Impregilo).

It was a huge project: 5,000 technicians, mostly Italian, and 15,000 local workers built a dam that was 3 km wide and 150 m high. Melting snow from the Tibet and Himalaya plus monsoon rains form a lake that is 260 square kilometers, 50 square kilometers larger than Lake Maggiore.

During that time, a small Italian town was set up with a main street called “Via Roma”, a church, a mosque, a school, a soccer field and also an Italian cinema. There is a generation of Pakistani who speak Italian thanks to Fellini’s films and to films starring Totò.  

The story of the Tarbela Dam is worth recalling because it was like a “tree of hope”: that was planted and grew in the field of cooperation between peoples, rich and poor, of different cultures and often hostile religions. War tensions between Pakistan and India eased under the banner of development. The spirit of cooperation won over the spirit of division.

 The second is a case from the present. The Mosul Dam in Iraq. Our engineers, technicians and military people are in the front line in an area that is still haunted by terrorism. We are the project leader of an extremely important project (Trevi).

There was a risk that the Dam could collapse. There was a risk of a humanitarian and economic catastrophe in a Country that needs to find the way of hope after the wave of terror inflicted by Daesh.

Today in Iraq, as in the past in Pakistan, a dam is a symbol of peace. The world has changed, but our mission is the same: to build hope, peace and prosperity. This is the essence of the special relationship between the Farnesina and ANCE.

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