(The authentic text is only the one actually delivered)
It is a great honour for me to share this moment with you during my visit to Lebanon. I wish to thank Brigadier General Francesco Olla, UNIFIL Sector West Commander, Colonel Salvatore Radizza, Commander of the Italian Bilateral Military Mission – MIBIL, and all the women and men of the Armed Forces, for this very warm welcome.
Last week while I was travelling with the President of the Republic, I had the opportunity of reminding him that I would soon be here with you. The President had a wonderful memory of the visit he paid you last year and asked me to extend to each one of you Italy’s warmest and strongest embrace.
The Government has been following with utmost attention the excellent work that you carry out as agents of peace in the world. Italian military missions are a highly qualified and integral part of our foreign policy. Your success is a strategic success for Italy.
It is a success that rests on what has become the “Italian model”, that has been acknowledged by all of our partners as a “unique, non-hegemonic approach” promoting peace and security, but also respectful of the culture and sensitivities of local populations.
The great balance you show in working with all the parties concerned and the care and attention you pay to local communities in order to understand their needs, here as in other parts of the world, are the identity traits of our Armed Forces.
It is these traits of our military that exemplify what it means to be “Italian”: it is synonymous to respect, humaneness, solidarity and justice.
We have perfected our “Italian model” in up to twenty-two peace missions since the end of World War II. We rank first among the Western Countries as contributors of Blue Helmets and we stand to protect UN principles also in NATO and EU missions – from Kosovo to Mali, from Afghanistan to Somalia, Cyprus and here in Lebanon.
The “Italian Model” is even more critical in Lebanon, a Nation based on the coexistence of different traditions, cultures and religious beliefs.
Lebanon means plurality. It is an extraordinary example of the wealth that the Mediterranean can offer through diversity. It is a land of great civilizations and cultures to which Italy has always looked with friendship, sharing the same Mediterranean identity.
I am very proud of the contribution you are giving, each one in your individual tasks, because you thus make a tangible contribution to the stability of the Mediterranean, that has a direct impact on us all.
This is not something to be taken for granted. Stability in Lebanon is still fragile. What is currently happening here, in nearby Syria and in the Region, reverberates across Europe. Suffice it to think of the flows of migrants and refugees.
Moreover, instability in the Mediterranean can make the threat of terrorism proliferate. Terrorism pursues only one goal: to destroy Europe and the fundamental freedoms it stands for.
Your work to promote peace and stability helps us protect the space of human rights that we have built in our continent over the last sixty year.
We should all grow more aware that the conquests of freedom and democracy that we enjoy must be protected on a daily basis, in Italy and everywhere in the world. We know that these benefits – which are deserving of any sacrifice – are precious and fragile. And we cannot surrender to terror.
What I often repeat is that we should not be afraid, because those who live in fear are not free. Countering terror is the essence of our fight to uphold our freedoms. You know it better than anyone else.
You serve Italy without ‘ifs and buts’. And that comes with sacrifices attached, such as the blood shed by our fallen soldiers here in Lebanon under the UNIFIL flag.
You continue to serve Italy despite the many difficulties that pile up due to your being far away from home and your loved ones.
But you never stop feeling proud of representing our Country. The pride that wraps your hearts in our national flag.
You are rendering an exceptional service to Italy, which fills me and all Italians with a great sense of pride.