To commemorate the 62nd anniversary of the Marcinelle mine disaster in Belgium, allow me to share a few thoughts with you while paying homage to the 262 miners who lost their lives on that 8th of August 1956 in Bois du Cazier.
The death toll included 136 Italians: an immense tragedy and a deep wound that Italy solemnly commemorates on the National Day of the Sacrifice of Italian Workers in the World, in honour of Italian workers all over the world.We bow to the memory of so many fallen, unable to forget an event so dramatic as to become an indelible mark of our history.The very conscience underlying the then surging European integration process was shaken. It was only after the Marcinelle mine disaster that the High Authority of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which had been founded five years earlier, began to address issues relative to on-the-job safety. Indeed, these issues had been negligently overlooked before that, despite the fact that the ECSC Treaty referred to social principles and to the basic rights of workers. However, we cannot help acknowledging that still now – unfortunately – the European Union’s social legislation is essentially lacking, especially if compared to its bountiful legislation on other sectors. It is a shortcoming on the part of our common Institutions and of the governments of the Member States which, in days like these, seems to be sadly out of date.
We have recently been widely discussing the issue of renewing the EU and relaunching it more in line with the ideas of its citizens. In this perspective, as is widely requested, priority should be given to a social Europe through a coherent meshwork of European regulations capable of assuring sufficient protection to all those who work and a serious prevention of occupational hazards.The commitment of the Italian government is to promote pervasive action at all levels, nationally and within the EU, by taking clear-cut stands and indispensable decisions. Much still needs to be done and, in truth, the time has now come to stop blamefully postponing the problem as in the past. We call on the Union to live up to its name and promptly adopt a detailed social agenda that might include new initiatives and the ideas proposed years ago but never implemented. We owe it to all the countless number of victims that we commemorate today under the symbol of Marcinelle. We owe it to the excruciating pain of their families. We owe it to our Italy, which the Constitution solemnly proclaims to be “grounded on work”.Reflecting on the issue of work, we cannot help but evoke the many Italians who left their motherland in the pursuit of a better future abroad for themselves and their children, often setting out on uncertain and dangerous journeys and unviable living conditions. Up to the sixties of the twentieth century – only yesterday in our memory – we were a nation of emigrants around the world.We also travelled to Europe to find work, as strangers in foreign Countries. Our departure towards European States was often fraught with distress. They were the same States (Belgium, France, Germany, and others) where we can now work as citizens of the European Union among other EU citizens, sharing the same rights and duties. In sum: the freedom of movement of workers represents a key and objectively positive result of the integration of the ‘Old Continent’. It was difficult to make headway in different social fabrics from ours, amidst many hostilities but also shows of solidarity. For many, a great many, it revealed to be impossible. Italian emigrants and their offspring have rightfully been able to integrate, with courage and vigour, into the foreign settings that they had travelled to. They enriched them with their work, intellectual and manual. Everyone acknowledges this and, in some Counties – precisely in Marcinelle, Belgium –, they have also ascended to topmost government levels. We ponder over the experiences of many of our fathers and grandfathers with awareness and rightful pride. We recognise, with due respect, their invaluable contribution to the history of Italy and of the places in which they lived. Let us never forget their sacrifice. Let us recall it when we see migrants arriving in Europe in our troubled times.My dear Italian Friends, wherever you are in the world, you must know that the dedication that you put into performing your daily tasks on your job makes our Country better and contributes to building its positive reputation. Therefore, I extend to all Italians a brotherly greeting from the Government on this special Day dedicated to all those who made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives on the job. Together, we express our fond closeness with the families of the victims of Marcinelle and of all the occupational disasters throughout history.
I thank you all for what you have done and are still doing for this Italy of ours.