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I would like to offer my warmest greetings to the Forum’s co-chairpersons Luisa Todini and Vladimir Dmitriev, and to thank the organisers and sponsors who have made this important event possible.
The task, and honour, of closing the Forum sessions is all the more satisfying in light of the excellent season that Italo-Russian relations are enjoying, both at political and economic levels as well as in civil society interaction.
This brilliant season has lasted for many years now, and is nourished by a network of finely woven and exemplary bilateral relations. Our strategic partnership is a sound reality founded on economic interdependence, recognition of common foreign policy interests and feelings of natural understanding between two peoples and their respective leaders.
Italo-Russian strategic cooperation
Over the years we have forged highly important cooperation in strategic sectors. This intense collaboration is based on fairness, founded on respect, mutual trust and shared knowledge and technologies.This interdependence is partly traceable to the energy sector. The continuing trade relationship between an inevitable Russian supplier and its reliable Italian consumers has evolved, however, thanks to the substantial direct investments of Italian firms in Russia and those Russian in Italy. The result is an advanced model of interdependence hinging on market criteria and assets exchanges.
Italian investments in Russia are not limited to the energy division alone. There are over 500 Italian firms actively operating in Russia in high-profile productive areas ranging from aeronautical engineering to scientific research, and civilian nuclear projects offer new opportunities for cooperation between our sectors of excellence.
Partnership for Modernisation.
On the basis of this very valid premise, Minister Kudrin and I decided to give increased boost our cooperation model. In July of this year we launched the Bilateral Partnership for Modernisation.
Our framework of reference remains the mutual trust that arises from relations between our business communities and civil societies, resulting, first and foremost, from the commitment of those economic and cultural operators (some of whom are present today) who decided to believe in this country in throughout the difficult 1990s.
We now believe that it is possible to pursue even more ambitious projects. We are setting up initiatives that range from energy efficiency to public administration and from the transfer of technologies and know-how to targeted research programmes. We plan to stimulate entrepreneurship and productivity, and to multiply channels for contact, in such as way as to facilitate Russia’s programme for modernisation and gradual opening.
Science and Culture
We also wish to expand an already dense network of cultural and scientific interaction. Thanks to nearly 300 inter-university agreements, many Russian students are enrolled in Italian universities; there are numerous ongoing bilateral research projects involving our National Research Council and the Russian Academy of Sciences; Italian is studied in 16 universities and various other schools in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other major cities; and Italy is one of the preferred destinations for Russian tourists.
That is why we have decided to dedicate 2011 as the year of Italian language and culture in Russia and Russian language and culture in Italy, and there is every reason to believe that it will be a success. Thanks to the help of private sponsors and institutions, we have drafted a calendar of artistic, theatrical, musical, cinema and sporting events. And each country will also have a chance to demonstrate and be appreciated for its scientific and technological excellence.
Through this initiative, in addition to reciprocal understanding between our civil societies, we are aimingto strengthen awareness of the long-standing quality of cultural and scientific relations. Becausemodernisation, as we understand it, cannot be a circle enclosing sterile technological projects alone, but rather a circle enclosing other circles, in which new ideas and cultural exchanges intersect with enthusiasm and by natural osmosis.
The Euro-Russian partnership
We have understood that what we share has enormous potential that many envy us. But it is necessary to stop looking with suspicion at major nations’ success in bilateral relations with Moscow, and to learn instead to consider them winning paradigms applicable in broader contexts. Not least because we wish to place this privileged bilateral relationship at the service of the international community, making every effort to expand and deepen areas of multilateral collaboration, and especially committing ourselves to facilitating the enlargement of Russia’s relations with the European Union. We are aiming particularly at encouraging intense synergies in the analogous pursuit of modernising Euro-Russian relations. Italy has fought to frame this pursuit and now intends to flesh it out with planning content. A few days from now the Euro-Russian Summit in Brussels will be able to give the initiative new impetus.
In order to create an open area of interactive harmony between Europe and Russia, we plan to continue to underscore the need to liberalise the visa regime as soon as possible. For us modernisation means shortening physical and mental differences, beginning precisely with overcoming the frustrating and anachronistic codes that govern our respective consulates. Those long lines remind us of distant times of containment and contingencies. But we want to eliminate the barriers and any conditioning of the dialogue between our two peoples.
We are also convinced that more standardised regulations would accelerate the dynamics of our interaction. We await a major addition with Moscow’s desired accession to the WTC and the conclusion of the new EU-Russia Framework Agreement.
Together we will be able to build a vast common area of free circulation of goods, persons and ideas. We must fully use the tools we have at our disposal: our upcoming common membership in the WTC; the platform of convergence to be agreed upon with the new EU-Russia Framework Agreement; and the abolition of entry visas.
Russia in the heart of modern multilateralism
We must not miss our target. We must avoid falling once again into those cultural traps that over the past twenty years have sown the seeds of ambiguity and misunderstanding in relations between the West and Russia.
We must seize the opportunities offered by these changing times. The Lisbon Summit marked an historic shift, resulting in a new vision of relations between NATO and Russia.
Italy has always been a believer, promoting the 2002 Pratica di Mare agreement to move forward. In that spirit we have always persevered with tenacity and patience where others have doubted or even opposed. In the end, thanks to the formidable impetus of Presidents Obama and Medvedev, the result was historic. Allow me, therefore, for once, to express my pride in the fierce steadfastness with which our country paved the way and maintained the route.
The lesson of success in Italo-Russian relations
I wish to conclude with one final observation. Acting on a terrain fertilised by the intense understanding between political leaders, the dialogue between our civil societies is proof of the force contained in a spirit of openness and mutual understanding, unafraid to build on what we have in common.
We have shown that an unprejudiced approach based on a pragmatic attitude is useful also to the processes of gradual and positive intermingling with Russia. The success of this approach gives us hope both in terms of developments in the partnership for modernization as well as in the future of the more complex Euro-Russian relations.
Contributing to this spirit of openness over the past four years has also been the brilliance of our Ambassador in Moscow. At the end of the bilateral summit, having reached retirement age, Ambassador Surdo will be leaving the Foreign Service, and I would like to extend our warmest gratitude to him for having furthered the cause of bringing our two civil societies closer together.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I hope that I have adequately acknowledged the richness and complexity of what we are building. Awaiting Italy and Russia is a special role in the dynamics of the future, and it will be our task to contribute to it in with awareness and concrete action.
Thank you for your attention.