Dear Italian friends,
Each year we reconfirm the pain and sorrow that we share with all of you for what happened at Marcinelle in the summer of 1956. Europe’s greatest mining disaster took the lives of 262 persons, 136 of whom were Italians. It was precisely in order to keep the memory of that tragedy alive that 8 August was proclaimed the “National day commemorating Italian workers around the world”.
Today we recall not only those Italian nationals who died 58 years ago at Bois du Cazier, many of whom were young people fleeing poverty and in search of a better life, but all the Italians whose hard work and sacrifices have helped to spread the best image of our country around the world.
From its very first article, the Constitution of the Italian Republic recognises labour as a cardinal principle, and as fundamental to the dignity of every person.
The Marcinelle tragedy reminds us of our common responsibility to ensure better job opportunities and safer working conditions for all. This principle has today become even more binding and demanding of adequate solutions in the face of a crisis that is once again beginning to drive Italians to seek a better present and future abroad.
The memory of Marcinelle must also inspire us to reflect, however, on the masses that are leaving distant countries today for Europe. For many of them the dream of newfound dignity and a life in peace ends before their voyage across the Mediterranean is complete. With those young people in mind – children at times – Italy is currently engaged with the rest of Europe in drafting effective responses.
Emigration remains a fundamental page in our history, and Italians abroad are, today as they were in the past, a precious resource as much for Italy as for the countries in which they live.
Recalling the sacrifices of so many Italians around the world, we also wish to celebrate Italy’s massive cultural heritage, economic growth and, if I may be allowed to say so, also the values that we have carried out into the world.
It is with great pride that I extend to you all, dear Italian friends, my thanks and most affectionate regards.