(The authentic text is only the one actually delivered)
It is a great honour for me to welcome my colleagues the foreign ministers, the eminent members of their delegations, the honourable MPs and all the representatives of civil and religious organisations who are with us today.
I would like to address a special thanks to the President of the Regional Council, Debora Serrachiani, the Mayor, Roberto Dipiazza, and the Prefect, Annapaola Porzio, who are hosting us in the magnificent city of Trieste, which is renowned for its generosity and welcoming spirit.
I am very pleased to see the presence of representatives of different religious faiths. It bears witness to Trieste’s inclination towards inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue: a bridge between peoples who have drawn great wealth from their mutual diversities.
When Irish writer James Joyce came to Trieste at the turn of the 20th century, he wrote a letter to his fiancée and wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle, in which he said: my soul is in Trieste.
I believe that in Trieste also lies the soul of Europe, besides Joyce’s! Both because of its geographical location “South of the North, North of the South, East of the West and West of the East” as Italian journalist Beppe Severgnini described it, and because of the “soul of Trieste”: the spirit that aims at overcoming divisions and at reconciliation, which unites Europe in the respect of diversity and of minorities.
In the “soul of Trieste” there is a big NO to nationalistic and ethnic divisions, to all the walls and borders that have tried to keep us apart in the past.
Trieste is not only “ideally” but also “concretely” the “bridge” of the Western Balkans to the European Union. As the Yugoslav Nobel Prize Laureate and diplomat Ivo Andrić wrote in his masterpiece “The Bridge on the Drina”: “Of all things manmade, nothing is as precious as bridges”.
It is time to finish building – here in Trieste – the “bridge” of the Balkans towards EU membership. We cannot afford ignoring their European aspirations, especially after so many years of reforms and sacrifices to make the enlargement possible. God forbid frustrating their European dream!
Here in Trieste we want to irrevocably confirm the European perspective of the Western Balkans and tell them that not only is the door to Europe open, but wide open. We will not forget that among the people of the Balkans there is still a great want of Europe and that, from the power of their ambitions, we can draw vital energies for the future of our beloved Europe.
Mind you, there is a very tight connection between the Rome Summit of last 25 March – to relaunch the European project on the 60th anniversary of its establishment – and the Trieste Summit.
Because a renewed Europe, determined to meet the challenges, can also show a greater capacity to welcome the Western Balkans.
And because a Europe with a differentiated system of integration – which has fully found “right of citizenship” in the Declaration of Rome – also offers new opportunities for the Western Balkans.
The Trieste Summit pursues an “agenda of doing” and will be dense of greatly relevant results for our friends from the Balkans, for Europe, for Italy and also for Trieste itself. Italy wants to be the Balkans’ hub towards Europe with Trieste and Gorizia its central hubs. We believe in investing big in inter-regional cooperation, which we have promoted with initiatives like INCE and IAI.
Giving new momentum to the EU accession process of the Western Balkans means making our actions very concrete. Indeed, at the Trieste Summit, we will launch new European infrastructure projects; we will promote their regional economic integration (for example, the signing of the Transport Community Treaty); we will foster new development instruments for SMEs and new initiatives to fight corruption.
These are initiatives that actively involve Trieste, that do not end with this two-day summit but that will leave tangible marks over the long term. Let me make two examples: first, the establishment in Trieste of the Secretariat of the Chamber of Commerce of the Balkans; second, the prospect of locating in Trieste the soon-to-be-established Western Balkans Research Foundation to support young researchers.
I am truly enthusiastic about this intention to reinforce youth-targeted programmes during the year of the 30th anniversary of the Erasmus. I confide in a Europe capable of shaping its identity by investing on the great resource represented by our youths, who launch ideas, interests, projects, hopes and visions in the enormous space of peace, liberty and justice that makes up Europe.
Allow me to express a heartfelt thanks to the Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO), which is proving to be an essential tool in developing new initiatives for young people.
Dear friends, let me close with what, for me, is a certainty: that we can relaunch and improve Europe with the energy and vitality of the Western Balkans. Because only those who love Europe, like the people of Italy and of the Balkans, can truly make it better.