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Governo Italiano

Speech by the Honourable Foreign Minister at the 4th Italian-Swiss Forum for Dialogue



Speech by the Honourable Foreign Minister at the 4th Italian-Swiss Forum for Dialogue

Lugano, 9 October 2017

Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter

President Bertoli

Rector Boas Erez

State Councillors

Mr Mayor

Mr De Benedetti

Mr Mario Botta

Ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to extend my thanks to the Università della Svizzera Italiana hosting the event and to all the main players contributing to organising this Forum:  Avenir Suisse, Limes, ISPI, the Dante Alighieri Society, and our embassies in Rome and Bern.

I am glad that the forum is being held in Lugano since the Canton of Ticino is the natural ‘liaison’ between our two countries.

A university is the perfect place to foster dialogue since liberal thought, ideals, research and the wisdom of others are prized in this setting. All of which have marked our European civilisation, affirming the values of liberty, pluralism and tolerance needed for growth and prosperity.

The histories of our two countries have always been entwined.  Since we are in a university in the Italian-speaking area of Switzerland, allow me to recall the mutual influence that marked the intellectual and political growth of both Stefano Franscini and his friend Carlo Cattaneo, in exile here in Lugano.

Cattaneo helped Franscini develop the first public schools and was also a founding member of the Lugano Lyceum.   His aim was to provide a liberal, non-religious education to the middle classes who would lay the foundation for the economic development of Switzerland.

Mind you; culture and growth still form the heart of our dialogue today! 

At the dawn of Italian unification, Cattaneo instilled the idea of the “federalism of human intelligence”, a concept based on dialogue, debate and the mutual exploration of new realities.

A modern vision of the world that still thrives in many people, like Fabiola Gianotti, an Italian physicist on ‘loan’ to the CERN, who announced the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012. It is a very special elementary particle without which our universe would not exist.

Our Forum too espouses this vision.  Let me take the opportunity to express my great appreciation to the Federal Councillor Burkhalter, who will shortly be stepping down from office.  Of course, he will always be a great friend to Italy. We are very grateful to him for his commitment to continuing this dialogue.

I also sincerely hope that his successor, Ignazio Cassis, from the Canton of Ticino, will continue to develop this dialogue here and in all areas where our diplomatic efforts converge:

-   from the UN to OSCE, upholding the values of liberty and democracy, the universal principles of justice and peace between men, and the international protection of human rights;

-   in the fight against terrorism all the way to the pursuit of stability and safety in the Mediterranean;

-   outside the borders of Europe, and also within it.

 “Switzerland is the ideal of a united Europe” said Luigi Einaudi, another famous Italian exile in Switzerland and the first President of the Italian Republic.

Switzerland was a sort of precursor and inspiration to the European Union: four national languages, different religions, cultures and laws. Above all, when Europe was torn to pieces in bloody wars and fratricide, Switzerland enjoyed moments of peace and prosperity.

“Unity in diversity”: this is the example given to us by Switzerland, also to take the next steps in the process of European integration towards the ideal of the “United States of Europe” .

The idea of “unity in diversity” also inspired the meeting held in Rome on 25 March to relaunch a safer, more prosperous European Union, more sustainable and social, and with a more incisive role on the international scene.

Now, thanks to the action taken by Italy, investments and growth have finally prevailed over austerity, with the results to be seen in terms of the rise in GDP and employment. That is not all. With this return to growth, we have been also been able to combat with facts the protectionist, anti-European narrative of populists.

The Italian economy is growing again and levels of confidence are now higher than pre-crisis levels in the eyes of both consumers and companies.

Now is the time to become proactive, to take advantage of this favourable moment, and expand the Italian-Swiss partnership towards more ambitious growth horizons. 

Openness is necessary for growth, and this is why I have been defending the opening of the borders between our countries in recent months. I very much appreciate the committed and diligent cooperation of the Swiss government in this area.

I am a staunch believer in the potential of the human factor, as a positive element in our bilateral relations.  There are 1.3 million European citizens residing in Switzerland, almost half of whom are Italian (630,000). While 450,000 Swiss citizens reside in the European Union. To this we should add a further 300,000 European citizens - of whom 70,000 are Italian - who cross the border every day to work in Switzerland.

The added value of this Forum is that it enables both the government and civil society to examine the issues of greates interest for our citizens, in addition to what has the greatest impact on their lives.

There are three basic topics that will be discussed today: culture, growth and the migration crisis.

Let's talk about growth. We have set up not one but two working groups: on transport and on Industry 4.0. These two different areas, one of which is a little more traditional and the other highly topical, are both crucial to supporting future growth and giving new stimulus to our economic and trade relations.

With respect to exports, Switzerland for Italy (with 19 billion euros in exports) accounts for more than the sum of our exports to China (11 billion) and Russia (6.7 billion) together. 

Total trade volume is around 30 billion euros: Italy is Switzerland's third-largest trading partner, while Switzerland is the sixth-biggest market for Italian exports.

However, given the geographic proximity and the cultural affinity between our two countries, and the fact that they speak the same language, we can actually do much better!

We have reduced distances with the new Gotthard Pass railway tunnel, and I support the development of the Genoa-Rotterdam transport corridor, by tapping the potential of Italian ports. In other words: Genoa can become the port of Switzerland!

However, I would ask everyone to make an effort to think up new initiatives, and to make a further quantum leap, also thanks to the innovations of Industry 4.0. which is one of the priorities of our government. 

I would also like to give credit to this Forum for having always taken a very creative, concrete approach to economic matters.  I am sure that it will do the same today.

Then there is the migration crisis. Unlike certain other EU member States, Switzerland has voluntarily taken part in the relocation plan for asylum seekers. I would like to point out that Switzerland, after Germany, is the second country in Europe for relocations from Italy.

People familiar with this issue know that there is no “magic formula” to resolve the crisis, and that short, medium and long-term solutions are needed. Migration agreements and the increased cooperation of Italy with Libya, Niger, Tunisia, Chad and Sudan have already had tangible effects on reducing the flows from transit countries.

However, for every step we take with the transit countries, we have to take at least two with the countries of origin. It means facing the “root causes” behind these great movements of people with long term solutions.

Both Italy and Switzerland are convinced of this and are among the founding members of the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. Italy is one of the leading donors to this Fund, with a contribution of over 90 million euros. Together, we need to ask the other European partners to do much more!

Since I began my talk with culture, I would like to conclude on that same note. We are here today in a part of Switzerland that “thinks, speaks, writes and dreams in Italian” according to Ignazio Cassis' effective statement.

The best expression of our cultural cooperation abroad is the “Week of the Italian Language in the World” which involves our embassies, cultural institutes and prestigious cultural institutions such as the Dante Alighieri Society.

When a common culture, common history and common identity lie at the origin....

When the friendship is as strong as ours....

It becomes much easier to make decisions and take action together.

It also makes it easier for business people, who are well-represented here today, to negotiate, make business deals and investments, and create the conditions for growth and employment.

Our ‘common sentiments’ will improve our ability to adequately respond to the most pressing bilateral and global challenges.  This is why this Forum today is the vital expression of our mutual desire to put our natural accord at the service of growth and development of the European civilisation.


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