I would like to extend my warmest greetings to everyone and to welcome in particular:
- the President of ANCE, Giuliano Campana,
- and the President of the Standing Committee on Works Abroad and the Vice President of ANCE, Giandomenico Ghella.
This is the 11th edition of the presentation of the ANCE Report at the Farnesina. It is now a tradition, evidence of the close cooperation between our economic diplomacy and the construction and infrastructure industry, which operates in every corner of the world.
The ANCE Report confirms that the "teamwork" of the "Italian System" is key to achieving great successes. Suffice it to think of the widening of the Panama Canal, the Third Bosphorus Bridge, the dams in Ethiopia, the metro systems in Lima and Doha; ports, airports, high-speed railways, roads and hospitals, all Made by Italy.
Mr Ghella will illustrate the 2017 Report, which portrays an Italian industry among the most competitive in the world: domestic champions operating abroad in high-level engineering projects of enormous technical complexity, both in their design and on-site execution.
The foreign sales of Italian construction companies have grown by almost 18% (17.8%), to more than 14 billion euro. This is one of the best growth results in recent years. And domestic turnover is also growing (2.6%). Evidence of the fact that Italy is once again marked by a plus sign.
The world of construction is one of the backbones of Italy's economic diplomacy.
You will recall that earlier this year, along with Confindustria, we presented an independent study by Prometeia (for the year 2015), which estimated at more than 1% of GDP the added value generated – throughout the industry – through tenders and contracts awarded to Italian companies with the support of the diplomatic and consular network.
Well, the same study showed that construction companies have been awarded as many as 15 billion euros worth of projects (50 out of the 300 companies assisted belonged to the construction industry).
To continue in this positive direction, in recent months we have supported ANCE in new and important missions to Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as to London, Strasbourg and Brussels, also to enhance our capacity to access EU funds and those of major international financial institutions.
For the year ahead, the focus will largely be on the Balkans and the Mediterranean, which are traditionally the most important areas for our growth and for our own security; but without neglecting emerging markets.
In addition, we will continue to convene thematic round tables for airports, ports and railways, to continue spreading to the entire infrastructure industry the opportunities reported by our embassies and consulates around the world.
In this spirit, this year I had the idea to enrich the programme of the Ambassadors' Conference, in late July, with meetings not "B2B" but "A2B", that is, "Ambassadors to Business". And I know that many of you have appreciated this novelty.
As it often happens, ambassadors provide "first-hand information" - before it is goes into the databases - with advance notice of invitations to tender and projects coming up for tender. And that's when you can make successful networking.
Behind every great success there is always a great job of "market intelligence" and then of institutional accompaniment, performed by the Foreign Ministry and its diplomatic and consular network, with our ambassadors at the forefront.
Because, ultimately, we must never forget that the value of a major contract won with the support of the Foreign Ministry goes far beyond the turnover achieved by the individual company or even ANCE's aggregate turnover.
The awarding of tenders and contracts has a positive impact on diplomatic relations and gives momentum to bilateral relations.
When one of your companies builds a bridge, that bridge is not only infrastructure, but also serves to create a better and closer connection between Italy and the commissioning country.
So, it is natural for the ambassador to play a major role, by your side. But today this is no longer enough: along with institutional accompaniment, along with the technical and economic offer, companies need increasingly sophisticated financial packages.
When there are important issues on the table, regarding our construction businesses, it is our task to face them together. Like with the question of certificates for the performance of works abroad: we want to streamline and speed up the system, and make it more transparent. The partnership between the Ministry and ANCE has enabled the opening of a constructive and fruitful dialogue with ANAC.
The last point I want to touch on is that of innovation and adaptability to change. They are qualities that are common to both diplomats and builders. In particular, as the builders in this room know well, in order to be increasingly effective and successful we must carry out innovative works, that are technology-intensive and have a very low environmental impact.
Let me conclude with two stories that I like to recall to our builder friends: one from the past, the other of the present. The stories of two large dams, two major foreign policy actions.
The first, in the past, is the Tarbela Dam in Pakistan. An Italy-led (Impregilo) project that began in May 1968 and concluded in April 1976.
It was a huge project: 5,000 engineers, mostly Italian, and 15,000 local workers built a dam 3km wide and 150 metres high. With the melting of the snows of Tibet and the Himalayas, added to the monsoon rains, it formed a lake of 260 square kilometres, 50 km bigger than Lake Maggiore!
At that time a small Italian town was created with a central "Via Roma", a church, a mosque, a school, a football pitch and also an Italian cinema theatre. There is a generation of Pakistanis who speak Italian, thanks to the films of Toto and Fellini.
The story of the Tarbela Dam should be remembered because it was like a "tree of hope": planted and grown on the ground of cooperation between peoples, rich and poor, of different cultures and religions, often hostile. The tensions of the war between Pakistan and India subsided in the name of development. The spirit of cooperation won out over that of division.
The second, in the present, is the Mosul Dam in Iraq. Our engineers, technicians and soldiers are on the front line in an area that has been hit hard by terrorism. The Trevi Group is the leader of an extremely important project.
There was a risk that the dam could collapse. There was the risk of a catastrophe, as much humanitarian as economic, in a country that needs to rediscover the path of hope after the terror of Daesh.
And just two days ago, thanks to the intervention of Italian diplomacy, an agreement was signed that allows the completion of the first part of the work.
Now in Iraq, as then in Pakistan, a dam is a symbol of peace. The world has changed, but our mission is the same: to build hope, peace and prosperity. This is the essence of the privileged relationship between the Foreign Ministry and ANCE.