There are borders that unite and borders that divide: the Mediterranean is one of those that unite. I will reaffirm this in Palermo tomorrow, at the presentation of “Italy, Cultures, the Mediterranean”, the cultural programme that the Foreign Ministry, through its network of Embassies, Consulates and Italian Cultural Institutes, intends to implement in 2018 in the Countries of the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf, across an area spanning from Morocco to Iran.
In the next couple of days, Palermo will host the Mediterranean Conference of the OSCE, the world’s largest regional security organisation. It is starting from here that our Country intends to lay the grounds for bolstering dialogue with our partners on the Southern shore of the Mediterranean. Palermo is the historical crossroads of different civilisations and it will become the Italian Capital of Culture in 2018. It is precisely here that Italy intends to combine our reflections on security with those on culture. The common challenges that we must face, from combating terrorism to the migration crisis, cannot overlook the logic of mutually heeding and respecting each other, which only culture is capable of promoting.
It is in the Mediterranean that will unfold the future of the world: Italy continues to work hard to raise the awareness of the international community in this direction. Sixty percent of the population in the Middle East and in North Africa is under 25. Italy’s promotion of the Mediterranean vocation cannot avoid involving the most dynamic – and often marginalised – segments of these Countries’ societies. Investing in training and culture is one of the goals that we want to pursue. This is the essence of the “Italy, Cultures, the Mediterranean” programme.
This is why we are developing a programme with hundreds of initiatives to be realised in 2018. The programme will be the fruit of a joint effort between the Foreign Ministry and some of the points of excellence of Italy’s world of culture, the arts, and sciences. Together, we have developed projects combining tradition and innovation, history and contemporaneity, in the prospect of exchanging and co-developing initiatives with local partners. The programme envisages more than 500 initiatives, embracing all facets of our culture, spanning from our language to art, cinema, music, publishing and design, and also including fashion and cuisine. And more: science, technology, archaeology, blue economy and sustainability.
Also our annual Festivals will especially focus on the Mediterranean: Design Day, the Week of Italian Cuisine and of Italian Language, Contemporaneity Day. These events will intensify their programmes in the Countries of MENA region, thus becoming instrumental to building bridges of ideas and values.
Our wish is that the “Italy, Cultures, the Mediterranean” programme may contribute to the birth of a “Mediterranean identity”, to use the words of Abraham Yehoshua, who right in Sicily found important reference points in building his ideal ethical community. A community made up of young people, which invests in the future in order to fight all forms of extremism. In a historical phase in which national identities tend to close up instead of opening up to the external world, it is necessary to leverage these forces in order to get energies, ideas and creativity to flow freely. Our diplomacy intends to use culture as a lever in tackling the challenge posed by people and rights. In 2018, it will do so with a focus on the Mediterranean, fully knowing that it is from here that will depend the future of Italy and Europe.