The gates to the much-awaited Milan Expo 2015 world’s fair opened for the first time on Friday. Officially opening the event on Friday, Italian Premier Matteo Renzi said Italy’s ”tomorrow starts today”. ”The most beautiful enterprise starts today,” he added. ”Let’s demonstrate with Expo that Italy is proud of its roots, of its traditions,” he went on in his speech at the opening ceremony in Milan. ”Our dizzying past calls on us to build and not just remember,” the premier added, calling on everyone to ”come discover the flavor of Italy’s Expo”.
He also expressed pride for what the country has done to prepare for Expo and will do over the next six months, when an estimated 20 million people, including eight million foreigners, are expected to visit. Renzi also thanked national and local authorities including President Sergio Mattarella who called Expo an ”extraordinary opportunity for the country”. ”Our companies, our research, our organizational skills will be challenged and, I am certain, the whole country will benefit from it,” said the president. The premier was the first on Friday to sign Italy’s global food deal proposal, the Milan Charter on food security, as Italy’s Frecce Tricolori (Tricolour Arrows) Air Force acrobatics team flew over the Open Air Theater hosting the ceremony. The Charter outlines guidelines the Italian government will follow to promote a more sustainable food system during Expo. Expo will also provide a unique opportunity for Italy to showcase its excellence in the food sector and beyond, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said on the opening day of the event. The world’s fair ”will be an Italian window in the middle of the world”, said Gentiloni. Expo hosts an unprecedented 52 single-nation pavilions, with 140 countries participating. Meanwhile Expo Commissioner Giuseppe Sala on Friday welcomed the event’s opening while praising all the work behind it. ”The great day has finally arrived,” he said in a speech at the inauguration ceremony. Thanking all those who have been working around the clock to get things ready he said Expo was ”the fruit of the dedication Italians have to their work”. Ten million tickets have already been sold for Expo, a success highlighted Friday by Lombardy Governor Roberto Maroni. The Universal Exposition ”offers us an extraordinary opportunity to fight hunger in the world and to do more in fighting counterfeit food products that cause health hazards and damage our economy,” Maroni said. ”Hopefully Expo’s legacy will be a…useful debate on these issues,” he concluded, quoted by ansa.it.
How do you interpret the theme of this year’s exhibition in Milan?
“Feeding the planet – Energy for Life” is a theme that matches very well with Romania’s specific qualities. The exhibition organized in Milan is hosted for the first time in the last 15 years by a European country, and the topic has a vital importance not just for our country, but also for Europe and for the entire world. I think that the moment has come for us to acknowledge the issues we are confronted with, as far as natural resources, the preservation of biodiversity and climate changes are concerned, and I am referring to attending states, non-governmental organizations, the representatives of the private environment; to acknowledge issues and to act accordingly. Promoting healthy and safe food in a healthy and sustainable environment are the key elements of the exhibition.
It is a topic that is highly actual, it is a topic endowed with a tremendous depth in approaching the fundamental issues of mankind in the contemporary world and it is enjoying, so far, an attendance of 145 countries and international organizations.
I do not take into account here what civil society means, as it also has a level of representation, yet, there 140 countries, 51 of which have their own pavilion – and Romania is one of them.
We should not ignore the fact that the year 2015 was declared the European Year of Development. Therefore, it would be great if ideas promoted and developed at the exhibition in Milan, besides the development strategy of the EU until the year 2010, would be an initial step in implementing politics of cooperation in the fields of food and environment both at the level of European states and at global level.
Which is the message Romania wishes to express by attending this event?
The exhibition is not an event, it is an “ongoing process in itself” mentioned, in an interview granted at the beginning of last year, the coordinator from behalf of the EU for EXPO MILAN 2015, David Wilkinson, and I completely agree. The exhibition is an initial stage in a long term project of each state, in matters of public and economical diplomacy. It is an opportunity to consolidate already existing relations, both with Italy and other attending states, and to open new paths of collaboration with other states. It is a unique opportunity and a generous theme for our country. The message is that of harmony with nature, shaded by the four main elements of the exhibition, namely food, energy, planet and life. All elements are found among the priorities of Romania’s Government: agriculture, energy, infrastructure and innovation / creativity. We wish that, throughout the six months of the exhibition, each visitor who reaches Romania’s stand would get a chance to discover Romania truly and to create a real, authentic image about the cultural, economical and innovative patrimony of our country. Each event organized by the Romanian delegation to Milan is a unique opportunity for promoting our country among businesspeople, tourists, all fields of audience attracted by this kind of action. Strictly based on Romania’s slogan, more precisely,” Living with nature” in the section dedicated to biodiversity, visitors may perceive details about natural and national parks, the Danube Delta and the Carpathian Mountains. Another area is dedicated to agriculture and renewable energy. Practically, these are the two fundamental elements which are also found in the title of the exhibition at universal level. Romania is known for its capacity to sustainably supply quality food products, both for internal consumption and exports. We are trying to take proper actions in order to exploit our entire agricultural surface in the positive meaning of the word and to increase its efficiency. In order to do so, we are trying to invite persons who were qualified to explain and promote this idea. We will also have an area dedicated to fruit and vegetables, having the purpose to emphasise the role of traditional and modern farms. Again, by this passage from tradition to modernity, an area devoted to culture and tradition, we provide a journey in the profound Romanian spirit, I hope, in its most authentic form.
If you needed to persuade somebody to visit Romania’s pavilion in the exhibition space, what arguments would you use?
I would only say the following – it is a unique opportunity that, in a very short time, they would be able to discover what the Romanian identity truly means, by its defining elements: what culture means, how Romanian traditions look like; they would be able to taste traditional products and to tell other people, as well, about the experience they had by visiting Romania’s pavilion and, why not, perhaps they would like to meet us, Romanians, too, the way we live at home. You know very well that there are many foreigners who came to Romania and never left, because they found they harmonized greatly with the specifics of Romanian life. Each day spent in Romania’s pavilion tells a story about our country and, therefore, regardless of whether they are tourists or investors, they will surely find an element to attract them and to determine them to get to know us better.
If we entered behind the scenes of the event, in the laboratory where the team you are coordinating works, how would you describe the best moment we had so far and which was the toughest situation you were confronted with?
So far, the best moment was the one when, after the competition of ideas, we chose the draft of Romania’s pavilion for the exhibition space, which is practically our country’s business card at this event. The winning project, as it is entitled (Living with nature), is indeed in harmony with the general theme of the exhibition and with priorities. Shortly, Romania’s pavilion represents a modern interpretation of a traditional Romanian house, where visitors are invited to discover, by using the latest video ・ audio devices, innovative technological solutions and promoting healthy food patterns based on bio agriculture, natural resources, and adapted ecological solutions that promote the lasting development of our country. I invite you to visit and support Romania’s pavilion the way that suits you best: either online, by the communication channels we use, or directly in Milan, an occasion when, besides the space destined to our country, you will have the occasion to make a virtual journey in over 145 states, throughout one day.
The most difficult moment we have experienced so far was the time devoted to attract Romanian companies willing to attend the exhibition. I have a great wish to make Romanian companies understand that, first of all, we are discussing promotion, the fact that they may promote themselves by this unique concept. I would like to mention that, for the time being, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has signed several agreements of collaboration, including one I have always considered as crucial and I am happy that it is the first time that we are signing such agreement at the level of universal exhibition, the one with Romania’s Chamber of Trade and Industry. We are presently discussing with them the opportunity to organize a major economical forum during the six months of the exhibition, perhaps even on the occasion of organizing Romania’s National Day there. We have one more partnership with the Italian Trade Chamber for Romania, with the Italian Trade Agency (ICE).
Which is the role of Romania’s General Commissioner at Milan 2015?
Generically, the role of the commissioner is to represent our country in the best way possible throughout the period of the event. I think that it is truly important that, during the entire time you are practically representing your country at such a high level, you could interact with the community of businesspeople, with the representatives of central and local administration, but also with the numerous Romanian community in Italy, a fact I consider as an undoubted advantage. Moreover, the events you are organizing during these six months should have maximum visibility and to reach their established target, that of promoting Romania for the targeted audiences reunited by this international event.
I must admit that the professional experience and the knowledge I accumulated so far by studying have represented a useful support for completing the assignments of a commissioner as well as I was able to. I am a fluent Italian speaker, I have attended prestigious education institutions in Italy and I have worked both in the private and public fields in the country that hosts this year’s exhibition. All these elements proved to be extremely important, because I found myself in an environment that was familiar to me and therefore, by each action I took, I tried to significantly increase the impact of image that can be gained as a result of Romania’s attendance to an exhibition of this genre.
Which are the most important events to take place at Romania’s pavilion?
Romania’s main event will be on July 29, on the occasion of National Anthem Day, when high-level guests are awaited from Bucharest, as well as a high number of fellow countrymen living in Italy.
The presentation of our country’s pavilion at Expo 2015, organized at Romania’s General Consulate in Milan, was attended by numerous Romanians living in Northern Italy.
We started, a few weeks ago, to make a selection of cultural, economical, social programs, besides the things we have announced several times earlier: the institutional strategy dedicated to organizing events as part of the exhibition space. I want to keep encouraging the open attendance to the exhibition, for six months, of all of those who consider that they are entitled to be there, on one hand, for representing the interests of Romanian community and, on the other hand, for being suited to the actuality of Romania’s theme.
The actualized agenda of events due to take place during the six months will be presented both on Romania’s internet page and on the socializing accounts dedicated to the event, but also by means of mass-media who will certainly support Romania and present by their own means the events organized in Milan to all of those who want to attend them.
Which are the instruments you have used to promote Romania as well as possible at Expo Milan 2015?
I could count all elements we have used so far and the ones we will use until the end of the exhibition, but I think that each element in the pavilion tells its own story about Romania, from films broadcast on screens on the first floor of the construction until traditional objects and the natural garden presented at the highest floor. Yet, all of them tell you that our country is worth visiting, that it is worth discovering traditions, culture, traditional cuisine, to invest in various field. To put it short, it is worth being Romanian at least for one day.