Your Excellency, you arrived in Romania a short while ago. What were your first impressions about this country and in what way is it different than what you expected, if at all? What will be the priorities of your mandate during the four years you will spend in Romania?
I find Romania to be a charming country, rich in history and with a profound culture whose characteristics reflect the joint belonging to the Latin origin. It’s a country with great development potential, dynamic and young. It gives me the impression of a country in continuous movement, in which it is possible to look toward the future with hope.
During the first days of my mandate I had the special pleasure to notice the esteem, attention, openness shown to me by the Romanian authorities but also by the numerous persons who are close to Italy and whom I had the possibility to meet so far.
Likewise, I was very impressed with how much is known about Italy and how much attention is given to my country in Romania. I had the possibility to appreciate particularly the varied and numerous expressions of this “Italianness,” which surely has a strong economic connotation given the significant presence of our entrepreneurs, but which does not end here, embracing the most varied sectors. It was a surprise, for instance, to note how known the Italian language is in this country. I’m delighted also because I consider that the study of the Italian language is an essential condition for improving the knowledge of the huge artistic and cultural heritage that makes our country so known and appreciated in the world.
Expanding and coordinating the presence of “Sistema Italia” in Romania will definitely be among the priorities of my mandate. We have, in this country, an important presence from an economic standpoint, with the Embassy, the Foreign Trade Institute, the Italian Chamber of Commerce for Romania, Confindustria Romania and SACE. On the other hand, from a cultural standpoint we have an active Italian Cultural Institute that is the promoter of high-profile initiatives. During my mandate, I will thus try to coordinate the action of all these actors to consequently promote Italy’s image, making it stronger and more compact. I will likewise – or even particularly – try to contribute to the ever-growing expansion of mutual knowledge and contacts between our peoples: the presence of more than one million two hundred thousand Romanians in Italy is a richness that must be put to advantage, in collaboration and “in tandem” with the Romanian Embassy in Italy and first of all with my dear friend and colleague George Bologan, Romanian Ambassador to Rome.
Travelling a lot through Romania is among my intentions for these four years. Italy is indeed present throughout the Romanian territory, not solely in the Capital. We have important entrepreneurial realities and so many Italian citizens in various regions of Romania, with whom I intend to get in touch, putting at their disposal my work and the work of the Embassy I lead.
As you well know, bilateral relations between our countries are excellent. Italy is an extremely important country for Romania, not solely because of the joint historical ties but also because of the large Romanian community present on Italian territory and of the growing presence of Italians, most of them entrepreneurs, in Romania. How do you think these relations could evolve in the following years on a political, economic and cultural level?
I’m from Ancona, the city from which Trajan set off on his campaign toward Dacia, and this is why I know well that relations between Italy and Romania are rooted in two thousand years of history. Deep roots are not reached by the frost and these relations have consolidated and renewed themselves with special vigour in recent years, also because of the strong bond that took hold between our societies, as a result of Italians settling in Romania – particularly entrepreneurs, starting in the 1990s – and also of the more than 1.2 million Romanians who chose our country as their destination, bringing an inestimable contribution to Italy’s wealth. Starting off from these considerations, I can only imagine a future with intense cooperation in all sectors.
The privileged relations between Italy and Romania have taken the shape of an ever more frequent exchange of visits at institutional level, the latest of them being the visit paid to Bucharest by President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella in June 2016 and the visit to Rome paid by Romanian former Foreign Minister Comanescu in November last year. Hence, during my mandate I plan to get involved a lot for the continuation of this dialogue.
Then, in the next four years I intend to focus my attention on cultural and social cooperation. In my opinion, cultural relations must be based on respecting the specificity of the two peoples and, at the same time, it should move toward putting to good use the points of intersection between our languages and societies. The cultural policy that the Italian Embassy will develop in Romania will hence be destined to highlight, deepen and strengthen the closeness between Italians and Romanians, by supporting Italian language classes organised by the Italian Cultural Institute in Bucharest and the activities of the ‘Aldo Moro’ School, of Romanian high schools with bilingual sections and of Italian language and culture departments present throughout Romania, but also by promoting the Italian cultural product toward which the Romanian public is manifesting sincere and profound interest.
Another sector in which Italy stands out a lot in Romania is the social sector, thanks to the numerous assistance initiatives of Italian NGOs, both secular and religious, many of them having settled in this country immediately after 1989. Apart from encouraging their actions, the objective of this Embassy will be to stimulate new forms of collaboration with the world of entrepreneurs who are active in this country, and to ease their relations with local authorities.
Italian-Romanian economic cooperation is very intense. In 2016, bilateral trade reached the record level of 13 billion euro, while the number of Italian companies active in Romania surpasses the 24,000 mark. How do you intend to act to consequently strengthen bilateral economic relations? In what sectors do you see higher growth opportunities for Italian entrepreneurs in Romania?
From an economic standpoint, Romania remains a very attractive country for Italy, particularly thanks to one of the highest growth rates in Europe (+4.7% in 2016), its strategic position, the richness of energy resources and of highly-qualified labour force.
The progressive reforms this country has implemented since it joined the European Union and the availability of European funds have indeed made Romania a veritable economic pole in South-East Europe, one in which the business sector is ever-more safe and attractive.
On this so-promising market, Italy has been, for years, Romania’s second-largest trade partner (bilateral trade of 13.64 billion euros according to the Romanian Statistics Institute) and the top investor by number of companies present (according to Romanian Trade Registry data, the number of active companies with Italian participation stood at 24,105 in 2015, and 2,203 new companies opened in 2015).
The “figures” of the economic relations are surely impressive. In this framework worthy of note, the Italian Embassy is involved, along with other actors of “Sistema Italia,” in backing and supporting the Italian companies’ efforts, through actions of promotion and assistance and through constant dialogue with the Romanian Government authorities.
Apart from the sectors that have traditionally attracted foreign investments, such as the manufacturing, agriculture and infrastructure sectors, Romania has recently expanded its own horizons toward new sectors, such as information technology, organic farming and tourism. All these are sectors that grant ample possibilities for development in the future and great opportunities for Italian companies.
Italy and Romania are partners at European level. For many years, Italy has backed Romania’s Schengen Area accession and the two countries share the same view on many European dossiers. What do you think Romania’s and Italy’s contribution could be to the progress of the European Union, also in view of the current debate on the future of Europe and of the changes occurring as a result of Brexit?
Italy is among the countries that supported, with a lot of determination, Romania’s accession to the European Union in 2007. During these 10 years of European membership, Romania has developed a deeper knowledge of the political, economic and social aspects of EU membership, benefitting from the technical support of the Union itself and of other European states, including Italy. It is a process that brought tangible and undeniable results for the country and for the whole of the EU. Today, just like back then, Italy has a lot of confidence in Romania’s potential and in the influential and responsible role that this country can play in Europe.
Sixty years after the Treaties of Rome and ten years since Romania’s EU accession, our countries, which share the same involvement in strengthening the European Union, could initiate, in my view, an intense bilateral cooperation within the EU, destined to consolidate the European project, with the stress laid on unity and cohesion. The challenges that the EU must live up to, and Brexit in particular, have indeed made preponderantly visible the necessity to launch an urgent dialogue within the Union itself and between member states. Common priorities must be agreed upon and methods must be found to make the existing instruments more efficient. Important synergies between Italy and Romania could take concrete form in many areas, including the definition of the future Multiannual Financial Framework of the EU. Also in respect to the future of the EU, today the strengthening of the European social dimension has become ever more important, to foster sustainable and inclusive growth, to combat unemployment, especially among the young, and to guarantee equal rights and opportunities for all citizens. Italy and Romania could thus cooperate at European level for ambitious social policies to be approved. European citizenship is not only a slogan, and it is up to us giving it a new and broader meaning. European citizens should feel increasingly “at home” wherever in the EU they are. An ever-growing number of services must be provided by local entities to EU citizens as such, regardless of their nationality. I’m certain we will be able to find important synergies with Romania in this regard as well, in Brussels, in Rome and here.
This is the first year you celebrate your National Day in Romania. What does June 2nd mean for you and how is the Embassy you are leading getting ready to celebrate this event?
Exactly 71 years ago, on 2/3 June 1946, the institutional referendum held by universal suffrage in which the Italian people expressed their choice for the Republican form of government took place in Italy. Since then, the National Day is celebrated with pride and joy by Italians anywhere in the world. We are talking about feelings widely shared by the Italian community in Romania too. The message I feel I must convey to all Italian citizens present in Romania, whether permanently or temporarily, is hence an encouragement to celebrate the National Day understanding its intrinsic significance and making it a reason for pride and confidence in the future.
In what concerns the National Day celebrations here in Romania, in line with tradition, a reception will be hosted by the Italian Ambassador, which will be attended by personalities from the Romanian political, cultural and economic world, representatives of the diplomatic corps accredited to this country, as well as numerous representatives of the Italian community in Romania. To them, but also to our Romanian friends, I will address, on this occasion, my first greeting as Italian Ambassador to Romania, with a lot of enthusiasm and sincere feelings of fraternity.