Rita Mannella - Italian Ambassador
Today marks the 75th Anniversary of the Italian Republic, a day dedicated to celebrating the common value underscoring our great Nation.
This year, too, the health crisis does not allow us to celebrate Italian Republic Day. Needless to mention, it has been a very difficult time for the entire world and for Italy, one of the first to be hit by the virus. It’s a crisis that has upset everyone’s lives and profoundly changed our habits. Things that seemed normal previously or even banal are now unusual because it has not been possible to do these in a long time. Person to person contact and even hugs, going to the cinema or theatre, dancing and even going to school or work is no longer normal. Our freedoms are limited.
We have been forced to come to terms with increasing numbers of victims and the sick, heaving healthcare, decline in employment and a worrying poverty index. However, precious qualities have also emerged and even been rediscovered, helpful dynamics to leverage for the future. In Italy and Sri Lanka, I see the solidarity of the people, the widespread sense of responsibility fuelled by the perception that we depend on each other’s behaviour and the need to cascade an ethic of widespread well-being.
We have also re-evaluated numerous things we take for granted, including the work of doctors and healthcare workers, the armed forces and law enforcement and those in essential services who have shown incredible courage and dedication to the point of personal sacrifice.
The pandemic has hit many sectors of the economy really hard, in particular the self-employed, temporary workers and those in tourism and hospitality, culture and commerce. The impact on female employment and access to work for young people too has been particularly heavy.
In this challenging scenario, I can assure you that the large Sri Lankan community resident in Italy have been able to enjoy the multiple health and economic benefits granted to Italian citizens, with no one left alone or left behind. I would like to emphasize this as it details the welcoming nature and generosity that is the quintessence of Italy and which I know is highly appreciated in Sri Lanka.
A difficult phase continues but we also see a phase of rebirth which happens after wars or deep crises.
We must respond to the appeal of the President of the Republic of Italy Sergio Mattarella and our Prime Minister Mario Draghi, heeding their call to begin a "new reconstruction" based on the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda. The primary focus should be the challenges of climate change and greater respect for the environment around us. It is no coincidence that Italy, together with the UK is co-sponsor of COP26, the Conference on the Environment which will helps us rethink our habits and address new priorities.
Another priority is that we must help young people build a country capable of making
“their dreams come true”, as our parents did with us.
Italy is fortunate as it belongs to a single bloc – the European Union – reflecting the highest standards of social values and respect of human rights. We are proud of this membership and grateful to the EU for having prepared a resource plan – the Next Generation EU - to face this economic and social emergency situation aimed at helping the weakest, while planning a new phase of development.
Despite economic challenges, Italy has made significant progress in bilateral relations. We ratified the Cultural Agreement in October 2020 enabling us to launch wide ranging collaborations in humanities and sciences, which is one of Italy’s strongest areas. Other collaborations in the pipeline include sharing our experiences in the archaeological, museum, design, art and technology sectors, the latter which assures the improvement of Sri Lankan exports to international markets.
The agriculture sector also gained our attention with a vital cooperation project to share Italian technological expertise for Sri Lanka’s rural development increasing agricultural productivity.
Training programmes, which were delayed due to the pandemic, are currently in the final stages of implementation in the area of Chilaw. These enable young people who have been interested in working in Italy to specialize as healthcare professionals and gain better employment opportunities with the Italian public or private healthcare sector.
The conceptualization of these projects improves human, cultural, social, economic and environmental development in Sri Lanka to which we in Italy are linked in a relationship of great affection and friendship. These initiatives continue the economic and commercial relations that have strengthened over decades between our countries and I believe, Italy has made a significant contribution to the holistic development of Sri Lanka.
Happy Italian Republic Day!