Today, Italy celebrates its National Day, remembering the birth of the Italian Republic in 1946, when the Italian people decided through a referendum that Italy should become a Republic based on democracy, reconciliation and the rule of law. The National Day is an occasion to thank those who made it possible for Italy to start a new era of peace and development after the dark years of the Second World War.
The celebration of the Italian National Day in Manama gives me pleasure to recall that the Kingdom of Bahrain is an important friend and partner of Italy. Indeed, over the last 12 months, our close relationship has continued to flourish. The Bahraini Embassy in Rome will soon become operational, while high-level visits of Italian officials to Manama have reinvigorated our political dialogue.
Italy and Bahrain also enjoy strong economic ties: In 2018, bilateral trade grew by 52 per cent, reaching the record figure of 550 million euros, with a great leap forward of the Bahraini export to Italy, which increased by 156pc. Major Italian companies are taking part in the most important industrial projects in Bahrain, such as the modernisation of Bapco refinery, and a new partnership has just been sealed for pursuing oil exploration and possible production.
These positive developments encourage both sides to press the accelerator on economic co-operation. The untapped potential is still huge, considering the complementarity of the two economies and the fact that Italy remains the second largest manufacturer in Europe and the seventh in the world, as well as the third largest economy in the euro zone.
In the cultural sphere, co-operation is growing and it could not be otherwise, as Italy and Bahrain are fully aware that people-to-people contacts are drivers of mutual understanding. It is worth recalling, in particular, the beautiful cultural and artistic exhibitions recently organised in Florence and in Turin by the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, as well as the warm welcome Italian musicians, artists and researchers have received in Manama over the last year.
Another milestone in this domain was the launch of the first-ever course of Italian language at a Bahraini University, hosted by the Royal University for Women. Moreover, 2018 also witnessed the inauguration of the King Hamad Chair for Inter-Faith Dialogue and
Peaceful Coexistence at the La Sapienza University in Rome.
Bahrain is actively involved in the celebration of the Italian city of Matera as 2019 European Capital of Culture, through a rich programme of initiative entitled “From Manama to Matera”. The Italian community in Bahrain, which found here a second home, continued to grow in 2018 and to contribute with its dedication and talents to the prosperity of the country they live in.
Looking at the international level, Italy reaffirms today the values that inspired its constitution, which is 71 years old. First of all, the refusal of war to solve international disputes and the promotion of dialogue as an instrument to build respect and coexistence. Italy is doing its part to support dialogue, with its commitment to UN-led peace efforts; the international missions of peace Italy takes part in; cultural and scientific co-operation; the pioneering actions of our enterprises abroad; and the development co-operation programmes. All these activities turn our country into a staunch advocate of dialogue, including in the Middle East and North Africa region, an area full of great challenges but also of major opportunities, with a unique political, geostrategic and economic relevance for Italy.
Italy will also continue to do its part to fight terrorism and transnational crime through international co-operation and a holistic approach, where security responses are coupled with educational and socio-economic initiatives and the respect of human rights.
Countering climate change and promoting effective multilateralism will also stay high on our international agenda in the months to come.
Another pillar of Italy’s agenda is the strengthening of the effectiveness of the European Union as a driver of peace, stability and progress, for European citizens and for the people of its neighboring regions. Notwithstanding the challenges it faces, the EU remains the
strongest possible expression of the conviction of the people of Europe that regional integration is the only way forward, and is therefore there to stay and grow. Against this backdrop, Italy and Bahrain enjoy commonality of views on main international dossiers, rooted on the importance both countries attach to the principles of co-operation and dialogue.
To sum up, all conditions are met to further enhance relations between Italy and Bahrain, under the leadership of the Italian President and His Majesty King Hamad. Our countries are not only bound by warm and friendly ties in all areas, but also by common interests and goals, with peace and stability for the whole region being our foremost aspiration.