The Republic Day of Italy is celebrated on 2 June 2020. Because of the tragic situation caused by the pandemic in Italy, and the travel restrictions and social distancing, this year’s festivities are confined to the virtual world.
However, the embassy of Italy in Turkmenistan has made available the speech of Ambassador Diego Ungaro for the occasion.
Here is the text of the speech:
Dear compatriots, dear friends of Italy!
Today marks the 74th anniversary of the Constitutional Referendum which led to the proclamation of the Italian Republic. It is a particularly dear anniversary for all of us, which we celebrate every year with a certain emotion, also here in Ashgabat as the Italian Embassy in Turkmenistan, as our national holiday, the founding event of our Republic, which came out of the tragedy of World War II basing national rebirth on the values of freedom and democracy. A celebration that every year sees us bringing together the compatriots who work here, the entrepreneurs active in relations with Italy, the representatives of the diplomatic corps, the world of culture, and friends of Italy.
This year, unfortunately, the completely extraordinary circumstances imposed by the persistent pandemic of the Covid-19 coronavirus – which has hit Europe and Italy in such a particular and tragic way – prevent us from reuniting, both out of respect for the many victims that the virus is continuing to reap, both in Italy and in Europe and in the rest of the world, and to comply with health recommendations on social distancing.
The economic recovery is now underway, socio-economic activities are gradually re-establishing themselves, but we must continue to act with caution and keep our guard high on the risk that the virus may spread again.
As usual, and even more this year, I would like to briefly retrace the events of the last year, which have led us to further develop the friendly relationships and the growing collaboration that bind the Italians and the Turkmens in many different sectors, from trade, industry and technology to science and culture, education and archeology, without neglecting the nascent potential of tourism and, of course, the excellent spirit of collaboration that distinguishes the convinced participation of both our countries in the international system and in international organizations of which they are members.
I would also like to mention the opening of the Delegation of the European Union – and I emphasize that it is a union, not an international organization, of which Italy is one of the main founding and financing countries – from whose action in Central Asia and in, in particular, in Turkmenistan Italy expects increasing results, in the framework of the new strategies for Central Asia and connectivity with Asia, also through the substantial technical assistance programs currently underway and which are going to be refinanced on regional platforms, at which I hope that Turkmenistan will also show interest in participating for the period 2021-27, in sectors such as support of the private sector, the rule of law, education, environment, climate change and cross-border water management. The number of projects and programs which Italy as part of the European Union supports for the growth and development of Turkmenistan and Central Asia is indeed very important and differentiated, not known enough by all citizens who benefit of them directly and indirectly.
Trade, therefore, which with its exchanges of goods and services and, through them, of ideas and innovation, is the basis for the development of relations between Italy and Turkmenistan. Since the time of the relations between the Parthians and Rome. Neither Italy nor Turkmenistan could do without it for the mutual benefit they derive from it. And this is why we register with great satisfaction the increase – or rather the recovery – of direct exchanges, which in 2016 had reached its peak and which last year and early 2020, despite the policy of replacing the imports pursued by Turkmenistan, was returning to record increasing direct imports from Italy, mainly of technology and, albeit to a lesser extent, also of consumer goods. In the meantime, as we know, Italy continues to import precious energy (oil and refined products) from Turkmenistan, although – it must also be said – not all of it destined for Italy, but only a part of the value of 2.4 / 1.4 billion USD recorded in 2018/2019 by the Turkmen statistical system. Let me remind you how relevant is the amount of technology that Italy makes available to Turkmenistan in terms of supplies of machinery of instrumental mechanics, technology, components of industrial, chemical and electromechanical plants, as well as of course the much more visible clothing products, furniture and furnishings, food and consumer goods, paper and derivatives,. It is far superior to what is recorded by foreign trade statistics. As everyone can see and many appreciate, in Turkmenistan there is a lot of Italian technology which in many cases is re-exported from neighboring countries to Turkmenistan, as a consequence of its not having direct access to the sea and the shape that foreign trade consequently takes.
Industry and technology represent the main component of Italo-Turkmen relations. Several times in different Turkmen cities I happened to meet Italian technicians engaged in the realization of the many industrial projects that are being carried out with the aim of diversifying the production base which, in perspective, will allow to reduce the excessive dependence on the sector of extraction and sale of energy products. Italian technology has made it possible to create important segments of the new port of Turkmenbashi, the glass factory in Ashgabat, some components and processes of the major petrochemical and textile plants, as well as participation in the joint venture that built the telecommunications satellite Turkmen-alem. But it is also present in high-tech means of transport such as helicopters, machinery and tractors for agriculture, technology for efficient irrigation and in many production chains in the agri-food sector, the leather and use of polymers produced in Turkmenistan. Italian technology is recognized as advanced, reliable and, in many cases, irreplaceable. I am confident that despite the short-term crisis caused by the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, the trend will continue to rise and that the nascent private sector can increasingly use it, in parallel with what is already happening with many companies in the state sector.
The Italo-Turkmen Business Forum held on 6 November in Milan, and the approximately 40 agreements and understandings reached on the occasion of President Berdymuhammedov’s visit to Italy, constituted a turning point from which we can expect a strengthening of this trend.
Bilateral science cooperation deserves special mention. So let me thank the Academy of Sciences in particular and more generally the Turkmen university sector, for the commitment it is making in the effort to renew its research capacity, which is really essential, and to establish or strengthen relations with the correspondents Italian entities. Also in this field, the financial resources are available, through the tools that we have created and support as the European Union, from Erasmus +, that Turkmenistan must be able to use more, to the projects that it can ask to be supported in the framework of the Horizon Europe tool that is about to replace Horizon 2020. Although it is necessary to recognize that we are still just starting out, from the series of meetings I have had with many Rectors I believe it is a particularly promising area, for specific sectors such as seismology, medical sciences, research laboratories on new materials and environmental sciences.
Italian-Turkmen sporting and cultural relations have grown enormously in a truly impressive series of aspects and events. From the participation of Italian athletes to various events in Turkmenistan and vice versa (I am thinking in particular of the Universiade of Naples), to music: I am particularly proud of the various classical and contemporary music concerts periodically organized by the Embassy of Italy in Ashgabat, with the appreciated support of the Ministries of Culture and Foreign Affairs and, in particular, of having personally contributed to the staging of the first opera in full version for decades: Pagliacci, last November. An event that, rightly, has had a wide international resonance.
I also want to express my appreciation for the strengthening of the teaching of the Italian language and culture in Turkmenistan. This is a process undergoing considerable expansion, with the opening of Italian courses, in addition to the TSU Maghtumguly and IHUD also at the Azadi Institute for Foreign Languages, the continuation of scholarship programs, supplies of material didactic, participation in competitions and prizes for translations and, in perspective, an increase in the number of native speakers from Italy, who should also be able to start carrying out their activity in a secondary school.
The Embassy has also organized numerous exhibitions and expositions (Caravaggio, Via della Seta) in addition to the now traditional weeks of Italian language, cuisine, design and cinema. Cinema is an art with its own deep-rooted tradition both in Turkmenistan and in Italy and deserves to be more cultivated.
For this reason, the workshop on director Federico Fellini held at the Turkmen Cultural Institute despite the limitations for the pandemic has a particular meaning. Italian design – with the usual seminars conducted by Italian experts – has now become a stable component of bilateral cultural collaboration. Attention to Italian cuisine (with Italian chefs and master classes for Turkmen chefs taking place both in the capital Ashgabat and every year in a different city: Turkmenabad, Awaza, Mary) is growing every year more, touching on the essential themes of an improvement in diet, nutrition and health awareness.
Archeology, as you know, has always been one of the pillars of cultural cooperation between Italy and Turkmenistan, with the appreciated missions of Turin (with CREST) and the University of Bologna (also supported by the Ministry of Education MIUR, the University of Naples UNIOR and ISMEO). These are projects that – on the basis of the agreements that have been renewed – have resumed the scientific activities of excavation and teaching in the sites of Old Nissa or Nissa Parthica and Togolok / Margush, investing considerable energy in the study and international valorization of the Turkmen heritage. In the past there was also a third mission, from Venice, which unfortunately, after many years of commitment, was unable to continue the activities. Suffice it to mention the magazine “Parthica” and the number of scientific publications that contributes to spreading the knowledge of Turkmen archeology in the world.
This is a very important sector not only on a scientific level but also for the potential development of tourism in Turkmenistan: I have personally visited many of the main sites in the country and I can testify to it with great conviction.
I hope that in the future also Turkmenistan, whose cultural and archaeological heritage is extraordinarily rich, will be able to present a greater number of its activities in Italy, in line with the appreciated presence at the International Circus Festival of Latina, the participation of its athletes to sporting events (I have already mentioned the Universiade of Naples) and, perhaps, common activities with Akhal Teke horse farms in Lombardy and Sardinia and Alabai dogs in Tuscany. Above all, I wish you a better knowledge of the splendid and still too little known archaeological heritage.
A word on bilateral agreements. In Rome last November several of them were signed (including environment, health, culture, air transport) and, while others are being defined, work is underway on their implementation. A mission from the Italian Ministry of the Environment MATTM should come to Turkmenistan as soon as the borders reopen, for health care, cooperation is being activated precisely on the issues of the pandemic, of culture I have already said.
Finally, to return to the economic-commercial relations, I would like to recall, within the framework of the series of Business Forums that are regularly organized alternately in Italy and Turkmenistan, the useful periodic publication of the Business Directory and the over one hundred and twenty companies in various capacities involved in bilateral relations , which confirm how the development potential of the private sector, by joining the public and its contracts, can constitute an important basis for the future of Turkmenistan’s prosperity.
Having now reached the end of my mission in Turkmenistan, I want to express my firmest conviction that the progressive strengthening of Italian-Turkmen bilateral relations, in line with the significant progress that I have evoked and in the context of the Italian commitment as a member of the Union Europe in Central Asia and the role of regional stability ensured by Turkmen neutrality, which in December will celebrate 25 years since its recognition in the UN, will significantly contribute to the further growth of the well-being of both countries.
Long live the 74th feast of the Italian Republic! Long live Turkmenistan! Long live the friendship between our two peoples! /// nCa, 3 June 2020