Quirinale Palace 31/12/2015
I wish to express my warmest greetings to everyone who is listening to this message. And I also wish to extend warm greetings to all Italians, men and women, at home and abroad, and to non-Italians who live in Italy and love our country.
A happy 2016 to you all.
We are coming to the end of a year which has seen many developments around us: some positive, others negative.
This evening I will not repeat what I said about international policy, a few days ago, when I met the ambassadors of foreign countries to Italy, nor the comments I made to the representatives of our institutions. Allow me instead to spend these few minutes I have with you talking about the main difficulties and hopes of our everyday life.
Let us begin with work.
Employment is growing again, a positive development which cannot but give a sense of confidence.
However having overcome the recession and started a new economic recovery has not yet put an end to the problems that so many people and their families continue to deal with in their everyday lives.
There are no job opportunities for too many of our young people.
They are trained and well educated, are talented and capable and would like to contribute to the growth of our nation, but there continues to be a shortage of work for them. Therefore they cannot plan their future in a confident manner as it would be required.
Next to them, I also think about people in their forties and fifties who have lost their jobs and are struggling to find employment, and have to live with worries about the future of their families.
I am thinking about the insufficient level of employment among women.
Work is especially lacking in the South. It is a national issue. If there is no growth in the South, the whole of Italy will lag behind.
Inequalities make the economy weak and discrimination exacerbates the suffering of those in need.
In Italy, as elsewhere, young people from certain social backgrounds or regions enjoy more opportunities: our country must become less fossilised and develop greater social mobility.
Work and society play a key-role in a great process of change.
Innovation is a challenge that concerns us all. Competition rests on quality, creativity, investments. Private enterprise and the public sector, particularly schools, universities and research, need to cooperate.
Italy's economic situation is improving and it is something that deserves to be underlined.
Prospects for 2016 also seem favourable.
Let us not forget the work done by Institutions. I believe it is important to stress that many of our fellow citizens have worked hard and with a sense of duty, in a variety of sectors and with different tasks. They have therefore contributed, despite the crisis, to strengthen the Italian economy.
I would like to pay tribute and express my profound gratitude to them all.
I would also like to send a message of support and hope to families experiencing particular hardship: they should not be left alone, and I call on everyone's commitment to ensure that their difficulties are reduced and overcome.
Tax evasion is an obstacle on a path to growth. A Confindustria's study published just a few days ago showed that, in 2015, tax and social security evasion in Italy totaled 122 billion euros. 122 billion! That amounts to 7.5 percent of GDP. According to the study, cutting evasion by half would create over three hundred thousand jobs. Tax evaders harm the nation as a whole and its law-abiding citizens. Taxes would be significantly lower if everyone paid them.
In recent days we have been witnessing pollution alerts, especially in large cities.
The environment has become a most pressing issue after being considered theoretical for a very long time.
I hope everyone will handle the problem of the environment with a common commitment.
Differences of opinion are useful - and political discussion cannot of course be constrained - but we are confronted by nature, and its changes, which are contributing to cause droughts and floods.
In the face of such a huge challenge, which affects our health, a spirit of collaboration must prevail.
We must take better care of our territory.
From mountain regions to the smallest islands, where our fellow citizens face greater hardships.
We need to combat speculation and the uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources. It is comforting to see the establishment of many grassroots movements, the efforts made by so many people mobilising to repair the damage caused by neglect and vandalism, defending their living environment, parks and archaeological sites.
Italy is known in the world as the cradle of art and culture, and it truly is. Our heritage is our wealth, also from an economic point of view.
It is our duty to make people enjoy it in an appropriately attractive environment.
National and local institutions must redouble their efforts to ensure it.
To give an example: citizens can be asked to limit the use of private cars, but of course public transport must be efficient.
Unfortunately, this is not the case everywhere.
The duty to protect the environment rests in part on each one of us.
Much of the quality of our life depends on selective waste collection and on respect for the common goods.
We must not resign ourselves to being a society of waste, destructively consuming food, water and energy.
Passing on to another subject, which is currently the focus of a great deal of attention, we all know that fundamentalist terrorism is trying to bring violence to European cities, after having bathed Middle Eastern and African lands in blood.
Establishing peace and stability for the people of those countries must be our priority, also to defend Europe and ourselves.
Our individual prosperity, progress and safety are closely linked to those of others.
No natural or artificial barriers can isolate us from what is happening beyond our borders and beyond those of our neighbours.
In these decades of peace and democracy, we have always made a sustained effort to defend these values, wherever they are threatened.
The widespread presence of our soldiers abroad is evidence to this. We are profoundly grateful to them and to the many volunteers.
Terrorism wants to frighten and condition us. We won't allow it to. We will defend the achievements of our civilisation and the freedom of our choices in life. In this spirit, we have all shared the suffering inflicted on the relatives of the victims of Paris and have rallied around the family of Valeria Solesin.
Our Police Forces and security officers are working seriously and with competence in defending the tranquillity of our lives. The danger exists but we are acting with commitment and determination to prevent it.
We have proposed to the other European Union Countries to enhance our collaboration and to promptly put together our resources, operational capabilities, knowledge and information, in order to better combat and defeat Islamist-inspired terrorism.
We are living at a time when enormous masses of people move from one Continent to another, fleeing from war or hunger or, more simply, pursuing a better future. Women, men and children set out on a dangerous journey. Many children drown at sea, like the little Aylan, and unfortunately also amidst widespread indifference.
The migration phenomenon, whose root causes are global, is going to last for a long time. Let's not delude ourselves - it cannot be removed but it can be regulated. And we must regulate it.
The European Union can regulate it even more effectively, and we are insistently urging it to do so.
We need common rules to distinguish those who flee from war and persecution, and are therefore entitled to asylum, from other migrants who must instead be repatriated, albeit assuring them a decent treatment.
During the last two centuries Italy has come to know all too well the sorrow and hardships of those who leave their homes and families behind to migrate to far-away lands. Italy has only recently become a Country of immigration.
Many foreign communities have regularly settled in Italy and have generally been well received by its citizens. So much so that we often entrust them with what we have most at heart: our children, our elders, our homes.
Every day, in schoolrooms, at the market, at the workplace, we see that citizens of foreign Countries, from different cultures and religions, have successfully integrated in our society. ISTAT data show that 70% of the foreign children living in Italy has an Italian child as his or her best friend.
We must work to remove, on both sides, prejudice and diffidence before they turn into enclosures or walls, behind which marginalisation and resentment might arise.
We need to be welcoming but also rigorous.
Whoever comes to Italy must respect the laws and culture of our Country. He must be helped to learn our language, as it is a key instrument of integration.
The large majority of immigrants abide by our laws, work hard and honestly, contribute to our well-being and also to our social security system, paying into the State coffers more than what they receive in return.
Those immigrants who instead break the law must be detained and punished, as it befalls to offending Italians
Those who are dangerous must be expelled.
Foreign communities in Italy are called upon to cooperate with Institutions in fighting hate preachers and those who practice violence.
In these past few years we have experienced a growing sensitivity for the value of legality.
It is above all the youngest who reject unlawful behaviours because they understand that criminal activities and corruption negate rights, weaken liberty and rob them of their future. We are conducting a relentless fight against mafia organizations and we must voice our gratitude to magistrates and law enforcers for the very important results they have obtained.
Then, on the other hand, there is the unlawfulness of corruptors and of those who give in to corruption; of those who steal, pollute, exploit and of those who, in the name of profit, trample the most basic rights, as we unfortunately see happening where workers' safety and health are neglected.
Almost the totality of our citizens believe in honesty and demand decency.
They demand it from the ruling classes, at all levels; and they call for transparency and sobriety. They ask that rights be respected and duties fulfilled.
There are numerous examples of those who react against corruption, of those who rebel against prevarication and abuse.
To abide by the rules means to enforce the Constitution, which is not only a set of rules but a living contextual application of principles and values.
I wish to reiterate this at the very beginning of 2016, a year in which we will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Republic.
We are all called upon to care for the Republic.
What does this mean for our citizens? First of all it means enacting these principles in everyday social and civil life.
The year which is about to start will witness the unfolding of most of the Jubilee of Mercy launched by Francis, to whom I would like to extend my wishes and express my gratitude for the high value of his magisterium.
It conveys a strong message which invites us all to a peaceful coexistence and to defend the dignity of every person.
To translate that message into a secular expression, we could speak of mutual understanding, an attitude that I hope becomes widespread in our living together.
We are all aware that when speaking of us Italians, words such as ingenuity, beauty, good taste, inventiveness and creativity are the first that come to mind. We also know that they are often followed by other words that are not as positive: lack of public spirit, particularism, marked individualism.
Every day I receive many letters and, in this first year of my presidency, I have met many people and heard their stories at the Quirinale or touring Italy.
They speak of courage, commitment, spirit of enterprise, dedication to others, sense of duty and of the common good, professional skills, excellence in research.
And they are not exceptions.
When meeting the representatives of other Countries, in Italy and abroad, I have always perceived greater confidence and consideration for Italy and Italians than we ourselves are at times willing to recognise.
Italy has a wealth of positive people and experiences.
We must express our gratitude to all of them.
They are well represented by some emblematic figures. I will only mention three: Fabiola Gianotti, who tomorrow will take charge of the CERN, in Geneva, Samantha Cristoforetti, whom we fondly followed into space, and Nicole Orlando, the Paralympic athlete who won four gold medals.
By naming them I would like to express a thought of gratitude for all Italian women.
They cope with a host of multifarious tasks and must still deal with prejudice and backwardness, with an equality of rights that is declared but not always assured, and at times with abuse and violence.
A special thought also goes to people with disabilities, to the elderly who are or feel lonely, to the ill.
Lastly, I would like to address a special wish to all the children born in 2015: they have brought joy to their families and hope to the future of our Italy.
Thanks to all of you and Happy 2016!