Ladies and Gentlemen,
Please allow me at the outset to convey to you, personally and on behalf of all the Italian people, my feelings of profound grief for what happened yesterday, that has prompted great emotion also in our public opinion. It is with authentic pleasure, and with renewed feelings of great esteem towards you, that I very warmly welcome you to Italy and to the Quirinale Palace during your State Visit to our Country, the first by a President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.
Allow me therefore to express my deepest thanks for your appreciated and significant gesture.
The short time that has elapsed since my State Visit to Ethiopia - my first in Sub-Saharan Africa - through which I intended to pay a special tribute to our deep and very special relationship, bears witness to the renewed momentum in relations between Addis Ababa and Rome.
This momentum is driven by our Countries' staunch will to tighten our bonds in all areas, resolutely looking forward to a future of ever-stronger cooperation.
During my visit to Addis Ababa, Lalibela and Gambela, I had the opportunity to witness this special relationship, fuelled daily by the extraordinarily rich ethnic, social, cultural and religious mosaic of the Ethiopian people.
A young, enterprising and industrious community resolutely committed to building its future and consolidating the results achieved over time in terms of economic growth and the spread of welfare.
A community that has inherited a millenary history, that is fully aware of the extraordinary wealth of its territory, and that is committed to valorising it.
A community that is aware of its growing geopolitical centrality within the African continent and of the responsibilities that this implies in the field of international relations.
A Country that - as I was able to verify during my visit to Gambela, on the border with the tormented region of South Sudan - has never stopped showing its solidarity with those escaping from famine, instability and war, notwithstanding the exceptional difficulties caused by a drought of epochal magnitude.
Lastly, a State that is home to a well-rooted ancient community of fellow-Italians who contribute - in their individual field of activity - to consolidating our relations and fostering our bonds of friendship.
The well-integrated and industrious community of people of Ethiopian origin, here in Italy, nurtures the same spirit.
Your State Visit represents an eminent confirmation of the friendship that also binds our Institutions, adding further momentum to a solid bilateral relationship that is particularly dynamic and rich in opportunities.
There is no area in which our relations have not grown over the years:
in the area of education and culture, as testified by the collaboration between universities and in the field of archaeology, and as proven by the presence, in Addis Ababa, of one of the largest Italian schools abroad, an authentic laboratory for dialogue among cultures and understanding based on education and schooling;
in the area of development, which has enabled us to jointly promote initiatives of exceptional relevance in rural growth, health care, training and artisanal entrepreneurship and also in environmental protection.
Furthermore, in our economic and trade relations, we have witnessed the dawn and continuous growth of ever better structured initiatives to mutually promote and attract new activities and investments. These are underpinned by a continuous increase in trade, driven by the growing interest of Ethiopian companies in the Italian business model and know-how.
This interest is looked upon with great satisfaction and gratitude by our economic system.
Ethiopia, Mister President, has made great progress on the road of development and diffusion of welfare and prosperity. We hope that the achievement of these important goals, will be accompanied by an assertive action to enhance social cohesion and democratic coexistence, in order to ensure that the results attained by your Country are enduring and sustainable. These results find their unavoidable basis in the harmonious relationship between the different components of your country.
Today Ethiopia is a strategic partner of Italy and of the European Union. Indeed, your Country represents, for the international community, a linchpin of stability in the Horn of Africa, also thanks to its commitment to multilateralism and to United Nations peace-keeping operations.
We support your efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflicts in South Sudan and Somalia and we appreciate the commitment with which, at the cost of enormous sacrifice, you are countering two of the most insidious scourges of our time: violent radicalism and human trafficking.
Ethiopia, like Italy, lives on a daily basis the tragedy and emergency of immigration offering shelter to the largest refugee community in Sub-Saharan Africa.
We therefore believe that it is a priority for the European Union to negotiate with your Country one of the first cooperation and support agreements on the issue of migration. These agreements are now part of Europe's strategy aimed at removing the root causes that drive so many people to leave their dear ones, their homes and their motherland in the pursuit of a better future for themselves and their children.
We are aware of the difficulties that underlie the development of a comprehensive migration strategy, which Italy has long hoped for and promoted. However, we are faced with a phenomenon whose reach goes beyond the state of emergency, making it necessary to rely on structured and effective cooperative efforts in which African Countries, the African Union and the European Union cannot but play a leading role.
The annus mirabilis in the relations between Ethiopia and Italy is coming to an end; a year in which the groundwork has been laid for renewed and stronger cooperation in numerous areas.
2017 will offer a new and very relevant opportunity to enhance further our cooperation, extending it to all the major issues on the international agenda, by virtue of our Countries' simultaneous presence on the United Nations Security Council.
I am certain that, also within this framework, the collaboration between Addis Ababa and Rome will live up to the friendship that exists between our Countries and to the growing sense of responsibility that we feel in the face of such a complex international environment.
Allow me to thank you once again for your visit, which testifies to the close ties of profound friendship that unites our two Countries and that, above all, encourages them to look to the future with responsibility, resolve and confidence.
Certain that our cooperation will further strengthen over time, I sincerely wish you a pleasant stay in Italy and invite everybody to raise their glasses and join me in a toast to the prosperity of the Ethiopian and Italian people, to your personal wellbeing and to the friendship between Ethiopia and Italy.
Long live the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia!
Long live the Italian Republic!