First and foremost, I would like to express my sincere thanks for Your eloquent words and for the truly warm welcome given to me, my daughter, and the delegation who accompanied me.
I am particularly pleased to see You here again, Mr President, after our cordial and fruitful meeting at the Quirinale last October. That was the year when Georgia celebrated its centenary of Independence, and Italy was symbolically among the first states to acknowledge it.
The proximity in time of our visits and the common views we shared on that occasion are clear signs of how intense the relations between Georgia and Italy are.
Today, Italy is as close to Georgia as a hundred years ago.
Our two countries both yearn for freedom, democracy and peace. We share our openness to dialogue and to other cultures, which is symbolised by our common commitment in Afghanistan. We admire the determination through which you preserve your age-old identity, to which the uniqueness of your language bears witness. We appreciate your balanced and strategically patient approach, which proves that you are factor of peace and stability in a geographical area of crucial importance for the international equilibrium.
Georgia, similarly to Italy and the Mediterranean area, has always been a bridge between Europe and Asia. Our two countries are the witness of ancient civilisations who were at the crossroads between the historical events which shaped our current international order.
Georgia is one of humanity’s cradles, as the sensational discovery of the Dmanisi man shows. On the archaeological site where it was found, Georgian and Italian palaeontologists are working together in harmony.
Since the Roman age and throughout the centuries, merchants, missionaries, travellers and artists have nurtured our intense relationship along the roads of Silk, of faith, of friendship.
The great poet Shota Rustaveli – celebrated with a bust sculpted by Nikoladze which stands inside Villa Borghese in Rome - is himself the symbol of that Renaissance that Georgia lived before the rest of Europe, and which marked the completion of the unification of Georgia.
Among other things, what unites us is the extraordinary relationship our young people have. In the first 1990s, thanks to twinnings and summer holidays organised in Georgia and Italy - and particularly in Sicily - they established and nurtured bonds of authentic affection.
Such deep relations inspire every area of our dialogue, starting with politics. We both rely on the principles of the inviolability of borders and of peaceful coexistence.
Italy firmly supports the territorial sovereignty and integrity of Georgia. We deeply care about your security and stability, as our continued bilateral and multilateral collaborations show.
We value your steadfast commitment to liberal democracy and to the rule of law, which are mentioned in the first Georgian republican constitution. These principles guide your admirable reforming effort on a path towards the strengthening of your dialogue with the European Union.
The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) agreement with the European Union and the visa liberalisation - which Italy strongly supported - are highly efficient tools for acknowledging more and more the closeness of Georgians to Europe and vice versa, while promoting prosperity and peace.
In the economic field, there are broad prospects for increasing our collaborations in promising sectors, such as infrastructures, energy and agri-food.
We both believe it necessary to redouble the opportunities for our young people to meet and get to know one another better. We must foster their mobility and the development of joint research programmes. At the same time, we must work together on areas such as innovation and new technologies, on the promotion of the arts, and on the enhancement of our cultural heritage.
History unites us. Nevertheless, our future unites us even more.
Mr President, it is with an eye towards this future of cooperation and friendship that I invite all of you here to raise your glasses, and to toast to Your personal well-being, to the prosperity of Georgia and Italy, and to the solidarity between our peoples.