President of the Lombardy Region,
Mayor of Milan,
Segretary General of the International Exhibitions Bureau,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is for me both an honour and a source of great satisfaction to conclude after such a successful journey the Universal Exhibition 2015, which Milan, Lombardy and Italy planned, executed and offered to the whole world as a bridge towards the future.
A future that we want to be a better one for mankind and Mother Earth.
The final moments of such important and engaging events always trigger mixed feelings, including a hint of melancholy.
This time, however, I am certain that the act of closing the Expo will be a veritable celebration, and that the event has harnessed and made available much positive spirit.
The Exhibition leaves us an important legacy, borne of the exchanges it has managed to promote and the hopes it has engendered.
Today, therefore, is not a farewell but a transition. It is the beginning of a new civic engagement.
Indeed, the results go beyond the impressive and truly flattering figure of over 21 million visitors registered.
They include the record number of countries brought together in a network of dialogue and research, the interest generated in the public opinion of various continents, the over 1 million signatures gathered at the end of the Milan Charter.
The Charter is a key document affirming the right to food and water as an essential part of the broader right to life, which from now on will be an unavoidable point of reference in assessing the application of universal human rights.
The Expo's greatest success, and thus its legacy, lies in having sought to define food and nutrition as a shared language of peoples.
Shared language does not mean homogenisation. Far from it.
It expresses the dialogue on and regard for biodiversity, the knowledge and respect for different cultures and their roots, the discovery of common values and interests for mankind. It represents the antidote to the new Babel and the exclusion that global society can generate if it is not governed.
The Expo has succeeded in uniting past traditions and know-how with innovation, technical and scientific progress and cutting-edge research.
The Expo has celebrated agricultural practices able to promote niche products, consumer health and a global vision.
Feeding the planet without excluding anyone is possible. Eliminating hunger and thirst from the face of the earth is possible, and represents an essential tool for building peace.
We stand before a momentous challenge, and we are in unprecedented conditions to tackle it.
We need a sweeping cultural shift accompanied by projects that look to the future and are not beholden to day-to-day politics.
If change is to take place, it must be led by populations, social bodies, people: there can be no humanism imposed from above. We need to conquer it, practise it and disseminate it.
The great interest stirred up by the Expo signals this global shift.
Walking down the Expo's main thoroughfare, visiting the pavillions, tasting delicious and at times unknown foods, millions of people had the pleasant sensation of embracing the world in its entirety, of coming into contact for a few hours with places, landscapes, tastes and experiences that would have otherwise been inaccessible.
Precisely this knowledge has led us to understand a new way of engaging with food as a tool for life and a part of our shared heritage.
Despite progress made over the past few years, hunger and malnutrition continue to affect 800 million people and must be fought with determination.
Similarly, in the global North we must combat obesity, which is also a form of malnutrition, albeit a very different one, affecting a further 800 million people.
It is absurd and unacceptable that, while humanitarian crises affect regions in need, afflicted by war and environmental disasters, there is continued waste in affluent regions.
Good nutrition is energy for life. And it drives development.
Food policies are of extraordinary social and cultural importance, and their value should also be transmitted through serious educational engagement.
Healthy eating, alongside a balanced use of land, is a decisive factor in any advanced social model.
We cannot consume more resources than we are able to regenerate.
We must stop exploiting the present, taking the future away from our children and grandchildren.
There is no denying the fact that the fight against hunger and thirst is the cornerstone of a new global government based on economic cooperation and the affirmation of human rights.
The exact antithesis of the clashes of civilisations and the wars of religion, which continue to be the ideological masks that desire for domination and logic of subjugation hide behind. And that continue to cause death, violence, discrimination and momentous migration.
Food culture, respect for the environment and ecosystems, innovation and cooperation can help us to combat poverty, which remains the prime cause of injustice and destabilisation.
They can help us to hold our heads high once more, and help all women and men throughout the world to do the same.
After the Expo, we are ready to take a great step forward together.
Milan has highlighted the theme of sustainable development, bringing together beauty and knowledge and giving them strong grassroots.
I thank all the countries that, by participating, made the Expo such a wonderful event.
I thank the international bodies that, by playing an active role, contributed to this result.
I thank the cultural and research institutes, the universities, the many associations for their valuable contribution over the past six months through thousands of interesting initiatives.
Without these rich exchanges, we would not have achieved the goals we hoped for.
Finally, allow me to thank above all the citizens, families and groups who attended the Expo and made it vibrant and interesting by their very presence.
Almost one third of visitors came from abroad.
We gave them hospitality, we arranged opportunities for dialogue, we included them in research and experimental projects.
This dialogue must continue.
For our country, the Expo has been a great opportunity, from the moment Italy's candidacy was envisioned.
We can safely say that the challenge, which we addressed first and foremost to ourselves, has been won.
Thank you Commissioner Sala for your work!
Thank you to the various governments that have been in power since our country submitted its proposal to host Expo 2015. Thank you to the mayors, regional presidents, organising committee. Thank you to everyone who worked to ensure that the Expo was a success, starting from the thousands of volunteers.
The challenge was not won by one individual against another.
It was won by an Italy that, when it unites in a shared commitment, when it avoids any natural differences producing excessive antagonism, is able to express great accomplishments and show the world its unique qualities.
There is great demand for Italy throughout the world. Italian beauty, Italian culture, Italian taste.
We should work to meet these demands and renewed expectations, increasingly refining our vocations, starting from our European one.
The Expo has provided us with further proof of the magnitude of what unites us, so much greater than that which legitimately separates us.
In order for our public debate to be mature and regain trust and credibility, it cannot hide this common ground and these areas of convergence, otherwise it risks general impoverishment.
Italy wins out if it is aware of the value of its unity, if it is able to heal fractures rather than deepen them.
While we are already looking ahead, through Expo 2017 in Astana, to the Dubai Exhibition in 2020, which I hope will meet with great success, a new test begins for us tomorrow.
It involves the use of this area, the Expo site.
I trust in a wise choice, benefiting Milan, Lombardy and the whole country.
Our responsibility extends to future projects launched through the Universal Exhibition.
Giving continuity to this commitment and success is not only a moral duty. It is an exciting task.
I hope that it will involve young people, leading talents, Italian and European creativity.
We must hand over the baton and forge ahead quickly.
Research and universities offer decisive support. We have the necessary infrastructure, including immaterial infrastructure, to face the future serenely.
The Expo has rightly resulted in expectations being set; no one must confound them.
It is in the spirit of every Universal Exhibition to look ahead. To try to raise the horizon line. It has happened in past editions and we embrace this spirit.
Today, in the XXI century, the idea of progress is, if possible, more demanding than ever. The myth of limitless growth resolving man's problems had, in fact, already faded before the great economic recession of the past few years.
This drawn-out crisis nevertheless served to deepen imbalances, heighten internal inequalities within countries and spread fears.
Progress must continue and it will continue. It is our duty to integrate it with a growth that respects human dignity and fairness for all.
The Milan Expo put forward quality and balance as the driving forces for a season of development able to reach the whole planet. And able to save it.
The Tree of Life, having been a leading attraction at the heart of the exhibition space, symbolically represents its legacy.
The image of this tree, with its roots well planted in the ground, its branches reaching up, its structure expressing technology and expertise, has become a familiar one.
I hope that it will remain to bear witness to the network of skills and solidarity that Milan - to which I give my thanks, dear Mayor - has implemented over the past six months.
Above all, I hope that its value and meaning will remain: the right to life calls for consistency and connections today that until yesterday we tended to neglect.
The right to food and water is closely connected to the idea of peace, social justice, scientific progress, upholding the law, protecting the environment and biodiversity.
A very large tree is needed to bring all this together.
That is the symbol that Italy seeks to offer the world today.