Palazzo del Quirinale 16/10/2006

Toast by the President of the Republic at the State Dinner in honour of the President of the Republic of Ghana, John Agyekum Kufuor



Quirinale Palace, 16 October 2006

Mr. President of the Republic of Ghana,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to welcome you and accompanying government representatives and delegates to the Quirinale Palace. Your State visit affords Italy great satisfaction; it confirms the importance of relations between our two nations and our mutual interest in further pursuing and enriching dialogue and cooperation in political, economic and cultural spheres.

In 1957 your nation was the first Sub-Saharan African country to emerge from colonial domination, triggering a wave of emotion among the peoples of the continent and setting in motion what was soon to prove an inexorable process. Fifty years have passed since those events and, once again, Ghana is being viewed as a model by other African nations. As you asserted in your address before the United Nations General Assembly this past September, the people of Ghana have succeeded in creating an "equitable, free and stable society in which each individual can develop his or her full potential", and they have proven that political pluralism, freedom of expression and rule of law are not just hollow words but the pillars upon which civil co-existence rests, in Africa just as anywhere else.

All this has not gone unnoticed. Over the years, the international community has acknowledged in various ways your nation's efforts to strengthen democracy and its steadfast commitment to resolving regional conflicts. It is no accident that the United Nations has been under the guidance these past ten years of an illustrious citizen of Ghana, Secretary General Kofi Annan, to whom I send my warm greeting. It is no accident that Ghana was elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2006-2007. Finally, it is no accident that Ghana was chosen to take part in the UN Peacebuilding Commission tasked with addressing the difficulties of countries emerging from conflict. These qualities make Ghana a natural partner for Italy. Shared values mean a common commitment to peace, not only in Africa but also in other parts of the planet, such as Lebanon, where our military forces stand side by side.

Mr. President,

Every meeting with an African Head of State is an occasion for me to reflect on the commitment and deep bond linking Italy with the African populations and their great continent, separated from Europe by no more than a narrow strait. The Mediterranean has always been an open sea, a place of encounter, trade, human contact and mutual enrichment. Italians are fully aware of our traditional interdependence and know that the political stability and economic development of the African continent carry highly significant consequences for Italy and for Europe in general. It is in Europe's own interests to form a strong and lasting partnership with Africa. I am firmly convinced that there are no self-contained systems in today's world: in order to avoid repeating past errors it is essential to understand that Africa's problems are our problems; that Africa's difficulties are our own. Ethnic and religious conflicts, poverty and under-development inevitably translate into terrorism, intolerance, squandering of precious natural resources and unchecked waves of migration.

For this reason we are committed to contributing to the battle against poverty and under-development in Africa, to the struggle to wipe out diseases that claim hundreds of thousands of victims, and to efforts to ensure the stability and security without which there is no hope for economic and civil progress. For this reason we are participating in debt cancellation initiatives that free up precious resources to be earmarked for development and we have thousands of volunteers working alongside needy populations throughout the African continent. Italy is steadfast in its support for those new African institutions that are an expression of the continent's desire to redeem itself: with the creation of New Partnership for Africa's Development the African populations made a commitment to creating their own democracy and good governance and to safeguarding the rights of individuals and minorities, within the framework of a solid partnership with the industrialised world; with the creation of the African Union they chose the route of cooperation and regional integration by means of a gradual sharing of resources and sovereignty. This is a path not unlike the one we, Europeans, chose not so many years ago, and which led to overcoming centuries-old rivalries in the name of a lasting and prosperous union.

Mr. President,

I am convinced that cooperation between Ghana and Italy is destined to intensify, not only in multilateral spheres but bilaterally as well. All the requisites are there: increasingly intense political dialogue and our business community's growing interest in the opportunities for trade and investment offered by Ghana. I hope also that the Italian public will have a greater opportunity to come to know your country's artistic and cultural expressions, which are a manifestation of the richness and variety of the multifaceted and multiethnic African society, whose many diversities are harmonised in a context of strong national unity. The presence in Italy of a numerous and industrious community of Ghanaians, who have adopted Italy as their new home, will bring us closer to this goal and will further unite our peoples.

Ghanaians and Italians also share the same enthusiasm for the game of soccer. I would like to take this opportunity to offer my best wishes for the 2008 Africa Cup, to be hosted by Ghana. I am sure that the success of your country's efforts will not only benefit sport but also enhance Ghana's prestige and that of the entire African continent.

Mr. President,

Thanks to your presence here today our friendship has gained in strength. It is, therefore, with immense pleasure that I raise my glass to your own personal heath, to the prosperity of your people and to the brotherhood of our two nations.