Tel Aviv 15/05/2011

Address of the President of the Italian Republic Giorgio Napolitano on the occasion of the award of the Dan David Prize

Let me first of all express my sincere emotion and gratitude once again to the Dan David Foundation for the prize awarded to me and for its motivation. I find it very significant that an Israeli institution - founded on the initiative of Mr Dan David, a friend of both Italy and Israel - recognized my contribution to the strengthening of values and democratic institutions in Italy and in Europe and granted me a prize for it. It has been the commitment of a whole lifetime, having spent, as I did, 43 years as a Member of the Italian House of Deputies, during 10 Parliaments, and twice as a Member of the European Parliament.

In 1997, in the German city of Hannover, I received the Leibniz Ring prize for the relevant contribution made - (and I quote) "with the work of an entire lifetime" - "to the integration of his country with the European Union and to the integration of his party with parliamentary democracy". But to me the Dan David Prize is of special value because it speaks of the particular experience and authority of a country which was born and grew up as a parliamentary democracy in a difficult region such as the Middle East, an area far removed from the political and institutional traditions of Europe and North America.

The importance of the existence and security of the State of Israel - a cause of which I have been and remain a convinced advocate - is part and parcel of the importance which its system of parliamentary democracy held from the start, and still has as a point of reference for the entire Middle East.

Even if, as is not only made clear by the category of the Dan David Prize bestowed on me but also by the objective law of age, my person and my actions are to be considered in the "past time dimension", I do not shrink from continuing to exercise my responsibilities in working for and thinking about the further "march of democracy".

I certainly hold responsibility, as the President of the Italian Republic, for working to consolidate the democracy which was born anew in my country more than sixty years ago thanks to the struggle against fascism, to the Resistance and to the victory of the anti-Nazi coalition in the Second World War. Democracy, even when re-established, as in Italy, on the robust basis of a modern Constitution, can never be considered as complete and vital once and for all. It requires special care, critical attention and, if necessary, reforms but it also needs to develop afresh in tune with changing times and needs. It is my duty to strive in order that joint efforts are undertaken in that direction in Italy.

But a commitment to democracy cannot be constricted within a purely national context. It is essential that Italy, together with all the member states of the European Union, make their contribution to reinforcing and furthering the values and the institutions which exemplify European integration - grouping 27 countries today - as a great experience of community and supranational democracy. To that end, the opportunities of citizens' participation - through efficiently functioning channels - in the process of forming the Union's policy orientations and decisions should be strongly enhanced just as the transparency and reliability of the Union's institutions should be guaranteed vis-à-vis public opinion and elected national institutions.

And at the same time Europe should ask itself how it can promote the cause of liberty, the respect of human rights and the aspiration to democratic forms of Government in the Arab world, and first and foremost in the countries of North Africa and the Middle East where strong calls for change and justice have been voiced. Contributing to helping such grassroots movements, whose leadership and whose objectives still appear very uncertain, evolve into a march towards democracy and peace in that part of the world is in the common interest of Italy, of Israel, of Europe and of the whole international community. It is in their common interest and it should become their common goal.

Thank you again.