L'Aja 23/10/2012

Toast by the President of the Republic of Italy on the occasion of his State Visit to the Kingdom of the Netherlands

Your Majesty,
Your Royal Highnesses,
Distinguished Authorities,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank you, Your Majesty, for your welcoming remarks. I am well aware of your love for Italy. In Tavarnelle, in the midst of Tuscan hills, you are a regular and always welcome visitor.
Our nations' relationship goes back a long way. Our values, our identity, our national interests are solidly rooted in the European Union and in the Atlantic Alliance.

The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize 2012 to the European Union is a great honour also to our countries and to two generations of Italian and Dutch statesmen. Indeed, the Netherlands and Italy are proud of having founded and successfully carried out the European project through decades of changes, growing prosperity, endless challenges and, mainly, unfailing solidarity.

On the night of the 31st of January 1953 the "Flood Disaster" struck this country. I remember very well the brave response of the Dutch nation - and you were among the first, Your Majesty, then a young and inspiring Princess Beatrix, to visit the flooded areas. The disaster brought together nations and peoples that only a few years before had been bitterly fighting each other. A new spirit of a shared solidarity was born in Europe and across the Atlantic.
Since then many natural disasters and humanitarian emergencies have occurred, more than once in Italy. Solidarity has never been wanting. Last June Emilia Romagna was shaken by a devastating earthquake. I wish to thank the many Dutch citizens, namely in the dairy sector, who generously provided special support to Parmesan cheese producers.

Your Majesty,
for a long time our histories have overlapped and our peoples and cultures have blended.
Here, the Romans built the first cities and military fortifications, leaving other significant footprints of their civilization, included writing. Later on, during the Renaissance, an intense exchange of art and culture took place between Italians and Dutch. In the XVII Century, Galileo Galilei taught the world how to utilize the telescope, that had been invented on Dutch soil. Guest of this homeland of free thought, he published his scientific and philosophical testament in Leida, in 1638.

The tradition of researching the universe continues today with our leading engineers and scientists at the ESTEC - which I will visit tomorrow together with Your Majesty - and at the Astronomical Center ASTRON.
In this year alone we exchanged two important exhibitions, one of Mondrian in Rome and the other on Etruscans, in Amsterdam and Leida. Recently we inaugurated, at the Scuderie of the Quirinale, an exhibition dedicated to Vermeer and other Dutch painters of his time, while the Teylers Museum of Haarlem is hosting an exhibition on the genius of Raffaello, the first ever to be held in the Netherlands.

Contemporary Italian architects have contributed to Amsterdam's and Groninga's futuristic urban landscape. Giovanni Michelotti designed the DAF-kini of 1966, donated to His Royal Highness William Alexander on the occasion of his birth.

The "made in Italy" label finds a natural match in Dutch industrial design. Witness the late Bob Noorda, "the magician of trademarks", Amsterdam-born and Milanese by adoption.
Continuous two-way streams of visitors enjoy our cities, arts and landscapes while a significant number of Italian students have discovered the genuinely free and fresh environment of Dutch universities.

Your Majesty,
the Netherlands and Italy are committed multilateralists. Today, global challenges and threats, such as climate change, mass migration flows, proliferation, make the United Nations more relevant than ever.
Legitimacy and the rule of law are the bedrock of international peace and stability. In the footsteps of Ugo Grozio, The Hague has become the centre of international justice: living up to the motto "peace and justice" incorporated in its heraldic seal.

The 1911 Nobel Peace Prize awardee, the Dutch jurist Tobias Asser, during the first Peace Conference of 1899, acknowledged that the Italian Pasquale Stanislao Mancini was the auctor intellectualis of the codification of International Private Law and of the principle of nationality.

For Italy and for The Netherlands NATO is the pillar of common security. Our troops have been together, shoulder to shoulder, in the Balkans and in the Hindu Kush; our planes flew together last year in the UN-mandated Operation Unified Protector for the safety of the Libyan people.

Dutch and Italians have frequently been together at NATO's helm. I am glad that our friend, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, could join us tonight. As NATO's Secretary General, he was flanked by two successive Italian Deputy Secretary Generals, Alessandro Minuto Rizzo and Claudio Bisogniero, and by an Italian Chairman of the Military Committee, Giampaolo Di Paola, now Minister of Defense.

Your Majesty,
nothing more than the building of European unity epitomizes our 60-year long journey together. We were co-founders in the early days, we have shared all the major integration steps, we are ready to lead the way to further strengthening and deepening of the European Union.

Our European journey is based on values, ideals and interests well beyond the present juncture. Today, Europe's attention is focused on the economic cycle, on the financial crisis particularly related to sovereign debt and on the ensuing strains on the common currency. This situation makes fiscal discipline imperative - and the current Italian government is doing its part decisively. We will meet the burden of our public debt - for the sake of our own economy. And we demand no less from our partners.

At the same time we will not backtrack on European common vision and solidarity: either we all succeed, together, or the failure of any Member State will be a failure for all.

Today rigour is not an option, it is a must. But it is not an end in itself. It serves the ultimate purpose of stability and growth, of prosperity and well-being of our peoples. Together, we need to advance our economies and to create employment, especially for our youth.

In the wake of its seafaring and merchant culture, The Netherlands has set an example of how to look at the wider world with confidence and poise. Likewise, confronted with the unspoken fear of decline, Europe needs to follow the same outward looking path. The awakening of the Mediterranean will affect Europe's future for decades to come. Such times of change bode well for the strengthening of freedom, democracy and human rights but are also fraught with dangers. The brutal civil war in Syria threatens the stability of a region of strategic interest to all of us.
Both the external challenges and the internal problems we have to face affect all of us. In welcoming your new Ambassador to Rome last week, we agreed on the necessity not to think in terms of North and South Europe, but to be more than ever deeply united.

With these sentiments, I wish to congratulate Your Majesty on the upcoming bicentennial anniversary of The Netherlands in 2013 and I lift my glass to the well-being of Your Majesty and of the Royal Family and in honor of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and of the Republic of Italy.