London - Palace of Westminster 16/03/2005

Address By h.e. The President of the Italian Republic, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, at the Parliament


London, 16 March 2005

Lord Chancellor,
Mr. Speaker,

i have visited many halls of parliament both as President of the Italian Republic and in my previous capacities. I was deeply moved, however, to enter this Parliament, symbol throughout the world of democratic institutions. Freedom grew up in our continent over the centuries through a process which, starting with Magna Charta, established the supremacy of law over the will of absolute rulers.

During the Second World War European civilization hung on to the brink of an abyss. The determination of the British Parliament to keep the flame of liberty burning and to keep the hope of democracy's return to Europe alive represents one of the most glorious chapters in the history of the British people and of European civilization. Great Britain subsequently achieved another historic undertaking. It turned its Empire into the cradle of new, free and democratic nations. Perhaps never before had so much power been granted so bountifully to so many people.

In these last sixty years, relations between Italy and the United Kingdom have progressed without interruption and have strengthened the bonds between our two peoples. This enables us to look to our future collaboration with confidence.

As partners, we face growing responsibilities and challenges from which we cannot turn away: in the European Union, the Atlantic Alliance, the G8 and the United Nations.

They include the fight against terrorism, the struggle against underdevelopment and the management of our planet's ecological balance.

We pursue important common objectives in the framework of the European Union. The Lisbon Strategy, for example, which is aimed at renewed growth and competitiveness. Or the Galileo Project, which will stimulate innovation and employment. Or again the full expression, within our single market, of the potential offered by the complementary nature of our economies. We also share in the responsibility of promoting the democratic process in the Balkans and of assisting the peace process in the Middle East, while helping foster the growth of democracy in that region.

It is our duty to inform public opinion of the true significance of progress towards European unity. This is of vital importance if the debate on Europe's future is to escape the shoals of sterile confrontation. It would be enough, I am convinced, to say to our fellow citizens: for you and your children, the European Union is the guarantee of a democratic future, a future of peace and security, a future of economic growth.

The Parliaments of our two countries are increasingly involved in these objectives. On the troubled international scene of the XXIst century, Parliament plays a vital role in debating major issues, in informing and influencing public opinion and in taking the fundamental decisions of our time.