Prime Minister of the Italian Republic Giuseppe Conte (retranslated): Mr President of the Russian Federation, Ministers and Co-chairs of the Civil Society Dialogue Forum, Ladies and gentlemen,
I am truly very happy to see you all here tonight, at Villa Madama.
Dear President, my dear Vladimir,
I would very much like to return the generous hospitality you showed me when you received me in Moscow in October . Now I have such an opportunity.
Tonight we are celebrating our friendship in a remarkable place. As I told you just seconds ago, this villa was designed by Raphael, a prominent figure in the Italian Renaissance.
In your native city of St Petersburg, which is very close to your heart, one can find beautiful masterpieces by Raphael at the Hermitage Museum. Visitors enjoy them, and I was told that those works are the most popular with them.
Undoubtedly, art, the roots that connect to the art of our two peoples, are important links that are deeply established in the history of our two peoples.
Here in Italy, there is probably not a single Italian who in the course of studying, training and mastering various cultural skills did not feel love for Russian literature and the works of the great and most famous Russian musicians, artists or sculptors.
Of course, culture allows an individual to develop, but mutual understanding through culture allows us to be closer to one another. This is why we need to continue on this path of friendship because we believe our friendship is a fabric on which we are drawing a path for our continued cooperation and this is cooperation between our companies and our civil societies. It is precisely this dialogue that allows us to respond more strongly to the challenges we are facing now, as well as future challenges.
We spoke earlier about the difficult situation we have found ourselves in, especially if it is viewed through the prism of the European Union, which has found itself in a situation that has emerged as a result of the tough approach taken to the Russian Federation. However, our government remains open to the possibility of talks. The civil societies in our two countries also continue to maintain this dialogue with as much enthusiasm, keeping alive the spirit of the dialogue and mutual love, which has always been a hallmark of relations between our peoples.
I believe the forum in the format of a dialogue between civil societies, which is taking place today at the Italian Foreign Ministry, has huge potential not only for relations between entrepreneurs and for the economic sector as a whole but also for cultural ties. That is why I would like to ask the co-chairs to make sure they work systematically in the months to come without waiting for a new top-level meeting between politicians.
Before concluding my brief speech, I would like to thank Ms Todini for the wonderful work she has done over these years as co-chair of the Civil Society Dialogue Forum. I would also like to welcome President Ferlenghi and wish him every success in the work ahead of him.
Let us drink to the spirit of this friendship.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Ladies and gentlemen, friends,
We really felt the warm – both literally and figuratively – reception we were given today here in Rome, in Italy.
During this visit, we took part in a number of activities and discussed almost the entire range of issues related to our cooperation. We are unanimous in that the development of mutually beneficial relations is in the interest of our countries. We see that we, on both sides, are set to invigorate our ties and maintain cooperation both at the bilateral level and in the international arena.
Of course, the economy is the most important area of our cooperation. We develop industrial cooperation and encourage mutual investment. I would like to welcome our Italian friends here who work actively on the Russian market. We are implementing large industry, energy and infrastructure projects.
And, of course, we are connected by old and deep cultural ties. Dear Giuseppe, you mentioned Russian literature. I must say that today we also touched on this in our conversation with the Pope. He allowed me to say publicly that he always has Russian classics on his table, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy.
In fact, he went on to say that he told all his priests that without Dostoyevsky, without understanding the full depth of his philosophy, it was impossible to become a true priest.
You know, this says a lot. This attests to our deep common spiritual roots. This is why our cultural events are always such a success.
Last year, 300 events were held in 74 Italian cities as part of the Russian Seasons, with six million Italians attending.
I would like to once again thank all our Italian colleagues for our productive and substantive work during today’s visit. Of course, members of civil commissions and civil societies that include public representatives and businesspeople also carry out important work.
I would also like to thank our colleagues from both the Russian and Italian governments: Italian deputy prime ministers and your ministers, Mr Conte. They do a lot to promote Russian-Italian relations.
If I am not mistaken, there is an Italian saying that sincerity is the foundation of a true friendship. We have always appreciated this quality in our Italian colleagues: directness and openness for dialogue.
Let me propose a toast to the health of the Prime Minister, the health of everyone here, to the prosperity of our countries, nations, and to our joint work!