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Festa della Repubblica 02 giugno 2022 – Palazzo Sursock Beirut

Distinguished Authorities,
Dear Guests,
Care italiane e cari italiani,

Welcome to Sursock Palace for the Italian National Day – la Festa della Repubblica – in Lebanon.
Today’s event marks the 76th anniversary of the referendum held on the 2nd June 1946, a crucial landmark of the history of my country.

In the aftermath of World War II, the Italian people were called to vote and decide on the form of the State. For the first time women were allowed to vote. Almost 90% of the electorate voted. A few days later, the Republic was proclaimed.

As Ambassador of Italy to Lebanon, this is my first Italian National day that we celebrate together and in such a public gathering. I am deeply moved by this. We cannot forget the two years of pandemic that imposed on us severe restrictions and suffering. As we cannot forget today the suffering provoked by the war waged by Russia against Ukraine.

I have chosen to celebrate the Italian National day in this beautiful place for two main reasons.
The first one, because the history of this palace and its family is intertwined with the history of Italian families. In 1920, the destiny of Maria Teresa Serra di Cassano crossed the destiny of Alfred Sursock. They got married and, from this marriage, the late Yvonne Cochrane was born. From another branch of the family, in 1909 Isabelle Sursock married a member of the Colonna family. The two ladies, Yvonne and Isabelle, lived through the whole twentieth century becoming influential patrons of arts, in Beirut and Rome.
The second reason is that this unique nineteenth century palace, with its architecture reflecting Italian as well as Levantine influence, still shows the wounds caused by the explosion of the 4th of August 2020 at the Port of Beirut. These scars remind us of the damages that are still visible over more buildings in some areas of Beirut; scars that have not healed yet for the families of the victims, to whom my thoughts go.

Today’s Lebanon is very different from the one in which the last the Italian National Day took place, in June 2019. Since then, the crisis affecting the country has severely impacted on economic, social, cultural and political life. Resulting in increasing poverty and humanitarian needs, social and political tensions, more Lebanese have resorted to migration as a way to seek a better future abroad.
The country is struggling to find ways to exit the crisis, and move towards a new functioning model.

Every crisis, no matter how harsh, should teach us lessons and give us inspiration for better change.
No economic model is sustainable without being able to protect the environment. No democracy is viable without efficient and accountable public institutions, human rights and gender equality.
No security is lasting without the political will of searching for peace.
No development of society is possible without upholding culture and human capital.

This year will be crucial for Lebanon and for the renovation of its democratic institutions within the constitutional calendar. The just completed parliamentary elections are an important step in the process, for the key role that Parliament has, together with the Government, in carrying forward the reforms so urgently needed and in providing basic services to the population.
Lebanon can meet the challenge. With its vibrant academic and entrepreneurial background, pluralistic and diversified society, talented human capital, and many friends in the international community, including Italy.

Italy and Lebanon are tied by strong historical bonds.
Many footprints of the past are testimony of that heritage. From the Roman sites of Baalbeck and Sour, to the architectural and landscape influence that Emir Fakhreddine brought back from his years of exile in Italy in the seventeenth century, and that we can still admire in many traditional villages houses or in the terracing technique still used in the mountain.

Italy’s support to Lebanon never faltered even in the most difficult moments. Through our commitment to the security and stability of the country, since the 80’; with our participation to UNIFIL and with our bilateral military training mission; through our development projects in infrastructure, health, education, water, cultural heritage, social protection; through our commitment to promote cultural and academic cooperation and to provide Lebanese students with opportunities to study in Italian universities.

Our countries belong to the same Mediterranean destiny. Challenges are in common. Solutions can only be shared ones. We all have the responsibility of protecting our common Mediterranean public goods: to mention a few, the environment, the natural resources, including energy sources, the cultural heritage, the security, including food security, the people-to-people exchanges.

Vorrei adesso rivolgermi, nella mia lingua, ai cittadini italiani che sono presenti qui questa sera, in rappresentanza della comunità italiana in Libano.

Sin dall’Indipendenza nel 1943, la comunità italiana ha rivestito un ruolo molto significativo nel progresso materiale e sociale del Paese dei Cedri. Gli italiani rimangono una componente viva e apprezzata della società libanese. Con storie articolate e fra loro diverse, i cittadini italiani sono spesso anche cittadini libanesi, e come tali sono perfettamente integrati nel tessuto sociale locale.

La comunità italiana, al pari delle altre, ha vissuto qui le difficoltà del COVID insieme a quelle attuali derivanti dalla crisi economica e finanziaria. I destini di molti sono stati toccati dalle incertezze di questo presente, ma mai sono venuti meno l’amore e l’attaccamento degli italiani per il Libano.

Siamo al vostro fianco, affinché possiate continuare ad essere parte attiva della vita di questo Paese. Il sostegno all’insegnamento della nostra lingua, così come l’incoraggiamento ai momenti di aggregazione culturale ed alla promozione di nuove opportunità economiche, sono al centro dell’attenzione della Ambasciata d’Italia. Per poter valorizzare sempre più la presenza di voi, italiane ed italiani, che siete il vero vettore di amicizia fra i due popoli e i due Paesi.

Allow me, at the end, to warmly thank all those who have made this event possible: all the team of the Embassy, the sponsors, the Sursock-Cochrane family and last but not least the Lebanese Authorities and security forces.
A special thank to the military band Pozzuolo del Friuli for accompanying this evening with their music.

Viva l’Italia,
viva il Libano,
viva l’amicizia italo-libanese!