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Italy-Kazakhstan cooperation is increasing enormously – Ambassador Pasquale D’Avino

11 March 2020 20:42
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Italy-Kazakhstan cooperation is increasing enormously – Ambassador Pasquale D’Avino

NUR-SULTAN. KAZINFORM - Italian Ambassador to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan Pasquale D’Avino sat down with Kazinform correspondent to discuss the current state and the future of Italian-Kazakhstan bilateral relations.

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First of all, I would like to talk about this unfortunate moment of coronavirus, if you allow me. There has been big misunderstanding. Italy is the safest country in the world. Italy is the country that has done more control checking than any other country compared to the population. We have 60 million Italians and we did 22,000 controls. The other Western countries, they did few hundreds. We did 22,000. In terms of prevention Italy is the safest country compared to the population.

So we don’t want to see the bilateral relations being affected by the wrong interpretation of Italian data. The Italian health system is one of the best in the world. We are one of the few countries in the world that can assure public care therapy for free to everybody and everywhere across the country. This is the safest place to travel, this is the safest country in terms of coronavirus prevention and control.

So, there is a big misunderstanding. You don’t have to count how many cases you have, you have to count how strong the public health system of the country is. If you see few hundred cases in countries, big countries with 50 million or 300 million people, where they have few hundred preventions instead of 22,000 like in Italy, you have to wonder what is the prevention system of those countries?

Italy is the number one and the safest country in the world to travel and we cannot accept a bad perception given by a wrong communication, also by some social media or some so to say communication people that they are doing the wrong communication.

Italy has responded with readiness, proportionality and maximum transparency (contrary to many countries) to the global emergency of COVID-19, adopting all the measures recognized as necessary also by the World Health Organization

The network of hospitals and the national civil protection system responded with great professionalism, keeping the situation fully under control, in accordance with the principles of the World Health Organization. In fact, unlike many other countries, there are no patients without assistance. In order to protect the right to health and information, guaranteed by our Constitution, our government has decided to take proportionate prevention and containment measures and disclose actual and actual data on the spread of the virus to our citizens. I ask Kazakhstan to treat Italy like the other European countries as regards health measures against Italians who visit or work in this country.

Unfortunately, the situation has led the government to take temporary restrictions to movement in order to slow down the outbreak but I want to invite our Kazakh friends to come back to Italy once the emergency is finished. In the meantime, I invite them to experience Italian cuisine and lifestyle here in Kazakhstan: our products are perfectly safe, checked and of the highest quality, beloved all around the world.

What is the history of political and diplomatic relations between Italy and Kazakhstan? What is being done in this sphere nowadays?

The political relations between Italy and Kazakhstan are excellent. As you probably know, Italy was the first European country to present its credential letter here. If you go to the National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan in front of the Intercontinental Hotel in Almaty, you will see the credential letter of Ambassador Tucci. So, evidently the Elbasy really cared for Italy showing the letter of Ambassador Tucci in the museum.

The friendly political relations between Italy and Kazakhstan were immediately excellent. One evidence is the great friendship from the beginning between the then Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the Elbasy. Berlusconi was the first European political leader to go to the European Council two years after Kazakhstan’s independence to say that he visited Kazakhstan, met the then-President Nazarbayev and vowed that Kazakhstan is a reliable country, the country we can do business with. It was a very important message of credibility, political credibility of Kazakhstan. Prime Minister Berlusconi was ready to do this friendly gesture for President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Then, we had many political visits of many Italian leaders, namely former Foreign Minister Franco Frattini. He’s coming regularly to the Astana Club, he doesn’t miss one meeting of the Astana Club. Former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi visited Kazakhstan in 2014. An Italian delegation visited Kazakhstan to attend the EXPO in Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana) in 2017 led by the Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs. Last November we had a visit by the Italian Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Manlio Di Stefano launching the new Italian-Kazakhstani strategy. He inaugurated the Italian Center of Culture at the Gumilyov Eurasian National University. He also inaugurated the first Italian-Kazakh bilateral business forum and he had meetings with all ministers of the Kazakh Government.

Also, last December in Rome we invited all the foreign ministers of Central Asia, including the Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister, for the first International Conference «Italy and Central Asia: Strengthening Mutual Understanding, Cooperation and Partnership». We are also going to have the Italian-Kazakh Economic Business Council here in Nur-Sultan this year. We need to decide the date. Our delegation will probably be led by the Minister of Economic Development.

What about the economic relations between Italy and Kazakhstan?

As for economic cooperation, we were the first European trade partner of Kazakhstan. Italy’s Eni is among other European companies, namely Shell which is Dutch and Total which is French, to do oil and gas in Kazakhstan.

But besides oil and gas we were the first to export to Kazakhstan machinery and industrial products for Karachaganak and Kashagan. Then, we have a tremendous presence in the infrastructure, agribusiness, food and wine. There are Italian restaurants everywhere, not just in Nur-Sultan or Almaty. Then, there is also fashion and other consumer goods. So, in general we have a wonderful economic relationship.

For instance, last year the Italian exports to Kazakhstan increased by more than 72%. We also expect to be a major player in new fields. For instance, Italy is the European leader in terms of renewable energy. In October 2019 we inaugurated the wind plant with Eni. We will inaugurate a solar plant of Eni in Shymkent at the end of this year or next year. Economic relations are increasing enormously.

In 2019 oil supplies from Kazakhstan to Italy decreased by 30% in comparison with 2018. What can you say about that?

You see, oil and gas is very fluctuating and hard to interpret, because Italians are doing many things with oil and gas. First, we are doing the extraction of oil and gas which is very complicated from the technological point of view. We have the technology to do this. So, this is the first contribution to the economy of Kazakhstan. Secondly, in terms of importing and buying you have to consider that sometimes we do like other countries trilateral operation. The real total of this buying is very hard to ascertain. And, then, you have to consider there are many byproducts close to the oil and gas such as, for instance, sulfur. We are the one extracting sulfur products and transforming them into merchandise helping Kazakhstan to export these. We increased the share of oil and gas extracted. In oil and gas industry we are still increasing, not decreasing. When talking about the energy, you have to consider the overall family of energy and we are still number one importer, buyer and producer of energy among Europeans.

The Italian language is very popular in Kazakhstan. It is taught in many institutions in Kazakhstan and in one of the lyceums in Almaty it is taught as a school subject. So what about the cultural, humanitarian and academic relations between Kazakhstan and Italy?

It is going very strong. The demand from the Kazakh people of the Italian language and culture is enormous. Just to give few examples. We have presence in almost all cities of Kazakhstan with Italian professors of language and culture. Last year we inaugurated five more centers of the Italian culture - one in Nur-Sultan that is the Italian Center of Enrico Mattei at the Gumilyov Eurasian National University. We also have new professors in Petropavlovsk and Almaty at the KIMEP, which is very prestigious. We have traditional, old relation with the Al-Farabi Kazakh National University in Almaty. We have increasing relation and increasing number of professors at University of International Business (UIB) in Almaty. We have presence in Karaganda, Ust-Kamenogorsk. We have presence everywhere basically. We have the centers of Italian language even in Aksai, Aktau and Atyrau. So, the presence is just increasing, because every year we have celebration of big names of culture. When I arrived here three years ago, we celebrated Rossini.

The relationship with the Astana Opera and Ballet Theater is amazing. We are the only country that almost every year brings here dozens of Italian artists and opera conductors. Last year we did three major tours of the Astana Opera in Italy. So, we managed to have the Kazakh artists of opera and classic music in Genoa, Rome and other Italian cities. We are the number one in terms of importing the Kazakh culture in the sense of two-way street friendship and we are still the number one in terms of events. Last year we celebrated Leonardo and this year we are celebrating Raphael and Federico Fellini. Also, every year we organize the weeks of Italian cinema at the Saryarka shopping mall and the cinema theater is always full, there is always not enough place for people. It is amazing.

The Kazakh people more and more go to Italy for tourism purposes. We don’t have a direct flight yet, we will have it soon. Every year we see the 20% increase in number of visas for the Kazakh people. No other country does like this without a direct flight. We will do a conference on tourism. We will not do a conference among officials, we will invite Italian tour operators to meet here in Kazakhstan with a Kazakh tour operator. So, we have big ambition for tourism.

As for the trade, Kazakhstan is importing more and more Italian wines, because Kazakhs started to understand the quality of the Italian wine. To do so, we organized many trade missions of the Kazakh businessmen to Italy. For instance, we have an increasing number of Kazakh businessmen going to the Vinitaly, which is the largest wine show in the world in Europe.

Also, we organize many missions of the Kazakh businessmen to another trade show – the International Agricultural and Gardening Machinery Exhibition, which is in Bologna every October-November. And then we have the Atameken Chamber of Commerce organizing the show of Italian shoes in May. It is always successful. The Kazakhs understand the quality of Italian shoes, they can be a little bit more expensive than the other shoes, but the quality is superior. So, the Kazakh people buy more and more. We’ve seen a great interest of Kazakh businessmen in the fashion industry. As you probably know, we have more fashion brands than any country in the world. But the Kazakh businessmen understand the profitability of this kind of trade. Some Kazakh capitalists are investing in Italian fashion companies, such as Max Mara, for instance. So, you see that the marriage in trade is very strong.

Italy is also renowned for developing infrastructure. What can you say about Kazakhstan-Italian cooperation in transport and logistics?

We have a very strong infrastructure. The roads built at the beginning of the Roman Empire are still there 2,000 years after. Two big names - Salini Impregilo and Todini – they built many roads here and they are still competing to participate in many construction projects. One of these projects of Todini is the one linking Almaty and Khorgos. Many others will come. Also, in the railway sector we have many projects in which some Italian companies will participate. We are also present in logistics on the Caspian Sea where Italians are very strong.

Thank you so much for your time.

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