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Interview with H.E. Aldo Amati, Italian Ambassador to the Czech Republic

„If we want to compete with the bigger world, we have no alternative to create a stronger Europe and integrate more economically.“

Aldo Amati is well-experienced diplomat. His recent journey in the Czech republic started last October. “Italy and the Czech Republic are like two beautiful women that like each other because they know that together can enchant anybody around them,” says for Czech leaders.

H.E. Aldo Amati, Italian Ambassador to the Czech Republic

Dear Mr Ambassador, the embassy has been working in Prague since 1924. What are the main areas of common interest between our Countries?

We both belong to the European Union, we share the same values and we share the common goal of transforming our Continent in a powerful actor on the global scene. We have cooperated for decades comprehensively in every field but these days I am concentrated on upgrading the political and economic relationship. Through the Czech Presidency of Visegrád 4 we will establish a new partnership that will be sealed by the visit in Prague of our Foreign Minister, Mr Gentiloni in November. The bilateral trade has been surging in the last year, our Minister for the Economic Development and Industry Mrs Guidi should be coming to Prague in the middle of October to discuss with her Czech counterparts new priority areas of collaboration.

Is there any historical footprint in the Czech Republic? And why?

The presence of Italians in this country dates back several centuries ago. I like to remember the influence of famous architects such as Lurago and Santini (but there are others less known) who left traces of their valuable work in many churches and aristocratic residences during the 17th and 18th centuries. The Italian influence is not limited to architects but encompasses musicians, artists, and merchants all drawn here by the beauty of this place and by wise Czech rulers. Later for a long time northern Italy was under the domination and influence of the Habsburg Empire. It’s a mark that can be recognized in numerous regions such as Trentino, Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Lombardy. We established our diplomatic relations with Czechoslovakia shortly after the birth of the country and from then on an uninterrupted flow of political, diplomatic and cultural links followed up to our times.

Why did you choose Olomouc as a first official stop? What about other cities and realities of the Czech Republic?

Since my arrival here in Prague in October last year, I have visited quite a few places in your beautiful country, Olomouc, Brno, Karlovy Vary, Plzen, Marianske Lazne, Kutna Hora. In the next three weeks, I will be in Ostrava and Hradec Kralove. There is no question that the Italian presence outside Prague must be developed more and more particularly to draw new small and medium size Italian companies that could stand by others bigger already present with (Iveco, Nová Mosilana, Mapei, Brembo and others) production centers all over the territory of the Czech Republic.

What about tourism?

We also need to bring more Italian tourists outside Prague where they come so numerous, 360 thousands yearly.

Czech Republic is your fifth international stop. What is specific here in the Czech Republic?

Italy and the Czech Republic are like two beautiful women that like each other because they know that together can enchant anybody around them. They can count on innumerable cultural beauties and they have the same sensitivity, therefore there is no jealousy, no real competition but the willingness to work together for common goals. The German, Jewish and Slavic historical components of Prague and the Bohemian and Moravian influences make this Country very special and intriguing to me.

You have been to Prague almost a year. This is your first mission as Ambassador. Do you feel the “new” responsibility for the Embassy?

Leading an Embassy is always a challenge but I have been chasing this chance for a while and it is about time to do something good as an Ambassador for my Country. I discovered that I must be a manager of the many properties that we have here in Prague – some of them are not in good shape and require time and effort - and the same time attend to the many tasks related to developing the bilateral relations in every way. Strong responsibility goes together with the awareness that I am really privileged to be in Prague and to live in your beautiful country.

How exactly do you support cultural and scientific cooperation?

Our cultural policy is carried out by both the Embassy and, to a greater extent, the Italian Cultural Institute, which has been established in Prague in the Twenties of last Century. Its task is to develop cultural relations with all possible Czech and foreign partners. Among them are some of the public cultural institutions and the most prestigious and dynamic Festivals of your country.

Where we can find the institute?

Our Cultural Institute is located in a baroque architectural complex in Malá Strana, a building of great historical interest, which has hosted for centuries the seat of the Italian congregation in Prague and which is the best evidence of the presence and influence of the Italians in Bohemia and in this part of Central Europe. In the scientific field are active bilateral agreements for the exchange of researchers and the development of joint projects. Nevertheless it is my belief that we have to expand cooperation in this area.

What about language teaching?

We have a good level of cooperation in the field of language teaching. The Italian language is taught in some high schools and in many universities in Czech Republic. In the framework of bilateral cultural co-operation we have a presence of professors and teachers of Italian language and literature for example at Gymnasium Ustavni, at Karlova University and in other universities of the country.

Are Czech people good at Italian language?

They are certainly better than Italians with Czech language. In Prague I meet many Czechs that speak a decent Italian so I decided to study intensively your language not only because it will help me enter more the Czech society but also because I am thinking to come and reside in Prague after the end of my career.

Back to the Universities, you recently signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with Charles University. What is the aim?

Since I arrived in the Czech Republic, I found out that the Charles University was interested in expanding the contacts with prominent members of civil society in Italy and we decided to quicken the pace to bring here professors, journalists, analysts and experts of Italian society. The idea is to give an updated idea of Italy to the students of Charles University getting rid of stereotypes and increasing the awareness of a common destiny in Europe. Italy is not just food and fashion but also innovation, filmmakers like Sorrentino - he won the Oscar Prize a couple of years ago - bio-technology centers and son on. I am really glad to have found people inside Charles University ready to write a new chapter in the book of the relations between the two Countries.

How do you support Italian business in the Czech Republic? What are the main areas of cooperation? Are there any “open doors” for further business cooperation?

We facilitate any kind of direct contact between businesses involving first and foremost small and medium enterprises. Bigger Italian companies and banks like Mattoni, Brembo, Marzotto, Generali, Unicredit, Mapei and others are already well established and they represent important brands in the Czech Republic.  I must concentrate on those Italian companies that see the growth of the Czech economy and many infrastructural programs as an incentive to come and invest here. Machinery, innovation and green technologies, waste management, different kind of services are at the forefront but we do not forget our tradition in fashion, food, textiles and real estate. Together with the Italo-Czech Chamber of Commerce and the help of Czech institutions like Czech Invest, the Czech Chamber of Commerce and different Ministries we expect to open “new doors” in tourism, bio-technology, infrastructural programs, defense cooperation, hospital services. I do believe that Czech people like Italian products and there is still a good deal of Italian lifestyle to be introduced in this Country.

How often do you organize events for businessmen?

Periodically - together with the Italo-Czech Chamber of Commerce - we organize workshop and B2B so that there is immediately a direct contact between businesses leaving aside bureaucracy. For example at the end of September we will have at the Embassy a workshop on “waste management and recycling” that will bring around 15 Italian companies that will have meetings with their counterparts that we have selected with the help of Czech institutions. Then, in the middle of October our Minister of Economic Development and Industry, Mrs. Federica Guidi, will come to Prague for meetings and to open a bigger workshop where Italian building companies will explore the Czech market to see what are the chances for contracts and joint ventures.

Could you compare the actual position of the Czech Republic and Italy in the European bodies?

Both governments are profoundly convinced that our future and our wealth are in Europe. We both support the gradual entrance into the EU of countries of the western Balkans. If we want to compete with bigger players like the USA, China, India and other BRICs, we have no alternative to create a stronger Europe in Foreign and Security Policy and integrate more economically. Probably the pace at which the Italian government would like to proceed is faster than the one wanted here but the aim is the same. The political and security events in Ukraine and the negotiations to avoid the exit of Greece from the Eurozone, have shown the lengthy pace of the EU decision makers but both the crisis have ended up with EU unity. Now the thousands of people fleeing from conflicts in the Middle East are the real challenge. Italy is at the forefront and we appreciate any help from the Czech Republic in supporting us in Brussels. We are facing a real emergency and need a common European policy that might tackle a problem that will haunt us all for a long time. We understand the cautious approach from the Czech government but we have to prevent the re-nationalization of people movements in Europe and the collapse of the Schengen system.

Did you see the Czech house at Expo in Milan?

Yes I visited Expo at the end of July and saw the Czech pavilion which is extremely interesting outside and inside. I want to acknowledge the great support of Czech authorities that were the first to support our idea of Expo and made many others follow their example. They also were the first to complete their pavilion and my government has a sincere gratitude towards all the Czech that contributed for the success of the event. Interest for Expo has surpassed any expectation and we are very happy to show Milan and Italy at their best.  

Dear Mr Ambassador, who is the true leader to you?

Politically, someone that doesn’t look every day to the polls and then decides his policies. A leader is someone that takes his responsibilities also for unpopular actions that he believes will result in common good. One name comes first to my mind: Winston Churchill.

Author: Jaroslav Kramer in cooperation with Czech Leaders Magazine 

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