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Jordan and Italy ‘restore bridges, not create walls’

May 30,2016 - Last updated at May 30,2016

Seventy years ago, Jordan and Italy shaped their future with different institutional settings but with an overall common goal: to be countries of dialogue, openness and pluralism.

It is the same message that His Majesty King Abdullah II stressed during his most recent visit in Rome, last December: “We speak different languages, but shared values give us a common voice: for tolerance, for peace and for mutual respect.”

I strongly feel this convergence, especially during the ongoing centennial celebrations of the Great Arab Revolt, which marked the beginning of modern Jordan.

More or less since that time, Italians have been here around. They never felt completely foreigners. Their input in several fields (cultural heritage, health, education, interfaith dialogue, art, tourism, vocational training, social development, public works and water resources) has been highly significant.

It is enough to mention two names: Doctor Fausto Tesio and Father Michele Piccirillo. Their achievements — and those of many other Italians and Jordanians who worked and are working here together — give strength and vision to this common agenda.

We may call it a sort of living “Italian legacy in Jordan”.

This is reflected in the excellent bilateral relations and in the many shared initiatives at multilateral fora.

The collaboration in the political sphere is growing, especially against the evils of terrorism, violent extremism and cultural and religious intolerance.

We are exactly on the same wavelength on world peace and security issues, migration, Syria, Libya and the campaigns against Daesh.

More can — and should — be done in the economic and social fields, especially to help Jordan cope with the additional burdens of refugee flows.

We have made an important pledge at the February London Conference to implement the Jordan Compact.

We support far-reaching agreements to be soon reached by Jordan with IMF and the EU.

We are ready to do our part, as one of the major economic partners of Jordan.

Trade exchange data between Italy and Jordan revealed in 2015 an increase over the previous year of 10.6 per cent of Italian exports to Jordan, compared to a decrease of 15.5 per cent of Jordanian exports to Italy.

The best way to balance and expand this trade is through investments and further business contacts. This is feasible and mutually convenient, especially for SMEs and notably in the “green economy” and “creative industry” sectors.

We are committed to work hard to explore opportunities and propose options. We are equally interested in supporting major infrastructural works (Red Sea-Dead Sea programme and renewable energies schemes).

Furthermore, Italy is supporting several archaeological missions in Jordan (conservative restoration of the Memorial of Moses on Mount Nebo; preservation and promotion of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Umm Er Rasas; excavation and restoration of the “City of the Copper Axes” Archaeological Park in Khirbet Al Batrawy; research on the oldest prehistoric human settlement on the east of Jordan rift, in the Zarqa Valley; research and excavation in Jabal Al Mutawwaq, Zarqa; research on the “mediaeval” Petra and Shobak; restoration of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Qusayr ‘Amra; the “Siq Stability” Project, with UNESCO).

All those missions are strongly supported by the Department of Antiquities of Jordan.

Following the inspiring approach of Father Piccirillo, Italy is able and willing to cooperate further with Jordan in the promotion and preservation of cultural heritage, especially in the framework of the UNESCO-led “Unite4Heritage” campaign.

What is truly cementing this friendship is the “people-to-people” relationship.

We understand each other easily, we share many traditions and customs, especially in terms of hospitality.

This is proved by the large number of Jordanian students who got their university degrees in Italy in the 1960s and 70s and remain among the best friends we have in this lovely country.

Over the last five years, the Italian presence in Jordan has almost doubled: while 650 Italians were recorded here in 2010, today the total has reached 1,130.

Almost 90 per cent of the Italian residents in Jordan hold double citizenship (many mixed families). The number of visas issued to Jordanians has also increased in the last years, and is expected to grow more. In 2015, 6,070 visas were issued, compared to 5,590 in 2014 and 4,788 in 2013. 

Emphasising the “human factor”, a final comment is devoted to health issues. Thanks to Doctor Fausto Tesio, Italian Hospitals were opened, in Amman in 1927, and in Karak in 1935.

Since then, the collaboration has progressed steadily. The Association of Jordanian Medical Doctors graduated from Italian universities counts more 850 members.

Important initiatives are now developed in cancer prevention and paediatric cardio-surgery.

We look forward to the third Jordanian-Italian Medical Congress to be held in Amman next November.

We are proud of such achievements, and we are committed to pursuing further joint endeavours, in the same spirit of friendship, mutual respect and tolerance.

So, what’s next?

Difficult to say, but it is relatively easy to forecast that the real divide in the world of the future will be among those who care for dialogue, inclusiveness and solidarity, and those who fear the “others” as threats to their “comfort zone”.

Jordan and Italy will definitely stand on the same side, the one of those who restore bridges, not create walls.

 

The writer is Italy’s ambassador to Jordan. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

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I am captivated by the message of hope, peace and constructive dialogue which Ambassador Brauzzi convenes through his words. And this is the quintessence of Italy.

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