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The Warsaw Voice » National Voice » September 30, 2011
Italy in Poland
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Relations More Than Excellent
September 30, 2011   
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Aldo Mantovani, Italy’s ambassador to Poland, talks to Witold Żygulski.

How would you summarize the current relations between Italy and Poland?
I would say they are more than excellent, for several reasons. One of them is the fact that the trade volume between Italy and Poland is very strong. We rank third after Germany and Russia. We also have excellent cultural relations. On March 17, celebrating the unification of Italy 150 years ago, we had Filharmonica La Scala in Warsaw: that was one of the main musical events of the year in the Polish capital. Now we have an exhibition of a painting by Titian at Warsaw’s Royal Castle. It will be there until the end of October. I am sure that it is quite an opportunity for Varsovians to have a look at it because there are not many paintings by Titian in Poland. And I’m proud to say that both events have been made possible by the concerted effort of Italian companies in Poland, what we call “Sistema Italia.”

But the core of our ties is that we have excellent political relations. The best example of the quality of political contacts between Poland and Italy is that the heads of our two states have met five times since last October. This shows just how close and tight bilateral relations are.

Poland is holding the rotating presidency of the European Union until the end of the year. How important is that to Italian-Polish relations?
Extremely important. We have been having bilateral consultations at the foreign ministers’ level. On July 5, just a couple of days after Poland took over the presidency, Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski was invited to Rome by his Italian counterpart Franco Frattini. They had extensive consultations on cooperation between the two countries within the framework of the European Union. In political terms, to give you an example, we discussed the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP), which, in our opinion, should be enhanced among all 27 EU countries. We also talked about budget perspectives in Europe and our bilateral relations.

After these consultations, we had a formal celebration of Poland’s first EU presidency in the Senate in Rome, with the presence of the Italian president, both foreign ministers and the most senior officials from Italian institutions.

What are the main fields of bilateral economic cooperation today?
We have a very wide range of cooperation. The first thing that comes to mind is the second metro line for Warsaw. The Italian company building the line has just received a big machine that will start to go down below the Vistula river. This is a project that costs a huge amount of money, almost 1 billion euros.

Another thing is a gas terminal for regasification in ¦winouj¶cie, which is being built by Italian company ENI close to the city of Szczecin.

Of course, we have had a permanent presence of our automotive group Fiat in Poland for 90 years. The Fiat Cinquecento, Lancia Ypsilon, the first two series of the Fiat Panda—all these models were produced here in Poland. In 2009 Fiat produced more that 600,000 cars in its Polish factories.

We also have one of the main private financial institutions in Poland, Bank Pekao S.A., which is part of Italy’s Unicredit Group. It is very effective and productive as a strong financial arm that supports all kinds of industrial initiatives taking place in Poland, not only those undertaken by Italian companies.

In the chocolate business, we are present with Ferrero. Merloni, a company that makes household appliances, has six plants in Poland. In October, a new plant will be opened by Brembo, a company that makes brakes for all kinds of vehicles, from scooters to trains and heavy machinery.

The next big deal will be selling a number of Pendolino trains—the famous Italian high-speed train—to the Polish rail carrier. We also offer all kinds of technical cooperation and expertise for the railway sector.

Italian helicopter maker Agusta bought a plant in ¦widnik, where helicopters and airplane parts are now being produced.

Finally, I have to say a word about the fashion business—many Polish firms are working very closely with Italian designers. You never even know where one deal ends and another begins.

Has the current economic crisis in the eurozone affected Italian investment in Poland in any way?
Not that I’m aware of, not at all. I am seeing Merloni opening two new plants these days; next month Brembo will open another one; Marcegaglia opened one last October. There is no slowdown. Maybe in Europe we do have some problems these days, but our bilateral relations with Poland are really flourishing.

Italy is one of the most attractive countries in Europe to visit. Are Poles becoming important customers for the Italian tourist sector?
Absolutely. Over 800,000 Polish tourists visit Italy every year, which is a considerable number. Many people travel to the Dolomites to ski in winter and to the Italian seaside in summer. The main group, however, is interested in our cultural and historic heritage. They travel to our main cities, visiting museums, galleries, castles and churches.

What would you recommend for Poles planning their first visit to Italy?
I would recommend going to Florence in spring rather than summer or winter. I come from Florence and that’s why I mentioned Florence first. Then I would recommend going to Rome in autumn, because the colors, the light, and the reflections on the monuments are really incredible at this time of year. Rome is a city that proudly displays its 2,000 years of history, so it’s a unique opportunity to see all these treasures. When it comes to Venice, I would recommend going there at the end of November, when there are not too many tourists and the fog and mist in the “laguna” give a magic touch to this unique city.
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