Pasquale D’Avino, the new Italian ambassador in the Czech Republic, rejects the binomial of Czechs = eurosceptics”. This is a country which is making a huge contribution to Europe. Regarding the Eu opening to the Balkans and the crisis in north Africa the Czech leadership has shown intelligence and excellent foresight
A diplomatic career dating back to 1982 and studded with a range of prominent positions, the last of which was in Geneva as the Minister councellor at the Diplomatic Representation of the International Organizations. What pushed you into choosing this path?
Studiying Classics, love of litterature. The love of one literary work in particular; The Odyssey, which gifted me with my passion for travellling and desire to discover the world. Another key source of motivation was the pride in representing Italy, a great Country which has given mankind figures such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Galilieo Galilei and Guglielmo Marconi and is still the origin of highly distinguished people as the recent appointment of Mario Draghi as President of the European Central Bank. I think this awareness of being among those who represent this great country, should be shared by all Italians who live abroad.
If you had not become a diplomat, what do you think you would have done in life?
I would most probably have become a lawyer. It is the profession I had already started practising in my father’s law firm. Before embarking on a diplomatic career, I was successful in many other selection processes including one for Senate Officer position. If I think back however, to the period in which I was a boy, my true dream was to become an architect. Then life as often occurs, went in a different direction.
Do you ever have any regrets?
No, this job really is rich in charm and it allows you to live memorable experiences. When I headed the ceremonial at Palazzo Chighi, I had the opportunity to follow two Italian government leaders around the world, Silvio Berlusconi and Romano Prodi as they participated in private interviews with World leaders such as Tony Blair, George Bush, Lula, the current Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and others. It is in moments like this where you see not only how important relationships are between people in power in the world, but also how important the role of the “Prince’s advisor” of diplomats such as ourselves. It is up to us to create the conditions , with use of a boead and indications, which enable the leaders to make decisions that fall under their responsability.
However, there must have been a time when you asked yourself, “who made me do this?” Anyway, what are the least intriguing aspects of the job?
Apart from the fact that our job is often characterized by excessive formalism, the most demnading aspect of our profession does not concern us ourselves as diplomats, but more those closest to us. The fact we have to move our families from our home every four- five years and settle immediately in other cities, other environments and other cultures. They are children who make friends, go to school and then find themselves forced to get married. In reality we diplomats experience all of the fascinating side of the job. Our family experience it much less.
You have spent many years abroad. Which working environment do you rememember more happily?
Chicago and therefore the USA. The thing which has always amazed me about this country is the fact that it was born and developed due to the support of people of many different nationalities and peoples, even we Italians. A nation which is a symbol of freedom in the world where each citizen can find the necessary conditions to be fully valued.
Chicago, with its modern architecture on Lake Michigan, is many ways comparable to the Athens of Pericles or an ideal Renaissance city due to the excellent relations between political, economic and cultural exponents which have all exploited the beauty and dynamism of the city. It is a very advanced city from an economic and industrial point of view, which manages to be in the vanguard also from a cultural point of view.
You are from Naples. What kind of relationship do you have with your hometown?
My city is genuinely a special one, in the good sense of the term and sometimes also in the bad one. I have to say I miss it a lot, but I am lucky enough to be able to return every summer for the holidays, which I usually spend in Capri. It is there where I find that atmosphere, that friendliness, that warmth which is not easily found when travelling in the rest of the world. For us , it is true, People hold you, hug you, and want to know things about you but they are all things which inspire you on a human level and give you that extra drive. We Italians are saturated with art, culture, civilisation and creativity. These are all fundamental aspects. They also are for diplomats, because this is a way we know how to live which enables us to establish ourselves in the family of nations.
Regarding the fact of being Italian, some have claimed that in the rest of the world we enjoy a kind of “plenary absolution”.
It is true. I must say that I am always impressed by the legacy and popularity Italy has in the world. It was confirmed even in my last experience in Gineva with the international Organizations, where I saw how many times Italy in the various Negotiation competitions manages to get the better ofother major European states. Despite these favourable circumstances, which don’t allow us to project ourselves in the world with same public resources we used to have, we are still among the G8 members. It is the soft power of Italy, made up of culture, values, and that great likeabilty which sets us apart.
What are yout impressions just a few days after your your arrival in Prague? Did you already know this city?
I had already been here in 1993, when it was still heavily marked by Soviet communism. It now looks much more renovated than it was then, also more crowded with tourists. It certainly remains one of the most fascinating capitals in the world. In general, the Czech Republic is a country which has demonstrated it has a strong economic base, with an great potential for economic growth, in spite of the fragility of the European economy.
Just a few days ago was the presentation ceremony of the letters of credence in front of Vaclav Klaus. How did it go? What did you tell each other?
President Klaus has a very strong, charismatic personality and he is a friend of Italy who we can count on. In April he welcomed the president Giorgio Napolitano in Prague and immediately afterwards he went to Rome to celebrate the 150th anniversary. For an Ambassador to be involved with a Czech president who speaks italian, knows Italy and has even studied in Naples is a privilege, really lucky. During the meeting at the Castle,due to his interest in Italy he really wanted to fully understand all the recent developments that had taken place in our country.
To go back to Klaus, the Czech Republic is a country renowned for it’s frequent eurosceptical behaviour. What impression did you get of this situation?
This is a country which has a history and a geographical position that enable you to understand certain attitudes of impatience towards decisions made abroad, before in Moscow and now in Brussels. On the other hand, I believe that this subject has to be put back in it’s right perspective otherwise it really risks becoming a cliché. I believe that it has to be discussed in the right context,which in the case of the Czech Republic, is a country which gives a very important contribution to Europe. Let’s take the example of the EU opening to the Balkans: the Prague government, like ours is strongly in favour of aiding the entrance of the Balkan countries in Europe. It is the correct strategic choice. The Czech leadership understands that in the world, the European region must be as stable as possible. You can can not exclude large areas knowing that we have to compete with areas such as China, the USA, the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China)
Another important element is the sensitivity, despite being a country which looks towards the East, they show towards what happens in the Meditterranean. It gives us great pleasure that in a continent that is very divided on the issue of EU involvement in orth Africa, the Czech leaders have understood with great political intelligence, that this is a problem that concerns the whole of Europe. Not only in terms of risk, but also in terms of opportunity, because when that area in North Africa is stabilized, great opportunities for economic growth will arise. This also happened in the with the Eastern european countries after the fall of communism and their subsequent entrance into the EU.
Could you tell us about a suggestion, or an impression on this environment that your predecessor made?
In the diplomatic environment, everyone recognises the value of the ambassador Fabio Pigliapoco as a fine political analyst. He was the person who, during the handover period, made me understand, how the Czech Republic, like Italy is a Limes barries country. It is an area of osmosis with other worlds which is particularly interesting to observe. Looking at the past of Prague, you can understand a lot about the past of Europe. Likewise, by trying to imagine the future of this country, you can try to understand the future of all Europeans. The development we hope for is that Europe, after realising what is happening on its frontiers, will understand the need to join up more and be united, have really common policies and overcome the moment of faltering growth that we are exeperiencing now.
The bilateral relations between Italy and the Czech Republic are usually defined as “optimum”. Are there any problems or something particularly demanding for a diplomat? I don’t mean a delicate situation but maybe something to approach with caution.
In this respect we are genuinely very lucky because not everybody finds themself in a situation running so smoothly with no bumps at all. The real challenge is actually starting all engines because i am convinced that we can give much more in mutual relationships. Indeed to me it seems, based on first impressions, that the bilateral relations between Italy and the Czech Republic can be strengthened a lot. The official visits we exchange go extremely well, but I believe we can do a lot more to improve our economic and commercial relationships, as well as our cultural ones and boost the spread of Italian language in this country. I feel a need to react with work based on image and create synergy. We Italians in particular should overcome our division and express our potential in the Czech Republic as well as we can displaying all our energy which up to now has only partially been expressed. As Ambassador I address all Italians working here with a warm appeal so this occurs and I am very pleased that both Italians and Czechs that love Italy can count on as wonderful a magazine as yours!
By Giovanni Usai