I write as I come back from three days in Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Malta, while the earth keeps shaking in Central Italy. The world is impressed by the courage and the strength of the Italian citizens, the local civil servants and the relief workers. Everywhere I go, in these difficult days, I feel the solidarity and the admiration for Italy. This does not come as a surprise: everyone knows the strength of the Italians. But strength needs to be accompanied with concrete solidarity: for this reason the European institutions have agreed to all requests coming from Italy, and it will be important to keep doing so.
In Riyad, a few hours after my visit to Tehran, I met with King Salman and State Minister for Foreign Affairs Nizar Madani: we discussed how to create space for a regional agreement on the future of Syria, supporting the work the United Nations are doing, and how to tackle the humanitarian crisis in the areas hit harder by the conflict, starting with Aleppo.
In Tunis I met with President Beji Caid Essebsi, Prime Minister Yussef Chahed and Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui, to discuss how to best use the European Union’s support to Tunisia’s democratic transition. We focused particularly on providing a job and an opportunity to half of the Tunisian population who’s under 30 (here is the press conference with FM Jhinaoui). It was important for me to meet engineering students in Bizerte and young “start-uppers” in Tunis: I witnessed to their will to change their country, and I saw immense energy that is needed not only by Tunisia, but by the whole Mediterranean. In Bizerte we also inaugurated a big project, co-financed by the European Union, for the environmental clean-up of the lake: the project will provide many of those young people with a job opportunity, improving at the same time the quality of water and air of our Mediterranean sea.
The Mediterranean will be central to the Maltese Presidency of the European Union’s Council, beginning next January, together with the European Union’s role in a region shaken by crises but filled with opportunities. My visit to La Valletta has served to work on the Presidency and its priorities, starting with Libya’s stabilisation, migration policies, and our partnership with Africa and the Arab world. Here is my press conference with Foreign Minister George Vella. In Malta, too, I met with students at the University. It was a great opportunity to exchange views on the centrality of the Mediterranean in our European Union’s foreign policy.