On May 8 the governments of Italy and Turkey held in Rome their second Summit. Accompanied by the Ministers of Foreign and European Affairs, Interior, Economy, Environment and Finance, Prime Ministers Mario Monti and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reviewed the status of our bilateral cooperation. The Summit was preceded by the economic event ‘Italy mission in Turkey’ held in Istanbul from May 1st to 4th with the participation of all relevant institutional and private sectors players, gathering a significant presence of companies and businessmen from both countries.

Sometimes, it happens that events such as the one hosted at Villa Madama turn out to be simple ceremonial show with not much of substance in terms of concrete developments. This was not the case of the Italian-Turkish Summit. The meetings held in Rome showed once again how close the relations between our countries are and how deep our cooperation has reached in all fields, thanks to a longstanding friendship that has continued to consolidate in the last years. Mutual respect and sincere understanding of the other’s points of view are the secret of this relation that today goes much beyond friendship. Our countries have agreed to build up a strategic partnership and the Rome Summit highly contributed to this goal.

From an economic perspective, the Turkish-Italian cooperation represents a unique example in terms of solidity and opportunities for the future. With a bilateral trade that has exceeded $21.3 billions in 2011, Italian and Turkish companies are exploring new ways to strengthen their cooperation also in third markets. Today Italian-Turkish joint ventures are building the metro in Warsaw, a new airport in St. Petersburg, a highway in Oman. The complementarities of our productive systems and the spinning role played by our small and medium enterprises – the backbone of our national industries – are forging an extraordinary dynamic and a vibrant partnership. During the talks in Rome many new opportunities for strengthening the current cooperation were highlighted: from renewable resources to strategic infrastructure projects; from energy efficiency to financial instruments for supporting investments.

It’s not economy, however, that is shaping our strategic partnership which finds a key pillar in our common NATO membership and our commitment to international stability and peace: in Afghanistan like in Kosovo, Italy and Turkey work hand in hand contributing concretely to peace and sharing a common vision on all security issues. Fight against terrorism remains the utmost priority and our bilateral cooperation in this field is intensifying on a daily basis.

The current international outlook, especially events taking place since2011 inthe Mediterranean, is forcing our countries to strengthen the cooperation in the regional context, too. Italy and Turkey are by far two of the most and directly affected countries by the evolutions in the Med-area. The level of coordination between our Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Ahmet Davutoğlu and Giulio Terzi, on the ongoing crises has reached an intensity never experienced in the past. Turkey and Italy share a common vision on the Mediterranean as a region where cultural diversity meets socio-economic development to create a stable, peaceful and democratic environment. We fully support the legitimate aspirations of the people in the region to live in a free, pluralistic and democratic society. Our determination to this aim knows no limit.

With a strategic partnership, a solid alliance within NATO and a common view on our region, it is now time to complete the puzzle of our relations with the last piece: Turkey’s full membership in the EU. Turkey’s accession to the EU is a win-win case for both sides. The message that our leaders voiced at the Summit in Rome couldn’t have been louder and clearer on this point: joining the EU remains the ultimate goal for Turkey and Italy remains determined to fully support it, as always it did.

From the Turkish perspective, joining the EU means fulfilling its legitimate aspirations which are deeply rooted in the history and culture of the country. The accession to the EU will indeed represent the final act of that process of socio-economic development and evolution into a modern and dynamic democratic society that the country has been experiencing since a long time. On a parallel note, it will open up unprecedented opportunities for Turkish citizens and entrepreneurs in the economic, social and cultural fields, whilst on the political side expanding the country’s projection on the world scenario. Turkey has a lot to offer to the European Union, too. Bridge between Europe, Asia and the Middle East, energetic hub and a thriving economy, Turkey may provide the EU with a crucial support in tackling common challenges: regional stabilization, energy security, economic competitiveness, fight against terrorism and contrast to irregular migration. However Turkey´s contribution to the European Union can only be effective through its full membership, borne out of a credible accession process.

Persuaded that Turkish membership constitutes a key plug in the building of the European project, Italy is determined to make the utmost efforts for reenergizing EU accession negotiations for Turkey with concrete steps in line with the Positive Agenda proposed by Commissioner Füle. A key issue for achieving a new momentum in the EU-Turkey relations is visa liberalization for Turkish citizens, a powerful tool to bring the European and Turkish societies progressively closer. Abolishing visas means making the European dream a concrete and tangible reality for the ordinary people. High priority has therefore to be given to speeding up this process, with a view to achieving full liberalization in the shortest possible time.

The second decade of the XXI century is proving to be a very challenging time with much of uncertainty stemming out of the current developments. Italy and Turkey understand that complex challenges need multi-layer answers and no one can pretend to find solutions alone. Joining efforts and strengthening bilateral cooperation is the way forward as clearly shows the strategic partnership between Italy and Turkey, a reality for today and a guiding line for the future.