Discussions between Italy and Finland take place in Rome

ROME - Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Anne-Mari Virolainen visited Rome from Oct. 3-4. During the visit, Virolainen met representatives of the Italian government and had meetings at UN organizations.

 She met Under-Secretary of State for Economic Development Professor Michele Geraci and Vice-Minister for Development Policy and Development Cooperation, Ms. Emanuela Del Re, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

 At the meetings, they reaffirmed the excellent bilateral relations between the two countries and discussed the external perspective of European migration policy. The EU’s priorities towards collaboration on overseas development, with a special focus on Africa, was also a point of discussion.

 "Italy is a significant actor in Europe and globally. It is of vital importance that we hold bilateral discussions with Italy's new government on topical issues such as trade policy and migration.  Italy is Finland's 13th biggest trading partner and the volume of trade is on the rise. There is also much potential for increasing the cooperation," Minister Virolainen says.

 “The African continent is at the centre of Italy’s interests,” said Deputy Minister Del Re. She went on to recall the importance of the recent Peace Agreement signed between Eritrea and Ethiopia, a significant boost for the continent. Del Re also underscored how development programmes must aim at achieving their potential, through partnerships with African countries and by concentrating on human development. Minister Virolainen supported with this approach and also agreed with Del Re on the importance of investing in the empowerment of women.

 The Deputy Foreign Minister illustrated Italy’s approach to the migration phenomenon to Virolainen, which states that migration is a global challenge that cannot be handled by a single country. Thus an international response with shared responsibilities is required, in order to tackle the fundamental causes of illegal immigration. Virolainen expressed her support for the Italian position and Finland’s support for migrant relocation policies within the EU.

 Virolainen also had meetings with Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization José Graziano Da Silva and with President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Gilbert Houngbo. Additionally, she visited the headquarters of the World Food Programme (WFP). The Italian-based organisations are important partners for Finland in the implementation of humanitarian assistance and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As a result of prolonged conflicts and climate change, the number of people without a regular source of food has started to rise after several years of improvement. Over 800 million people are suffering from hunger. Small farmers, who produce the majority of the food in the world, are among the world's poorest people, most of them being women.

 Minister Virolainen and the UN leaders discussed topical questions, including how to take advantage of Finnish expertise in the work of the organizations. "We consider that the organisations in Rome should intensify their cooperation so that the number of people suffering from hunger and malnourishment will start to fall again. Finland's membership in the administrative organs of IFAD and FAO provides excellent opportunities of influence in these matters. Examples of areas in which Finland has much to offer to them include innovations, school meals, and strong cooperation with the private sector," Minister Virolainen said.