Europe needs to be a project for all its residents – this is particularly important to Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in his dialogue with citizens in Sicily on Europe Day. In Ravanusa and Sutera, two communities twinned with German towns, the Foreign Minister’s main priority in the discussions today is to listen to the people. What is important for them and what do they expect from Europe?
Before leaving for Italy, Maas made the following remarks:
I am happy to be spending Europe Day with citizens in Sicily. To me personally, Sicily is symbolic of the partnership between Italy and Germany in action. After all, Europe is not merely about Brussels and the member states’ capitals, but all parts of our beautiful continent. The common European project thrives on the many interactions between individuals far away from high level policymaking. I am very much looking forward to talking to the people. We also want to make it clear that Sicily is not facing its particular challenges alone. Because at heart Europe is about solidarity.
Vibrant and close connection
The close connection between Italy and Germany is a success story of the European Union. The Sicilians who came to Germany in the 1960s as so called guest workers have often been very successful - not just economically - and serve as an example of successful integration. Countless partnerships and friendships have emerged at personal level and between communities and regions in Italy and Germany. Above all town twinnings show the advantages of the European project and its internal market as a way of balancing out varying degrees of development. At the same time, southern Italy faces major economic challenges. Youth unemployment is often more than 50%. Almost half the Italians who have recently emigrated are from the south of the country.
Foreign Minister Maas’ visit to the German Italian partner communities also highlights that citizens in Europe are living the same values. It shows how strongly European communities are interconnected and how much European integrations benefits and enriches people.