In an interview with the Danas daily, the Italian Ambassador to Serbia, Carlo Lo Cascio, highlights the spirit of sacrifice with which the people of Serbia are facing the state of emergency and the need for the European Union to rethink its financial and governance instruments to respond adequately to this epoch-making challenge.
How do you spend these difficult days during the pandemic? Do you follow medical advice?
As the Serbian authorities, as well as doctors and health experts, have established and clearly pointed out, it is essential to stay home as much as possible, if not otherwise feasible for work or an absolute necessity. I, too, therefore, continue to work, adapting to a lifestyle that is completely new but which, at the moment, can save many lives. I have joined the call, also mindful of the experiences, similar legal provisions and exhortations in Italy, to stay home as much as possible. As the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella said: “The citizens’ sense of responsibility is the most important resource on which a democratic state can count in times like the one we are living in”. I would like to take this opportunity to express my condolences to the families of those who, also here in Serbia, have lost their lives because of the COVID-19 and to share the feelings of unity and responsibility with those who are suffering. We will make it!
Are you concerned about the current situation in your country?
The situation in Italy is still very critical. In the last few days, there have been signs of a slowdown in the growth in the number of newly infected compared to the previous weeks, but this is not in itself a figure that can cheer us up considering that Italy still has a large number of patients and that death toll is still rising. This also cannot be considered a definitive figure in the reversal of the trend in infections. There are, however, some encouraging data indicating that the painful but necessary measures that Italy has implemented are producing positive effects. For this reason, we must continue with the existing precautionary and containment measures and exercise a responsible, shared and patient attitude. In this way, we will overcome a page of our history that is certainly undesirable, but which we must now tackle with courage, the strength of spirit and solidarity.
Do you think that Italy is strong enough to emerge as the winner in the fight with the coronavirus?
Unfortunately, we are already paying a very high price in terms of human lives. But our country is a fighter and has been one from the very first moment. The best Italy came out when we found ourselves in a very difficult situation – there are a lot of people who work tirelessly to defeat the virus, to keep the country going and to assist in many ways those who alone cannot make it on a daily basis. I’m thinking of doctors, nurses, all the health staff and those who, with their important work, from security forces to pharmacists to those who sell food, expose themselves to huge risk to their health every day.
Italy has become more united and proud than ever in this circumstance. Literal distance no longer counts. “I stay at home” is an effective slogan, representing a state of affairs that has physically but temporarily separated people, though in many cases it is quite painful, in order to protect us all, but that has made us suddenly find ourselves all close together in adversity, against an “invisible and insidious” enemy, to use the words of Prime Minister Conte. That’s not all! While we are promptly and effectively implementing the instruments against economic difficulties, we will have to start thinking about the post-emergency period as well, that is, about initiatives and ways to re-launch, gradually, but with determination, our social life and our economy.
Are you satisfied with the level of solidarity expressed in Serbia towards the Italian people?
The Serbian people have always had a special friendship with us. Even on this grave occasion, there has been plenty of brotherly support from Serbia for us. I receive messages of affection and offers of help that comfort daily and are a sign of closeness and solidarity. On this dramatic occasion, I would like to say that our two peoples share a deep sense of humanity. Moreover, I was also struck by the imagination with which this solidarity was expressed (another point of similarity): among the various events of this kind, I would like to highlight a long-distance concert dedicated to Italy performed by the members of the Serbian National Theatre Orchestra, a video which had many views in Italy and struck a deep chord. To reciprocate, I would like to express Italy’s support to Serbia and to all Serbian friends, so that they are not discouraged in this situation but that, even in the current difficult moment, they can remain confident.
The EU has been criticised for not helping Italy deal with the pandemic. In your opinion, are these allegations well-founded or not?
We, in Europe, must avoid making tragic mistakes. We, therefore, expect the European Union to rise to the momentous challenge posed by the coronavirus – inaction would create a devastated society for our children. The European Union must prove its raison d’être. But it is not just a question of invoking the support of Brussels for Italy. Most probably, the Italian experience with fighting the spread of the pandemic will be (or is already, unfortunately) a reference model for all EU countries, given the dynamics of the spread of the virus in the various Member States. Therefore, solidarity initiatives should also be envisaged from the point of view of common interest. Finally, the current situation, which is absolutely shocking and unexpected, should make us rethink the use of innovative and appropriate financial instruments, rather than the adoption of measures designed for different circumstances and different times. The European Union must, therefore, be ready for this ‘appointment’ with history.
This post is also available in: Italiano