Toast by H.E. Paul BIYA in response to that of President MATTARELLA during a State dinner offered to the Cameroonian Presidential Couple at the Quirinal Palace
The President of the Italian Republic,
The President of the Council of Ministers,
Members of Government,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Mr President of the Republic, I was deeply moved by your kind invitation to visit your great country, Italy.
I wish to thank you for your very warm welcome and thoughtful attention given my wife, myself and the delegation accompanying me since our arrival in this beautiful city of Rome.
I also wish to thank you for the kind words you have said about me and my country.
Almost a year ago, my wife and I had the pleasure of receiving you at Unity Palace in Yaounde on the occasion of your State visit to Cameroon.
Today, we feel honoured to be welcomed by you in this sumptuous Quirinal Palace steeped in history where, I must admit, we feel at home. The seven hills that surrounded ancient Rome remind us of the seven hills overlooking Yaounde, our capital.
In their imagination, those who, like me, studied “classics”, as it was said then (and they are many in Cameroon), vibrated with the orators in the Forum and trembled as they watched the gladiators fight at the Coliseum. Without having been there, they learned to stroll along the alleys of the medieval town threatened by Barbarians. They were amazed by the splendour of Renaissance Rome.
To use a well-known saying, in a sense, “we are all Romans”, regardless of our origin.
Indeed, Rome, through the vicissitudes of History, handed down to us the Greco-Latin culture which influenced the world. It is the birth place of most of our ideas and values regarding philosophy, politics and, hence, democracy, law and even vocabulary. Latin and Greek influenced the high register in most of the languages of the world.
That is why Rome will remain “the eternal city” though today, it is no longer the centre of the world like it was during the era when the Empire stretched from the Mediterranean to the Middle East.
Rome is still attractive like in the past. It is a pleasant place to live thanks to its rich architectural heritage, its beautiful landscapes, the taste of its creators and the aroma of its cuisine.
In addition, it has an atmosphere of wisdom that only comes from various experiences that are the hallmarks of old and great nations.
I would add that the Roman “sapientia” is similar to African wisdom made of restrain, readiness to listen to others and conciliation. Both learn to debate without fighting.
I hope you will bear with me for this digression. For me, it has, somewhat, a note of return to the roots. It portrays, above all, the depth and long-standing nature of our ties of friendship.
Our ties had already reached an appreciable level. We are convinced that we can do more. It is against this background that we have broadened the legal framework by signing many agreements.
During your visit, you handed over to the Representative of the High Commissioner for Refugees (HCR) a significant aid package meant for refugees and displaced people in the Far-North Region of my country.
Mr President, your generosity was hailed by all.
We have also identified sectors where Italian companies, whose experience is recognized, could invest. We are thinking, in particular, of the wood, hides and skin, marble and agri-business sectors. We are pleased that major Italian companies such as FERRERO and PIZZAROTTI are already operating in Cameroon.
Our investment incentives are, I believe, attractive. Our economy is healthy and our debt sustainable. Our business climate is improving daily. There is no doubt that if Italy perseveres in its current resolve, it could become one of Cameroon’s major economic partners.
We commend the holding in Yaounde, last month, of the Cameroon-Italy Economic Forum. Judging from the numerous contacts made, the forum confirmed that we were on the right path.
The discussions that the business executives in my delegation will hold with their Italian counterparts will go along the same line.
Since my arrival in Rome, I have held in-depth discussions with you, the President of the Council of Ministers, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate.
We have had the same views on current major global issues and on those relating to our bilateral cooperation.
I believe this is a solid basis for consultations and common actions on the international scene. I think this augurs well for the success of the Rome Ministerial Conference which will be held in May this year, as part of the Italy-Africa initiative. Naturally, Cameroon will attend the meeting.
You did us the honour of staying in Cameroon during your first visit to Africa. And, if I am not mistaken, my visit is one of the first State visits of an African President to Italy at your invitation. On behalf of my country, I am most flattered by this invitation. These various gestures bear testimony to Cameroon’s importance to Italy.
May I now, Ladies and Gentlemen, invite you, in turn, to raise your glasses to the health of President MATTARELLA and Mrs Laura MATTARELLA, to the prosperity of the Italian people and to the continuous and reinforced development of ties between Italy and Cameroon.
Long live cooperation between Italy and Cameroon!
Long live the friendship between our two peoples!
Rome, 20 March 2017
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