Mon, 10 January 2022
Bahrain and Italy have had a long-standing diplomatic partnership, with the Embassy of Italy opening in Manama in 2002 and frequent bilateral political collaboration on aspects such as commerce, trade and investment. This month, we spoke to the Italian Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain, Paola Amadei, about her diplomatic career and her plans to bolster ties between the two nations.
Your Excellency, you have an extensive political career spanning well over two decades. Could you give our readers some insight into your experiences and how you are implementing your prior experience in Bahrain?
I began my diplomatic career in 1992, starting as the Deputy Head of Mission at the Italian Embassy in Singapore. After that, I served at the Permanent Representation of Italy to the European Union in Brussels, in charge of the external relations and trade policy as coordinator for the Italian side.
I was assigned with my first mission as Ambassador to Oman in 2012 until early 2016, before returning to Rome as Deputy Director General for Economic and Financial Affairs. I was then Diplomatic Counsellor to the Minister of Interior, Dr Marco Minniti in 2018-19 and the Head Secretariat of the Undersecretary Foreign Affairs Manlio Di Stefano.
Since January 2020, I have served my country in Bahrain. The roles I have covered were all very challenging and truly interesting. My previous experience has enormously helped build my work during my mission in the Kingdom. Trade policy is an interest that I have nurtured since my university and I continue to show a deep interest in it.
I must say that other than my personal interest in this topic, the idea of contributing to the promotion of our extraordinary excellence of the ‘Made in Italy’ brand is for me a true honour and responsibility.
As Ambassador, what do you consider to be your primary focus during your assignment in Bahrain?
The development of the bilateral relations in every sector, such as political, economic, commercial, cultural and academic.
My primary concern is also to promote the role of Italy as a founding member of the European Union and one the largest industrial powers in the world, a member of G7, G20, NATO and more.
What do you consider to have been the most significant achievements at the Embassy during your time in Bahrain?
The achievements obtained in the economic field, particularly in such a difficult time considering the pandemic, have been very important. The establishment of the Italian Trade Agency (ITA), which works in close coordination with the Embassy of Italy to support Italian firms in their internationalisation processes and promote the marketing and distribution of Italian goods and services, is a particular point of pride.
During the pandemic we organised a series of webinars to present opportunities of trade and investment to business owners in both countries.
However, the most important achievement was the establishment of the Italian Bahraini Business Council, which was launched on November 17, 2021. It is a private initiative but it was built under the auspices of the two countries with the support of the respective embassies in Italy and in Bahrain. Members of the highest standing are part of its board. It will give a substantial contribution to facilitate contacts and discover opportunities between entrepreneurs and therefore to further strengthen our already excellent economic and commercial ties.
What can you tell us about the development of bilateral relations between the two countries in recent years? Could you highlight any of the most significant high-level delegations and VIP visits in the last two years?
The most important occasion was His Royal Highness the Crown Prince and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, visiting Italy in February 2020 to sign various Memoranda of Understanding in crucial sectors including culture, space and health.
More recently, in November 2021, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Marina Sereni, visited the Kingdom for talks and regional interest.
Please tell us about the current status of trade between Bahrain and Italy?
Statistics show that in 2021, Italy stands out as the top European supplier to Bahrain, while holding the ninth position globally. USD308 million of trade between the two countries was recorded in the first eight months of 2021. The sectors that contributed the most to this are the machinery sector and industrial equipment (40.2 percent), iron and steel products (9 percent), cars and motorbikes (5.2 percent), furniture (5 percent), pharmaceuticals (4.1 percent) and chemical products (3.1 percent).
What are the most popular Italian products that are imported by Bahrain?
Italy is famous for the world-renowned ‘Made in Italy’ designation and it is a delight to see how Bahrain deeply appreciates our high-quality products in a variety of sectors including fashion, design, furniture, food, technology and machines.
As a vastly important logistic hub in the Gulf region, Bahrain provides our supply chain with outstanding opportunities.
The Italian embassy recently held an Italian opera event in the Kingdom. Could you tell us about the role of cultural exchange between the two countries? Do you have any similar events planned in the near future?
The cultural exchange plays a pivotal role. Bahrain has a very ancient history, with UNESCO sites and cultural institutions of great prestige and distinction.
With regards to the Opera concert, it was an absolute pleasure to see how much the public appreciated this form of art. Soprano Laura Baldassari and pianist Sabrina Avantario performed some of the most beautiful arias in opera. I have had a strong passion for opera since I was young and I can assure you that I will do my very best to organise more.
How many Italian citizens are currently residing in the Kingdom and with new strains of COVID-19 coming into play, do you see the number of Italian citizens in Bahrain increasing or decreasing over time?
There are currently about 550 Italians in Bahrain. The number has not diminished due to COVID, and allow me to take this opportunity on behalf of the entire Italian community in Bahrain to thank the Bahraini leadership for the swift response during the pandemic through the vaccination campaign, which was made easily accessible.
Which sectors of the economy are Italian nationals living in Bahrain engaged in?
The Italian community is a truly hard-working, active and well-integrated, appreciated group of professionals. There is a pretty wide range of sectors they work in, including law, academics, business consultancy, engineering, architecture, healthcare and of course our famous hospitality industry!
On a more personal note, we understand that you have a keen interest in Indian culture including Yoga and traditional dance. Could you tell our readers about this?
Yes, this is true! I have travelled extensively around India. I practice Yoga, and I studied the classical dance Bharatanatyam, which is simply beautiful. I wish I could have more time to practice it.
You are multi-lingual – can you share with us how many languages you speak and how you developed an interest in them?
I love learning languages. I speak English, French and Spanish. I would love to speak Arabic as fluent as the other languages; I studied it for three years at the Egyptian Cultural Institute in Rome. Again, I wish I could have time to study and especially practice it.