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Italian President Mattarella on state visit to Latvia

Italian President Sergio Mattarella begins a state visit to Latvia July 3.

Following a now well-established routine among the heads of state paying a visit during Latvia's centenary year, following talks at Rīga Castle with Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis, President Mattarella is due to lay flowers at the Freedom Monument and visit the national library to present a book as a gift.

Following the talks between the delegations, President Vējonis have a statement in which he thanked Italy for its contribution to Latvia's security and perhaps hinted at current political tensions in Italy, stressing the need for a united Europe.

"We must continue to strengthen European solidarity. We are joined in a united Europe that is not divided into North, South, East and West. We are a Europe that has a the responsibility to show solidarity and be ready to agree on concrete action to overcome our common challenges. It's not easy and discussions were, are and will be. However, the most important thing is for us to be able to make joint decisions. I am convinced that we are able to do this," said Vējonis.

"Latvia appreciates Italy's contribution to strengthening the security of the Baltic States, particularly in strengthening Latvia's security. Italy has participated a number of times in the Baltic Air Policing Mission, and there are just over 160 Italian Army soldiers in the NATO battlegroup in Latvia," he said.

"We need to build strong bridges between the Mediterranean and the Baltic Sea, not only in the security field but also in economics, education, science and culture."

In the afternoon the presidents visit an exhibition at the National Art Museum dedicated to the paintings of artist Niklāvs Strunke in Italy in the 1920s. According to the description of the exhibition, the Italophile Strunke is attributed with popularizing the informal Italian greeting "Ciao!" in Latvia, and to this day when meeting a friend, you are likely to hear "Čau!" as the first word of conversation.

"Poet Aleksandrs Čaks and other contemporaries credit artist Niklāvs Strunke (1894–1966) with the introduction of the Italian salutation ciao in Riga. While his peers were rushing to Paris, the most famous “Latvian Italian” from 1923 to 1927 lived in Rome, the Island of Capri and Florence, also travelling to Venice, Tuscany, the coast of the Gulf of Naples and Amalfi. In the Eternal City, the pittore lettone, who was captivated by Italy, rented a studio near the Vatican, in Florence – in the old town of Oltrarno, while in Capri he settled on the side of the Marina Grande," according to the National Art Museum.

Following his visit to Latvia, President Mattarella will move on to Estonia July 4. Mattarella is joined on the trip by his daughter Laura, who carries out the duties of first lady.

You can watch President Mattarella's arrival at Rīga Castle in the video below.


This story will be updated.

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