LONDON // The UAE’s emphasis on religious tolerance and inclusion of women in the political process is an encouraging example, the Italian foreign minister says.
“From our point of view, the protection of human rights is a shared interest not only of the European Union, but of the entire international community,” said the minister, Emma Bonino. “Thus, it cannot be subject to political exploitation.
“In this regard, we have registered with interest some encouraging signs in the UAE, such as, for example, the general framework aimed at improving the respect of freedom of religion and the level of female participation in the political life of the country.”
Speaking before the Italian prime minister Enrico Letta makes his first official visit to the UAE next month, Ms Bonino said her government was confident some remaining issues would be addressed.
“It is with this constructive spirit that some recommendations, in which the UAE were included, have been formulated on the occasion of the latest United Nations Universal Periodic Review,” she said.
Italy is looking to strengthen political ties with the UAE and establish itself as a key partner.
Ms Bonino said her government believed strengthening political dialogue and cooperation between the UAE and the EU would “certainly be able to encourage an ever-increasing attention to the issue of the protection of human rights”.
Mr Letta’s visit on October 7, less than a year after his predecessor Mario Monti visited, would include discussions on global and regional matters of mutual interest, and strengthen economic ties.
Italy is very interested in attracting investments from Arabian Gulf countries and considers the UAE to be one of its most important partners in the Middle East.
“In this respect, the UAE, armed with valuable resources and the vision of its leaders, are without a doubt for Italy one of the most important strategic economic and political partners in the Middle East,” Ms Bonino said.
“Data show an eloquent picture of our economic relations: trade, investments, tourism, sports and culture are all areas in which collaboration proceeds apace.
“And yet, the complementary nature of our respective economic systems still offers plenty of room for development.
“At the political level, however, regional crises force the international community to look for initiatives aimed at promoting stabilisation.
Ms Bonino said she hoped the UAE would soon become the first Arabian Gulf country to benefit from visa-free entry to the EU.
“The Italian government has already ruled in favour of the proposal to establish a visa waiver between the EU and the UAE,” she said.
“This development will contribute to the strengthening of our relations of friendship and cooperation through greater mobility among the peoples of the two countries.”
Italy is also looking to engage more closely with the UAE on the situation in Iran, the minister said.
Iran, the minister said, has significant influence in the region.
“Because of this, Italy fully supports the international community’s ‘dual track’ approach, in which the sanctions are not an end in itself, but a tool to stimulate negotiation,” Ms Bonino said.
“Now the time has come to understand whether the Tehran regime intends to emerge from international isolation in which its predecessor has chosen to shut itself.”
She called for an end to violence in Egypt, saying Italy is the nation’s biggest trade partner in Europe and second globally after the US.
“After the fall of Mubarak the country has undertaken a hard and long journey towards democracy,” she said. “I do believe that there’s no way back. It’s not possible to set the clock back to autocracy.
“The way out of the crisis is dialogue and no more violence. Thus, Italy strongly supports an inclusive process involving all the political forces.”
On Syria, Ms Bonino reaffirmed her government’s position of no military intervention without UN approval.