As this traditional end-of-year event approaches, it has been difficult for me to find the right words to express my best wishes to each of you.
In these days anxiety and hope coexist.
The pandemic we are facing puts our lives at risk, wounds the way we live.
We would like to return to our familiar lives and experiences. Not to have hospitals in the grip of the emergency. To open schools and universities, for our children and young people. Elderly people no longer isolated by necessity and precaution. Fully functioning factories, theatres, restaurants, shops. Regular transport. Usual connections with neighbouring and more distant countries, with which we have established relations over the years.
We wish to take our lives back.
The virus, unknown and unpredictable, hit us before any other European country. The beginning of the abyss. The tragic statistics of contagions and deaths. The images of empty streets and squares. The loneliness. The heartbreaking thought of those who died without having their loved ones by their side.
The arrival of summer brought the illusion of an escape from danger and widespread relaxation. There is an understandable desire to go back to normal, to put this nightmare behind us.
Then, in September, the second wave of the virus arrived. First, in our neighbouring countries, and then here, in Italy. More infections - more than two million people - more victims, more suffering. While the generous commitment of doctors and health workers continues.
The world has been hit hard. Everywhere.
Italy has paid a high price too.
I would like to begin precisely from here: from the need to remember together what we have experienced during this year. Without closing our eyes to reality.
The pandemic has dug deep furrows in our lives, in our society. It has exacerbated past fragilities. It has aggravated old inequalities and generated new ones.
This has had serious social and economic consequences. We have lost jobs. Women and young people have been particularly affected. So are people with disabilities. Many businesses fear for their future. A large number of self-employed and temporary workers have seen their incomes fall to zero or drop sharply. In this common difficulty, some sectors have suffered more than others.
The pandemic has sown a sense of bewilderment: it calls into question life prospects. Just think of the forecast of a further decrease in births, an indication of the uncertainty that the virus has instilled in our community.
This is the reality, which must be acknowledged and faced.
At the same time, important signals have emerged, encouraging concrete hope. So that fear does not prevail and so that concerns can be transformed into the energy needed to rebuild, to start again.
In the first phase, when the tools available to fight the virus were limited, the reaction to the pandemic was based primarily on a sense of community.
We are now implementing more complex strategies, starting with the vaccination plan, which started on the same day all over Europe.
Moreover, innovative and extraordinarily important European interventions are in place to tackle the serious economic consequences.
No vaccine has ever been developed in such a short time.
Never before has the European Union taken on such an important task for its citizens.
With the contribution of Italian researchers, a worldwide alliance of science and research has been built up for the vaccine, supported by massive political and financial support that has multiplied the speed of its identification.
Science offers us the strongest weapon, prevailing over ignorance and prejudice. Now everyone, everywhere, without distinction, should be allowed to get vaccinated free of charge: because it is right and because it is necessary for our common safety.
To get vaccinated is a responsible choice, a duty. All the more so for those working in contact with the sick and the most fragile people.
When faced with such a highly contagious disease, which causes so many deaths, it is necessary to protect one's own health and it is one's duty to protect others' - family, friends, colleagues, etc.
I will get vaccinated as soon as possible, right after the categories most at risk, which must be given priority.
The vaccine and EU initiatives are two decisive vectors of our rebirth.
The European Union has been able to take a leap forward. The Europe of common values and citizens has prevailed. It was not to be taken for granted.
Europe responded to the financial crisis of a decade ago without solidarity and with no clear vision of its future. Selfish interests prevailed. Old political and economic standards showed their inadequacy.
The European Union's choices now rest on new foundations. Italy has played a leading role in this change.
We are embarking on a major task - in terms of health and the economy. All this calls for and urges even greater responsibility from the institutions, first and foremost, from the economic forces, the social bodies and each one of us. Seriousness, cooperation and a sense of duty are needed to protect ourselves and to start again.
The European recovery plan and its national implementation - which must be concrete, effective and rigorous, without wasting resources - can help us overcome the structural weaknesses that have prevented Italy from growing as it could have done.
Let's change what needs to be changed by bravely getting back into the game.
We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to the younger generation.
Everyone plays their part.
The pandemic has made us rediscover and understand how much we are linked to others, how much each of us depends on others. As we have seen, solidarity has once again become the indispensable basis of coexistence and society.
International solidarity. Solidarity in Europe. Solidarity within our communities.
2021 must be the year of defeat of the virus and the first year of recovery. A year in which each of us is also called upon to return what we have received with gratuitous gestures, often from strangers. From people who have put their own lives on the line for ours, as has happened with so many doctors and healthcare professionals.
We found ourselves in the concrete gestures of many. They expressed a fraternity that is nourished by humanity, not by words, regardless of the origin and of the culture of each of us and of our social condition.
That is the very essence of the Republic.
This is how we build the trust we need: by connecting the responsibilities of the institutions with the feelings of the people.
The pandemic has emphasised our country's limitations and delays. There have certainly been mistakes in dealing with a sudden and unknown reality.
Could something more and better be done? Probably yes, as always. But we should not ignore the positive things that have been achieved and that have allowed the country to hold together thanks to the commitment of so many parties. These include the Armed Forces and the Police, and I thank them for that.
We had the power to react.
The society had to slow down but did not stop.
We are not at the mercy of events.
Now we must plan for the future.
We do not live in a historical parenthesis. This is a time for builders. The next few months will be decisive towards overcoming the emergency and laying the foundations for a new season.
No distractions are allowed. No time must be wasted. Energies and opportunities must not be wasted in pursuit of illusory partisan advantages. This is what citizens expect.
The challenge before us and before those who hold managerial roles in all fields, calls for the moral and civil unity of the Italians. It is not about abolishing the differences of opinions, roles and interests, but about achieving the essential unity that has enabled our country to overcome moments of great, sometimes dramatic, difficulty in history.
Italy has what it takes to succeed in this endeavour.
Over the past months I have received expressions of confidence in our country and appreciation from many Heads of State of friendly countries.
As the global agenda of priorities is being rewritten, development strategies are changing and new leaderships are emerging, we must act as leaders in the international community.
In this perspective, next year's G20, which Italy is chairing for the first time, will be very important: a precious opportunity to address the major global challenges and an opportunity to strengthen the prestige of our country.
The coming year brings several important anniversaries.
Stages in our history, anniversaries that describe the path that has led us to a unity that is not only territorial. We will commemorate the 7th Centenary of the death of Dante.
We will also celebrate the 160th anniversary of the Unification of Italy, the 100th anniversary of the placement of the Unknown Soldier on the Altar of the Fatherland.
And also the 75th anniversary of the Republic.
From the Risorgimento to the Liberation: the roots of our Constitution. Memory and awareness of our national identity help us to build the future.
I would like to thank Pope Francis for his teaching and for the affection he conveys to the Italian people, making himself a witness of hope and justice. To him I address my most sincere best wishes for the year that is about to begin.
Congratulations and best wishes to the people of Gorizia for the designation of Gorizia and Nova Gorica jointly as 2025 European Capital of Culture. This is a signal that honours Italy and Slovenia for having developed relations that go beyond coexistence and mutual respect and express cooperation and prospects for a common future. I hope that this message will be heard in the border areas of many parts of the world, including Europe, where there are often bitter disputes and sometimes wars rather than the search for dialogue between different cultures and traditions.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge - with a particularly heartfelt thank you - the sacrifices you have made over the past several months with a sense of responsibility. And I would like to stress the importance of upholding the recommended precautions until the vaccination campaign will have definitelydefeated the pandemic.
the year that is about to begin will be my last year as President of the Republic.
It will be the first year of the economic and social recovery of our country.
The fresh start will be at the heart of this final stretch of my mandate.
It's going to be a year of hard work.
We have the resources to succeed.
To all of you, Happy New Year!