President’s visits to boost ties with Italy, Vatican, Francophone
President Tran Dai Quang and his spouse will pay a State-level visit to Italy from November 21-24 at the invitation of his Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella.
President Quang will also visit the Vatican on November 23 as a guest of Pope Francis.
The President and his spouse will then travel to Madagascar to attend the 16th Francophone Summit on November 26-27 at the invitation of Madagascan President Hery Rajaonarimampianina.
Vietnam and Italy established diplomatic ties on March 23, 1973.
Italy was the first Western European nation to back the enhancement of cooperation between Vietnam and the EU at major international forums, as well as the normalisation of relations between Vietnam and international financial, trade and monetary organisations in the 1990s.
Italy’s senior leaders have affirmed their resolve to step up multi-faceted collaboration with Vietnam, regarding the country as a priority development partner in Southeast Asia and a destination for Italian businesses.
Trade between the two countries has increased years by years, reaching 4.3 billion USD in 2015. Italy ranks 31 out of 112 countries and territories investing in Vietnam with 77 projects valued at 360 million USD, mostly in processing, manufacturing, leather and footwear, construction, lavatory equipment and steel processing.
The Italian Government has listed Vietnam as one of ten newly-emerging markets to prioritise trade and investment ties with. The two countries also set up a joint committee on economic cooperation.
The Vietnam-Italy Joint Committee on Development Cooperation met in Rome in December 2009, approving a handful of cooperation projects in health care, environmental protection and supporting small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
In March 2014, Italy announced that the country would stop its development assistance to Vietnam in periods. Instead, the assistance will be allocated to the country under specific programmes, depending on circumstances and financial conditions, focusing on vocational training, water resource management and SMEs support.
Bilateral collaboration in education has also reaped achievements. Annually, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides scholarships to Vietnamese and opens Italian language classes in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Currently, nearly 5,000 Vietnamese live in Italy, mostly in the northern region with a thriving industry and a lot of job opportunities.
Meanwhile, the Vietnam-Vatican relations have developed fruitfully. In July 1989, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace of the Vatican, made the first Vatican visit to Vietnam since 1975.
He returned to the country in November 1990, officially marking the resumption of meetings between the two sides.
Since then, the Vatican has sent deputy foreign ministerial delegations to Vietnam annually to discuss pastoral issues with the Government Committee for Religious Affairs.
Then Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung met with Pope Benedict XVI and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone during his visit to the Vatican in January 2007.
The Vatican side described Vietnam as a model of religious policy in combination with community development, and suggested the two sides establish diplomatic ties.
In November 2008, the two sides agreed to form the Vietnam-Holy See Joint Working Group, which has met annually and alternatively in Vietnam and the Vatican.
During their first meeting, which took place in Hanoi from February 16-17, 2009, the working group discussed bilateral relations, including issues regarding the Catholic Church of Vietnam.
At the second meeting in the Vatican on June 23-25, 2010, the group agreed that the Pope will send a non-resident special envoy to Vietnam.
On January 13, 2011, the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI decided to appoint Archbishop Leopoldo Girellias as Vatican’s non-resident special envoy to the country. The special envoy has, to date, paid 84 visits to Vietnam with the latest on November 9-18, 2016.
The sixth meeting of the group was held in Vatican from October 24-26, 2016.
The relationship between Vietnam and the Francophone community is also thriving.
Over the past 30 years, especially during periods of economic blockage and embargo, Vietnam has received support of the community in capital, brain power and technology.
The community is also a forum for Vietnam to implement its foreign policy and a channel for the country to enhance bilateral relations with its other members.
Vietnam now has a stronger voice in realising cooperation strategies of the community.
The country has been elected to many important positions of the community such as President of the Permanent Council of the International Organisation of La Francophonie and President of the Ministerial Conference of La Francophonie for 1996-1997.
In recent years, the International Organisation of La Francophonie and relevant agencies have coordinated with a number of Francophone member countries to implement projects in Vietnam.