It is always a treat to come to Italy for our regular meetings, but to come to Florence fulfils a life-long ambition.
There cannot be any other city in the world whose history is built upon so many towering talents.
The roll-call of Florentine names—Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo; Machiavelli and Galileo; the generations of the Medici family who ruled [end p1] the city—lists the giants of Italy's and of Europe's civilization.
Florence was never modest, and had no need to be. Florence's vernacular became Italian. Florence's coinage was used throughout the civilized world and appeared in Britain as the florin; Florence's greatest navigator—Amerigo Vespucci—just happened to give his name to two continents. [end p2]
To those who aspire to make a small contribution to history today, Florence gives a sense of proportion and a sense of humility.
I know too of Britain's long connection with Florence.
A British Consul has resided here since the 15th century.
The wife of Bonnie Prince Charlie has her [end p3] tomb in one of your churches.
Florence Nightingale was born here and Elizabeth Barrett Browning lies in a Florentine churchyard.
More recently we have established the British Institute, with a justly famous reputation for its work of teaching English and Italian.
Every year thousands upon thousands of our people come here—no doubt more than [end p4] ever will do so this year when the city is the Cultural Capital of Europe.
It is therefore, Bettino CraxiMr. Prime Minister, a most auspicious place to hold our regular consultations in this magnificent [Pitti] palace.
I understand that the first Mr. Pitti was a merchant banker, which only confirms me in the view that I am in the wrong [end p5] profession.
We have had some very useful discussions covering the main bilateral and international issues.
On the bilateral front we were able to sign two important agreements and note with approval our increasingly close co-operation in a very wide range of industrial and scientific projects— [end p6] including, I am glad to say, helicopters.
On the international front we have as you say touched on the problems of East/West relations and arms control, on the Middle East and on the European Community.
If we have to spend less time on this last theme than in some of our earlier meetings, I can only say that I regard that as a good sign and proof that the [end p7] Community is working better.
I was able to tell you something, Mr. Prime Minister, of our aims and objective when we take over the Presidency later this year.
We have also sought a closer co-operation against terrorism which has so recently touched both this city, with the murder of its distinguished former mayor; and your own [end p8] Mr. Prime Minister, there is a special friendship between Britain and Italy, a friendship which has shown itself strong enough to endure some setbacks—one thinks still with sorrow of the tragic events at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels last year. I believe that our meeting today has not only produced some useful concrete results [end p9] but further reinforced the affection and regard which Britain and Italy have for each other.
Let me propose a toast to you, Mr. Prime Minister, to your government and to the future of that friendship.