Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Marina Sereni left Italy on Sunday January 16th for a 7-days institutional visit to Cuba and Costa Rica.

Marina Sereni with Cuban Deputy FM Gerardo Peñalver Portal
Ms. Sereni with Cuban Deputy FM Gerardo Peñalver Portal

The visit, as the Italian Foreign Ministry explains in a press release, began in Havana, where Deputy Minister Sereni chaired, together with Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Gerardo Peñalver Portal, the sixth Session of the bilateral Political Dialogue. Sereni also had a meeting with a delegation of Italian entrepreneurs active in the country, as well as several local authorities, including Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Planning Alejandro Gil Fernández and Deputy Minister of Justice, Rosabel Gamón Verde. Finally, Deputy FM Sereni met with Javier Niño Pérez, Deputy Director for the Americas of the European External Action Service, the diplomatic service of the European Union. 

The visit also represented an opportunity to talk about development cooperation. Cuba is one of the priority countries for the Italian Development Cooperation Organization. Italian development cooperation projects in Cuba focus mainly on food security and recovery of the architectural heritage. After visiting some ongoing projects in old Havana, Ms. Sereni signed a Memorandum on Development Cooperation for a three-year contribution of €12 million. 

After leaving Cuba, the Deputy Minister arrived in San José, Costa Rica, where she met Deputy Minister Christian Guillermet-Fernandez. Today, Ms. Sereni will co-chair, togheter with Deputy Minister Adriana Bolaños Argueta, the first session of the bilateral Political Dialogue. 

DM Sereni visits an Italian Development Cooperation project in Havana, Cuba
DM Sereni visits an Italian Development Cooperation project in Havana

Italy and Cuba share a strong bond. Bilateral relations are characterized by lively cultural cooperation, as the success of the Week of Italian Culture in Cuba demonstrates, as well as solid economic and commercial ties.  

Despite a volatile trade balance, Italy remains among the top ten partners of Cuba and its second European partner after Spain. In 2021, Italy was Cuba’s thirteenth customer and seventh supplier. Deputy Minister Sereni’s visit is the latest in a series of institutional visits aimed at strengthening political and economic relations between Italy and Cuba. 

According to the Italian Embassy in San José, relations with Costa Rica are “traditionally characterized by great friendship and collaboration in the economic-commercial, political, cultural sectors”, and have benefited from the opening-up policy launched by Costa Rica in the 80s. Several Italian groups, such as Enel Green Power, Astaldi and Ghella (civil construction), Telespazio (Leonardo group – satellite services), are present in the country, together with a large number of local companies of Italian origin. Italy is the seventeenth supplier and the sixteenth customer of Costa Rica, and commercial exchange settles on a stable value of about € 350 million per year. 

meeting with development cooperation operators in cuba

Italy invests heavily in relations with Latin America, to which it is linked by a deep historical, social, political and economic bond, cultural affinities and common values.

Diplomatic relations are strenghtened by the annual holding of an Italy-Latin America Conference, a forum created in close collaboration with IILA, the Italian-Latin American Institute. Since 1966, the Conference brings together Italy and Latin American countries, promoting mutual relations in a broad and growing spectrum of cooperation.