Italy intensifies cultural dialogue with Caspian littoral Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Italy (Credits: Kaga tau, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Geopolitical Report ISSN 2785-2598 Volume 18 Issue 1
Author: Vlad Kondratiev

Recently, representatives of Italy held a series of meetings with colleagues in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, dedicated to the issues of enhancing cultural cooperation, confirming Rome’s interests in Central Asia.

Central Asia plays a strategic role in the Eurasian geopolitical chessboard. Currently, Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, Moscow’s Eurasian Economic Union, and Washington’s New Silk Road Initiative are the main commercial and trade project related to Central Asia.[1] In this regard, the European Union adopted a new strategy in Central Asia and started being more involved in local dynamics in recent times.

Italy strengthened ties with Kazakhstan

The Akim (the head of local Government in Kazakhstan) of Almaty city, Yerbolat Dosaev, met with Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Italy to Kazakhstan Marco Alberti. Kazakh media reported that the parties discussed the strengthening of trade, economic, cultural, and humanitarian cooperation and partnership in the field of innovation and new technologies.[2]

During the meeting, it was noted that this year, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the embassy is preparing 30 initiatives to strengthen and bring bilateral ties to a new level. In particular, it is planned to open the first Italian cultural centre in the region of Central Asia and the Caucasus and hold a cultural exhibition in September in Almaty. In several universities in Almaty, students study Italian, and for the first time in Kazakhstan, the teaching of Italian has begun in one of the Almaty schools.

The head of the city and the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Italy to Kazakhstan expressed confidence that establishing direct flights on the Almaty-Milan-Almaty route from June this year will strengthen trade, economic, and cultural ties between the countries and give impetus to the development of tourism. The Ambassador noted that diplomacy at the city level could positively strengthen relations between peoples.

Marco Alberti also announced the readiness of the Italian side to finance the creation of an innovative centre for creative industries in Almaty.

Relations and further cooperation between Italy and Turkmenistan

On April 21st, 2022, the first meeting of the Turkmen-Italian working group on cultural cooperation was held online.[3] The talks were organised with the support of the Embassy of Turkmenistan in Rome. They were a continuation of the dialogue initiated during the meeting of the Turkmen Ambassador Toyly Komekov with the diplomatic adviser to the Minister of Culture of Italy Paolo Toschi in October last year.

The Turkmen part of the Working Group, headed by the Deputy Minister of Culture, was represented by the heads and employees of various institutions in the social and cultural sphere of the country.

During the meeting, representatives of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Cultural Activities and Tourism of Italy gave a briefing on the work carried out by the department, covering a wide range of areas, in particular archiving and digitalisation of materials, organising exhibitions, archaeological research and monitoring of lands and objects of historical and cultural significance through remote sensing and space photography.

The head of the office of the Deputy Minister of Culture of Italy, Vito D’Adamo, put forward proposals for cooperation with Turkmenistan in archaeological research and interaction within the framework of UNESCO programs for the preservation of historical and cultural heritage sites. Marco Puzoni, head of the Higher Institute for the Conservation and Restoration of Italy, specialising in conservation works of art and cultural heritage, gave a brief overview of this institution’s activities and partnership programs.

The parties also voiced ideas and opinions on ways to expand cooperation between Turkmenistan and Italy in the cultural and scientific fields. In particular, readiness was expressed to deepen contacts and exchange of experience in restoration, conservation and archiving. The possibility of organising online seminars and training on the restoration of archaeological finds and manuscripts, and masterclasses in vocal art and folk instruments of Italy and Turkmenistan were also discussed.

The members of the Working Group were asked to reinforce the ideas and proposals voiced during the meeting with an action plan or a cultural exchange program for further steps in the implementation of joint projects. It should be noted that Italy is one of those European states that are actively present in the Caspian and Central Asian regions.[4]

On December 8th, 2021, the second ministerial conference in the “Central Asia – Italy” format was held in Tashkent. The event was attended by the heads of the foreign ministries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The Italian Foreign Affairs Minister Luigi Di Maio and the EU Special Representative for Central Asia Teri Hakala header the Italian and EU delegations.[5]

During the conference, the parties discussed topical issues of interregional and global cooperation, including the joint fight against the negative consequences of the pandemic, the restoration of pre-crisis indicators of mutual trade and investment, and priority areas for interaction between the countries of the region and Italy. Special attention was paid to the situation in Afghanistan.

As for the Caspian region itself, Italy is involved in several key energy projects in the Caspian. Italy today is the recipient of natural gas produced in the Azerbaijani sector of the bottom of the Caspian Sea. Hydrocarbons enter the country through the Trans- Adriatic Gas Pipeline, a segment of the Southern Gas Corridor. The Italian company ENI is a participant in developing hydrocarbon deposits in the Kazakh and Turkmen sectors of the bottom of the Caspian Sea.[6]

In addition, the Italian leadership is always ready to receive the top political leadership of the Caspian republics from discussing the prospects for the development of cooperation in the energy, oil and gas industry, telecommunications, transport, tourism and other promising sectors.

It should also be noted that on November 6th – 7th, 2019, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov paid an official visit to the Italian Republic.[7]

Conclusion

In the last year, Italy has demonstrated its interest in expanding commercial and diplomatic ties with Central Asia. As described above, the Italian Government might use also cultural cooperation to strengthen its ties with Central Asian republics, especially Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan which have large natural resources and are in need of foreign direct investments (FDIs). In this context, Italy might play a major role in EU strategy in Central Asia promoting Brussels’projects and diplomatic approach with regional actors who are looking for diversifying their foreign partners and decreasing their dependence on Russia and China.

Sources

[1] Silvia Boltuc (2021) Geopolitics of the U.S. strategy in Central Asia, Geopolitical Report Vol. 13(9), SpecialEurasia, ISSN 2785-2598. Link: https://www.specialeurasia.com/2021/11/22/us-strategy-central-asia/; SpecialEurasia (2022) China confirms its commitment and strategy in Central Asia. Link: https://www.specialeurasia.com/2022/01/04/china-strategy-central-asia/; SpecialEurasia (2022) Central Asian Republic’s economic dependence on China. Link: https://www.specialeurasia.com/2022/02/04/central-asia-china-economy/.

[2] Kapital (2022) Италия готова профинансировать создание в Алматы центра креативных индустрий (Italy is ready to finance the creation of a creative industries center in Almaty). Link: https://kapital.kz/economic/104892/italiya-gotova-profinansirovat-sozdaniye-v-almaty-tsentra-kreativnykh-industriy.html.

[3] Orient News (2022) Туркменистан и Италия обменялись предложениями по активизации культурного диалога (Turkmenistan and Italy exchanged proposals on enhancing cultural dialogue). Link: https://orient.tm/ru/post/37117/turkmenistan-i-italiya-obmenyalis-predlozheniyami-po-aktivizacii-kulturnogo-dialoga.

[4] Silvia Boltuc (2022) Italy discovers business opportunities in Kyrgyzstan, SpecialEurasia. Link: https://www.specialeurasia.com/2022/04/14/italy-kyrgyzstan-business/.

[5] Vlad Kondratiev (2021) Состоялась вторая Министерская конференция «Центральная Азия – Италия» (The second Ministerial Conference “Central Asia – Italy” was held), Kaspiskiy Vestnik. Link: http://casp-geo.ru/sostoyalas-vtoraya-ministerskaya-konferentsiya-tsentralnaya-aziya-italiya/.

[6] Josh Lewis (2021) Eni to partner with KazMunaiGas on energy transition projects in Kazakhstan, Upstream Energy Explored. Link: https://www.upstreamonline.com/energy-transition/eni-to-partner-with-kazmunaigas-on-energy-transition-projects-in-kazakhstan/2-1-1044809.

[7] Fabio Indeo (2021) La visita di Berdymuhamedow in Italia e lo sviluppo delle relazioni con il Turkmenistan, Eurasian Business Dispatch. Link: http://www.eurasianbusinnessdispatch.com/ita/archivio/La-visita-di-Berdymuhamedow-in-Italia-e-lo-sviluppo-delle-relazioni-con-il-Turkmenistan-di-Fabio-Indeo-726-ITA.asp.


Analysis in media partnership with Kaspiskiy Vestnik. It is possible to read the original analysis in Russian at the following link: Италия активизирует культурный диалог с прикаспийскими Туркменистаном и Казахстаном