Piero Fassino, Mayor of Turin – Opening address 17/10/2014

(Translation of the transcription of the recording of the speech made during the Conference)

(Translation from the original Italian)



Hello everyone and welcome to Turin. I am particularly honoured to welcome you, because I was also a member of my country's delegation to the Council of Europe for over nine years. I worked with Thorbjørn Jagland for a long time and we developed a friendship which I particularly appreciate.


Thank you for having chosen Turin to hold this important conference, a conference intended to promote debate and a re-launching process – as the slogan says, "Europe restarts in Turin" - giving a fresh impetus to the full implementation of the European Social Charter.


The European Social Charter was signed on 18 October 1961 in the very building which stands in front of us, the Palazzo Madama. As a reminder, there is a bronze plaque over there, which was brought here from Strasbourg, and every year - not just this year on the occasion of your presence - every year our city commemorates this important event not only for the life of Turin but also for the life of Europe.


There are other reasons why this location is a good choice. The first is obviously that the Social Charter was born here and it is therefore only right to come back here – to the city where it first saw the light of day –to discuss how to foster its full implementation.


A second reason is that Turin has for many years been a major industrial city, devoted to manufacturing and production. A city that symbolises work, particularly that form of Fordist industrial employment which throughout the 20th century characterised the economic development of Italy and of all the countries of Europe. A city with a highly industrial, technological and manufacturing profile. A city with a strong social presence, linked to the world of industry. A city with strong traditions of social organisation and trade unionism. A city whose identity has been marked by the labour movement and employment rights.


Then there is a third reason why our presence here today is very appropriate. This is because the city, which for a century was a manufacturing hub, the main driving force of Italian industry, a genuine "factory town", has in the last fifteen years undergone a huge transformation, showing visible signs of becoming a very different, very new city, which is far more open.


Turin continues to be a major industrial city, but at the same time it has seen a broadening of its identity and an opening of its profile to new roles, with an ever-growing focus on becoming a centre of excellence in research, innovation and technology.


It is a big university city, with two high quality universities and one hundred thousand students, of whom thirteen thousand come from abroad. It is a major cultural capital. This building is one of the city's main cultural institutions. The city has invested in culture and is continuing to do so, making culture not just an adjunct to economic development, but an integral part of it.


And for this reason Turin has even become a tourist city today, something which it clearly was not in the past.


I mention these developments not merely in order to tell our many friends, from many different European countries, what this city represents today, but also because Turin offers a good example of how cities' identities are evolving as the European and global economic dynamic changes.


For a long time, this city had a single role. Today, its roles are plural, because cities with a single role emerged and developed within the economy of protected markets. In the age of globalisation, that of open markets, the city's development dynamics must no longer be founded on a single role, but on many.


Turin is indeed a good model of a city that is broadening its identity, rethinking its own development, through a convergence between its historical industrial profile and everything that revolves around the knowledge economy, research, academia and culture.


I have mentioned this transformation, since the implementation of rights, the manner in which rights are applied, experienced and recognised, is not separate and divorced from the development dynamic and the ways in which development takes shape.


For a long time we were used to conceiving the everyday implementation of social rights in terms of a productive employment and social model of an industrial type, that of Fordism. Today, we have to bring these same rights alive within a changed society, one with a new profile, with plural roles and multiple approaches to labour market organisation, relations between production and consumption and the organisation of economic activity.


This issue arises not only here, but also in many other parts of the world. Accordingly, today we are not solely called upon to recognise that the rights enshrined in the Social Charter are a matter of justice – that is self-evident, otherwise we would not be here. We have to ask ourselves how, in the globalisation age, the era of open markets and plural economies, the rights laid down in the Social Charter can be enforced with the same intensity and strength as we were capable of achieving in a different era and another economic phase.


It is therefore of particular interest to hold this debate here, because this city is in point of fact an archetype of change, of a transformation of identity and of the development model, of a way of being, which requires a reflection on how the fundamental rights that accompanied Europe's development over the last fifty years can be enforced today. This is all the more relevant since, as we know, the economic difficulties and the economic and social crisis in Europe in recent years have resulted in greater uncertainty, insecurity and precariousness for many individuals and families. We are well aware that the labour market has moved towards increasingly flexible forms of work. However, while flexibility is naturally an organisational solution not just for manufacturing but also for modern-day society, it is equally true that were are duty-bound to seek ways of ensuring that flexibility does not translate into economic insecurity.

As a consequence, the question of how social rights, the rights of the European Social Charter, can be kept alive today is particularly topical, and it is a question linked to Europe's exit strategy from the crisis and to the efforts to build a social model capable of combining rights and flexibility.


That is the meaning of our presence here. As Mr Poletti already pointed out – and I thank him for joining us, of course along with all the other ministers participating in the ministerial session – this conference is being held within the context of Italy's six-month presidency of the European Union. For the city of Turin, these six months are very intense, with many events, of which this conference is one of the main. At the beginning of September, in this very room, we hosted a meeting of the Bureau of the EU's Committee of the Regions. A few weeks ago the 28 culture ministers of the EU member States came together here in Turin. Next week we will be celebrating another important anniversary, the 50th anniversary of the foundation, here in Turin, of the Training Centre of the International Labour Organization, which will be another opportunity to discuss social and employment rights. Immediately after that we will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the European Training Foundation, in the presence of ministers from the EU and the Mediterranean States, which will be another forum for debate on the themes that concern us here today.  Other events will take place up to 31 December, making Italy's six-month EU presidency a key opportunity for our city to open up internationally and for reflection on the many challenges facing our continent.


I wish to thank all of you for your presence here. I hope that you will be able not only to participate in the discussions today and tomorrow, but also to  seize the many cultural opportunities that our city offers and will therefore enjoy your stay in Turin also in terms of leisure. I also hope that you will fall a little in love with this city, that you will return here often and that each time you will receive a warm and friendly welcome. Thank you.