On 11th September we were able to interview Italian Consul General, Dr. Massimiliano Mazzanti, after kindly being welcomed into his office.
Dr. Mazzanti, how many Italians come to the UK every month and how does our Consulate give them assistance?
In the UK roughly 2000 new Italian citizens arrive every month, but these are only the numbers for those who register with us. More than a half are completely unaware even of the existence of this registration, called “AIRE” (in English: Register of the Italian resident abroad), which is very important.
Today we have about 240,000 Italian citizens who have registered, so we believe that there are actually about 500,000 Italians in the UK now. We know this because many times people who have not registered get into trouble and they need our assistance.
Why is the Consulate so important and how many of them are there in the UK?
Consulates are very important because they provide all the public services that are in Italy, e.g.Council, Police Station, etc.. Italian citizens can request all kinds of documents, which are cheaper than in Italy (sometimes for an Italian is more convenient flying to London to get these documents than requesting them in Italy!). Furthermore, they cover Italian citizens from an assistance point of view, e.g. in case they get into trouble, they feel sick and need special medical care, they die, etc.. There are only two Consulate Generals in the UK, one in London and the other in Edinburgh.
For how long have you been Consul? How did you become it and why?
I have been Consul General here in London for one year, following other placements a Consul in other cities, like Washington. Following my father’s advice, I decided to invest in languages and I went to “Liceo Linguistico” (Language High School). Afterwards I studied Politics. It is from there that I started thinking about it. To enter the diplomatic career the candidate – after his degree – has to attend a state examination, which last five days. Apart from this, he has to prove he can speak one language apart from English, which is compulsory (at my time French was the compulsory language).
Which suggestions would you give to a young man or girl who dreams of starting a diplomatic career?
Study hard, especially languages, which are vitally important for this field.
Considering your experience, what are the stereotypes between Italy and the UK?
Fortunately not so many, as far as I am concerned. Today we are much more integrated and appreciated than after the war. Italian people are considered fascinating and our products, food in particular, are considered excellent.
What does the consulate do to improve and promote Italian language and culture abroad?
I sadly have to say that we have a lack of resources. France is the country that spends most in culture, whereas Italy spends very little. Probably because it has 60% of UNESCO’s heritage sights and politicians think that this is enough and they do not consider to spend anymore for other cultural stuff.
What are the main problems or things that you don’t like about the diplomatic field?
Probably the fact that Italian people often have a bad idea of the Consulate, as if it were a political institution. But as a matter of fact it is not: we pay taxes just like any other citizen and we try do our job in the best we can. E.g. “Primo Approdo” project , an idea created by the Ambassador. It consists of meetings joined by Italians who have come to the UK for the first time and need advice on how to start to work and live here. We enroll experts of any field for free, in order to carry on this project.
Are there Italians who want to lose their citizenship in order to obtain the English one? Why?
When an Italian comes here, he wants to do a full immersion in the British culture and language, to the point that he wants to forget his Italian origin, to get British citizenship. To do that, they may lose their Italian one. But most of the time he realizes he actually wants to remain Italian citizen. As far as I am concerned, people should be proud of being Italian citizens, as I am proud of being a Roman citizen!