Tilak Marapana meets members of the Sri Lankan community in Italy
Minister of Foreign Affairs Tilak Marapana holds bilateral discussions with Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Manlio Di Stefano
Staff of the Embassy of Sri Lanka greet Minister of Foreign Affairs Tilak Marapana
Minister of Foreign Affairs Tilak Marapana visited Italy from 1-3 March, and held bilateral discussions on 1 March at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Italian Republic, Manlio Di Stefano.
During discussions Minister Marapana thanked the Italian government for the cooperation and assistance rendered to Sri Lanka. He reiterated that the two countries have maintained excellent relations over the years and that it is time to build and strengthen this relationship.
The Foreign Minister stated that Sri Lankan expatriate workers in Italy are required to make a pension contribution amounting to around 9% of their salary and that they qualify for a pension after working for 20 years.
The Minister observed that they collect this contribution together with the employer’s contribution only upon their reaching 68 years of age. He stressed that in such circumstances many of the workers do not get to enjoy this benefit as most of them work only for about four-five years in the country.
Minister Marapana requested the Italian authorities to consider adjusting this scheme so that a person would receive his contribution immediately upon relinquishing his employment in Italy, irrespective of the number of years worked and without having to wait until he has reached 68 years. He requested the Italian authorities to consider exempting expatriate workers from contributing to this pension scheme, if there were no legal constraints.
The Minister also brought to the attention of the Italian authorities the difficulties faced by Sri Lankans to submit their visa applications through the outsourced processing agency to obtain visas to enter Italy as tourists or to visit relatives. The Italian Undersecretary agreed to ease the difficulties encountered by Sri Lankan visa applicants.
Minister Marapana further requested that the Italian government consider providing employment to Sri Lankan skilled workers, especially the IT professionals, nurses, and healthcare supporters as Sri Lanka provides special certifications and training in these areas for the workers aimed at foreign employment.
The Minister highlighted and appreciated the support extended by Italy as a member of the European Union towards the lifting of the ban on fisheries exports of Sri Lanka to the EU in 2016 and restoration of GSP plus facility to Sri Lanka in May 2017.
During discussions, both sides emphasised the excellent people-to-people relations that have grown stronger over the years. Minister Marapana stated that the Sri Lankan community in Italy continues to play an important role in further strengthening bilateral ties. He also stressed the fact that Italy in turn plays an important role within the Sri Lankan Catholic community who have brought back with them to Sri Lanka a part of Italian culture.
In the area of trade and economic cooperation under Secretary Di Stefano stressed that the Italian business community is willing and open towards reaching new markets and in the case of Sri Lanka it is very necessary to build and project the market trust in order that the Italian business sector may establish businesses in Sri Lanka. The Foreign Minister requested the Italian side to encourage the small and medium enterprises to set up operations in Sri Lanka for the sectors identified, such as textile and apparel, leather footwear, confectioneries, gem and jewellery and food processing.
The Foreign Minister later met members of the Sri Lankan community in Italy at a community meeting and discussed a range of issues pertaining to their social and economic aspects of the community members. The Sri Lankan community in Italy presently comprises around 120,000 residing in different parts of the country.