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Minister Di Maio's message on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the Marcinelle mining tragedy



Minister Di Maio's message on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the Marcinelle mining tragedy




(August 8, 2021)

Dear Compatriots,

this year marks the 65th anniversary of the Marcinelle mining tragedy, in which 262 miners lost their lives on August 8, 1956, 136 of whom were Italian citizens. For twenty years, since 2001, Italy has chosen the date of August 8 to symbolically remember all Italian workers who died in the exercise of their profession, on the occasion of the "Day of the Sacrifice of Italian Labor in the World". The year 2021 also marks the 75th anniversary of the "men against coal" agreement, signed in 1946 between the then fledgling Italian Republic and the Belgian State. As recalled, with great impact, by the very name with which this agreement went down in history, it was an agreement under which Belgium undertook to give Italy coal in exchange for Italian manpower to be employed in Belgian mines, thus guaranteeing the necessary workforce. The same workforce that was the victim of the tragedy we are commemorating today.

The sacrifice of Marcinelle remains strongly imprinted in the collective memory of the Italian and Belgian peoples, and also of Europe as a whole, considering the different nationalities of the victims of the mining accident.

It is precisely to the Belgian people that I would like to extend my sympathy for the natural catastrophe of the flood of recent days, which caused 36 victims. A different tragedy, but still an unexpected disaster, to which Italy, together with other European countries, has responded through the Civil Protection, and that leads us to reflect on the consequences of our behavior on the environment, the great bet of the future, as well as the search for work.

The great challenge of the future, just as the search for work was the challenge of the Italian people after the Second World War.

The memory of Marcinelle is so heartfelt and topical because it represents the emblem of the social conquests of Italian workers, as well as of those in Europe and throughout the world. The promotion of a fair, protected and sustainable work must be today more than ever at the center of our response to the serious economic and social consequences determined by the VOCID-19 pandemic, a response that is provided by the various National Recovery Plans adopted on the basis of European funds, thanks to the joint effort of the 27 Member States that have decided to face the global emergency together.

Italy, a founding member of both the EU and the International Labour Organization, intends to continue to promote in the European and international fora to which it belongs the safety and health of workers, and under the banner of these objectives wishes to win the double challenge of the ecological and digital revolution of work, at the heart of the projects of the "NextGenerationEU" and our National Recovery and Resilience Plan.

The sacrifice of those who, in Italy and abroad, in Marcinelle or elsewhere in the world, have lost their lives in the pursuit of their professions or engaged in voluntary work and support, in every historical period, and therefore also and more strongly today that we are grappling with the effects of a devastating pandemic, will not have been in vain if, in this phase of recovery, we are able to transform our economies and create opportunities and jobs for an Italy and a Europe of which we want to feel truly involved and proud citizens.

The value of work has always been exalted by all Italians who have emigrated and continue to emigrate in search of new and better opportunities: for this reason, this very high constitutional value deserves to be celebrated every day by Italian and European institutions, through the guarantee of the right safeguards and recognition for everyone, both at an economic, social and personal level.

This is the ultimate meaning of true development: to be able to have a vision of the future that takes into account the events of the past and interprets them by promoting equity, justice and solidarity.

On this special day dedicated to those who have sacrificed themselves at work, even to the extreme cost of their lives, I would like to send my most sincere greetings to all the relatives of the victims of Marcinelle, to the relatives of all the Italian victims who have fallen at work, to the loved ones of all those who have brought honor to the image of Italy in the world with their commitment and sacrifice, and continue to do so every day: to all of them I address my deep respect, my gratitude and a genuine sense of sharing and closeness.