SALA: “THIS IS THE MILAN THAT THE POPE WILL FIND”

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How is Milan preparing to welcome the visit of Pope Francis? Which city will the Pontiff meet? The Mayor Giuseppe Sala explains it in this interview.

“Today Milan is a city that has not renounced to be competitive and to promote the economy but, with the same intensity, it is also a Milan capable of solidarity. I hope that the Pope will see it with his own eyes and I also hope to have the opportunity to show him why Milan has made big steps forward in terms of solidarity”.

Milan is the economic engine of Italy. But it is a city that seems to be moving at two speeds. Do you agree?
“This, yes. Objectively Milan has made great progress from the point of view of the economy. Let’s think about tourism: currently putting together visitors for business and tourism, Milan has even surpassed Rome, and this seems to be incredible. However, there is the theme of the suburbs; speaking of suburbs is a simplification, but there is an issue which is that of neighbourhoods that live a still significant discomfort. Now, my council has launched a radical plan of intervention. In particular, on the suburbs we provided for large investments: certainly, for the restoration of the houses – to reside is one important thing – but also for places of aggregation, for socializing… If you do not solve this great issue, all the primates of Milan will remain something that will leave bitter taste in the mouth.”

What are the major problems to rehabilitate the periphery of Milan?
“First of all we must start from the houses. We have 30 thousand apartments owned by the Municipality. And very often, from the electrical system, to lifts, they have been neglected. So, we must start again from the decorum of the houses. Then there are the neighbourhoods in which we must take public transportation systems in order to bring them closer to the centre. And then there is the theme of the gathering places. Especially the elderly must have places where they can meet. Finally, security, and this is not a matter either of the right or the left. Dealing with security means, in fact, think about the people who have less. Considering all these things together, if we deal with a single issue is nothing. We must take care of all of them”.

Milan is a land of immigration. A few years ago, immigrants used to pass by to go to the north of Europe, today they stay in the city…
“Milano has a quantity of immigrants around 19 per cent, the double of the Italian average. They are, to be honest, even engine of development for the city. Some communities are highly integrated. Now we are facing a different wave moved by the absolute need, of those fleeing from war or hunger. Up to about a year ago, only a 10% of the migrants who came to Milan would remained because then they would go towards the north – Switzerland, Germany – or towards the west in France. Today it is more difficult because the 70 per cent of them asks to receive refugee status. The problem has become important because first of all there is a problem of immediate reception, then we have to take care of children, we must teach them, give them a life that creates spaces of opportunities. I would add but one thing: if we do not find formulas to put these migrants in conditions of work, it will be fighting a losing battle. Because Milan always offers a helping hand, but at the end it is necessary to find solutions in order for integration to pass through jobs”.

Is it possible to attract multinational companies and to be in solidarity with the people?
“It is clear that Milan today is in a positive, fruitful moment. It is strong because of its individual components are strong. The university system, with more than 200 thousand students, including the 7,8 per cent that comes from abroad; the sectors of industry, creativity, fashion, design, technology… But, together with all this, statistics tell us that one Milanese on ten is volunteering and this is an incredible quality. Now, we believe that the strength of the city comes from the ability to integrate these worlds and from the ability to put in place policies which unite the public to the private sectors”.

You personally, what do you expect from the visit of the Pope?
“I expect that this attention to the last ones – not only the last, because then the cities are made of last, penultimate, third last ones, there is a large scale of needs – would be identified in what the Milanese society is. I expect that the Holy Father then leave Milan with the awareness that – and it is precisely the synthesis of everything – it is possible to be, indeed it is necessary to be competitive, as Milan but with a great level of solidarity: that this mix can work and that Milan can be an example for other cities”.

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