Napolitano, Letta see Milan Expo 2015 as key boost

'World's Fair the heart of Italian recovery'

Napolitano, Letta see Milan Expo 2015 as key boost

(By Christopher Livesay) Milan, July 8 - Both the Italian president and premier are making it clear they believe the 2015 Milan Expo could help kick-start the recession-hit economy back into the black. "This is an extraordinary opportunity for new development in Italy, across north and south, and to overcome the crisis we're going through and that's making things difficult for the economy and society," said President Giorgio Napolitano. Speaking at the Royal Villa of Monza to mark the launch of pre-Expo events, Napolitano was joined this weekend by Premier Enrico Letta, who seconded the head of State's sentiment. "We're tying the Expo to the goal of relaunching our country's economy, and this means everyone needs to commit," said the premier. "The Expo will be the heart of the recovery, and it will succeed as a symbol of national unity. "For this I guarantee the total commitment of the government. "Italy must emerge from under the pall of underestimating itself and self-deprecation, and the Expo will be the right occasion". Expo 2015, which runs May 1 until October 31 that year, is expected to attract over 20 million visitors and to be a massive money spinner for Italy's business capital. Preparations on a 1.1-million-square-meter site have been underway for years. Italy last hosted a World's Fair in 1992 with a Christopher Columbus-themed Expo in Genoa. Expo 2015 is already close to hitting its target of having 130 countries sign up by the end of the year after the Comoros Islands became the 129th last month. Of those, 57 have already signed participation contracts for the Milan fair. The theme of the Expo 2015, 'Feeding the Planet - Energy for Life', centers on fighting famine and malnutrition worldwide through sustainable and healthy development, global cooperation and new technology. Former American vice-president and Nobel Peace Laureate Al Gore has endorsed the event, calling the theme "very solid" and designed to have "zero (negative) environmental impact". A new study Friday suggested Italy was an appropriate location for the food-based theme. According to a report by Coldiretti, the Italian farmers association, Italy leads the world in terms of food purity, with only 0.3% "of the country's agricultural products over the legal limit for chemical residue". The percentage was five times lower than the European average, and 26 times lower than the non-European average, according to the study. Coldiretti used data provided by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to compose the report for Milan Expo 2015, the next World's Fair, which is devoted to healthy, sustainable eating. "There is an extraordinary Italy that we experience everyday and the world envies us for: it's the Italy of good food, a variety of agriculture...biodiversity and sustainability," said Coldiretti President Sergio Marini. "This is the Italy we need to show the world at Expo 2015".

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