THE interview took place at the ambassador’s embassy office on the 40th floor of CRC Tower on Wireless Road, with an amazing view of Bangkok and the greens of Lumpini Park. Mr Galanti began by saying: “The outset of my mission last year was auspiciously marked by the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Italy and Thailand.
“My ambition is to turn the longtime friendship between our two countries into a long-lasting and strong partnership. Italy looks at further developing business relations with Thailand and I think there are many opportunities that we haven’t entirely developed yet. This is especially true of the infrastructure projects that are receiving a strong push from the Thai government. We look forward to increased participation from Italian companies in these projects, and in other areas as well.
“We are also looking to stimulate investment in both directions, on the basis of some success stories. For example, Central Group has purchased the historic La Rinascente department store chain in Italy, and Italian companies have invested in Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor.”
“I was brought up in Florence, Italy, although I was born in Germany. My mother is from Germany and my father is from Veneto in Italy. At the time of my birth, they were living in Stuttgart. My father was an engineer. When I was one year old, the family moved to Florence, where I received my primary education and attended university.
I studied political science and after graduating from university, I applied with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) to enter the diplomatic service. This was in 1993. Surprisingly, I was successful, so I moved to Rome with my girlfriend, who was later to become my wife, and started working at the MFA the same year.”
Mr Galanti credited a prominent Italian professor, who unfortunately passed away recently, with helping to ignite his interest in international relations. He was particularly interested in relations between Italy and Germany at the outbreak of the Second World War, and wrote his thesis on the subject. After graduation, it seemed only natural to pursue a career in diplomacy and international relations.
“I joined the foreign ministry and then I was drafted in the Italian Air Force, since military service was compulsory at that time in Italy. One year later I returned to the Foreign Ministry, working in the press office. In 1997 I was posted in Damascus, Syria, and worked there for four years. As first secretary at the embassy, I was in charge of consular affairs, trade and development cooperation. Syria was a much more peaceful place then. I witnessed the passing away of Hafez al-Assad and the very swift coming to power of his son Bashar al-Assad. It was a very interesting time.
“Next I was posted to Dakar in Senegal, where I was the deputy of mission. The embassy was the hub for our diplomatic relations with seven counties: Senegal, Capo Verde, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Mali and Mauritania. I used to travel quite a lot throughout the West African region from 2001 to 2005.
“After leaving Senegal I returned to the ministry in Rome, where I was assigned to Human Resources for a while, and later became chief of staff to our secretary general, who would be the equivalent of the permanent secretary in other systems. It was a very compelling time for me.
“Next was a posting at the Italian Embassy in Washington DC. We lived in Maryland. I was in charge of economic relations, trade, investment, finance and also science and technology. Everything from relations with NASA to sanctions on Iran was under my responsibility. This was 2010 to 2014, during President Obama’s tenure. It was another very exciting time for me professionally. Washington is an amazingly interesting place to work and I enjoyed it a lot. Surprisingly, many taxi drivers there are from Ethiopia or Eritrea, and most of them speak some Italian because they spent some time in Italy before going to the States.
“In my position I interacted with the scientific, business and other communities throughout the US in interesting ways. Throughout my career I have placed emphasis on dealing with the business sector to support trade and investment and to promote Italian technology, taste and lifestyle.”
“After serving in Washington, I returned to Rome and served as chief of staff to a former Deputy Foreign Minister, who was also in charge of relations with Asian countries.
The first time I came to Thailand was to accompany him at the 21st ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting that took place inBangkok in October 2016. When we arrived in Bangkok on the morning of October 13, the Italian Ambassador, my predecessor, met us at the airport with some very bad news: His Majesty King Rama IX had passed away that very day. We could feel the emotion all around.
“We were uncertain whether the program would hold up and the meetings would take place. Eventually it was confirmed that the meetings would go ahead and they went quite smoothly all things considered, but we could really sense and share a feeling of intense grief, especially from the Thai people around us.
“When the Italian Council of Ministers announced my appointment as ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand, Cambodia and Laos on January 2018, it was my first ambassadorial assignment. I had the privilege to meet with Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai during his visit to Rome in March 2018. We were introduced by my Foreign Minister at that time, Angelino Alfano who had been in Thailand the previous month and was the first EU minister to visit Thailand after the change of the EU policy towards Thailand.
“I arrived in Thailand six months later, in July 2018. In meantime I met in Rome with Sudhitham Chirathivat, Senior Advisor of the Board of Central Group. As I mentioned, Central has acquired the Italian department store La Rinascente, which is an important investment. We share a passion for Italy.”
Mr Galanti said being accredited in three countries is a challenge, but one he feels competent to take on. “We work on all three countries. Thailand is obviously the country we enjoy the broadest relationship with, but I am doing my utmost to also further develop relations with Cambodia and with Laos. Also in the regional perspective, Italy is keen to develop stronger relations with ASEAN as a group, and it is critical to entertain friendly and fruitful relations with the entire membership. I plan travel to both
Cambodia and Laos at least two or three times a year.
“Last year we celebrated the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Italy and Thailand. The Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation was sign on October 18, 1868. To highlight and celebrate this historic anniversary we organized a programme of cultural initiatives and events here, in the framework of the Italian Festival in Thailand, with the support of Italian and Thai sponsors.
The Italian Festival reached its 14th edition this year. “The Italian Embassy has a staff of 30, including expats and local staff,” said Mr Galanti. “There is also an office of the Italian Trade Agency located in different premises. This agency, which promotes business-to-business relations, is staffed by one director from Italy and five local employees.
“Most of my staff at the embassy works on consular matters, providing Italians in Thailand with passports and other kinds of consular services.
“We have two honorary consuls, one in Phuket and one in Chiang Mai. The consul general in Phuket, an Italian national, is in charge of the southern part of the country, which sees the most Italian tourists and also residents.
The honorary consul in Chiang Mai is a Thai national, in charge of the northern part of Thailand. Both are kept very busy; I can tell you that.”
“Regarding bilateral trade, we buy from Thailand mostly electronic materials, and what we sell is mainly industrial machinery and, of course, also the traditional 3Fs: food, fashion and furniture.
“Italian luxury cars like Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini are very popular in Thailand among those that can afford them. There is a new Lamborghini dealership on Rama 9 Road in Bangkok and they are very active. I was invited for the grand opening of their new showroom in January. It was a great party.
“The showroom is not far away from a Ducati dealership, another Italian brand with dealers in Bangkok and in other provinces. Ducati will again participate in the annual MotorGP to be held at Buriram International Circuit on October 6, 2019. I also attended the grand opening of theMaserati showroom at IconSiam in December 2018, and the presentation of the new Maserati Quattroporte car held at Park Hyatt Hotel in March this year.”
Mr Galanti said Italy is looking forward to the resumption of trade agreement negotiations between Thailand and the European Union, which is expected to happen once a new, democratically-elected government is in place here. “We look forward to a trade agreement because we believe it will be mutually beneficial for all concerned – the EU, Thailand, and eventually the entire ASEAN group.
“About 265,000 Italian tourists visit Thailand every year and the number is increasing. We estimate there are as many as 10,000 Italian residents here, although only about 6,000 are registered with the embassy. A growing number of Italians are moving here after retirement.
“The embassy issues around 37,000 Schengen visas per year to Thai nationals. Most visitors are tourists, but several travel for business. It’s of course likely that many more Thais visit Italy with visas issued by the embassies of France or Germany or any other Schengen country.
“In addition to our consular and other duties, the embassy manages a large cultural program. We hold an Italian film festival, and I want to emphasize that this is an opportunity for the film communities in both countries to meet and form artistic relationships – directors, producers and actors. Culture is a foundation for stronger bilateral relations. Ultimately, building a partnership between our two countries is about supporting people-to-people relations, about bringing people with similar interests together. That’s the texture of it all, and that’s what the embassy is supposed to provide a platform for.
“This month marks 500 years since the death of the brilliant scientist and painter Leonardo da Vinci. To celebrate this unrivalled artist, scientist, engineer and genius of the Italian renaissance, we will hold a number of events herein Bangkok this year, including digital exhibitions, seminars and conferences, in collaboration with our partners in Thailand.
It is a very exciting theme. Leonardo is so many things at once: for example, he is among the first who related science and technology. Before him, they were two separate worlds.
“The Italian government also supports archeological excavations in the Lopburi basin that have been ongoing for 30 years. We have had exhibitions featuring the findings of the archeologists, which cover a longstretch of time from the second millennium before Christ through the first millennium after Christ.
“There are many examples of Italians who are making a positive contribution in Thailand.
In sports, one Italian we are very proud of is the trainer of the Thai women’s national water pole team, Daniele Ferri – they always win the ASEAN competition.
“Italian food has long been a favorite for Thai people. Italy’s great chefs are truly ambassadors for the country. Michelin starred chefs often come here to practice their art and host culinary events, and there are some excellent Italian restaurants in Bangkok, Phuket and other cities. In recognition of this,” said Mr Galanti, holding up a book titled: A guidebook to Italian cuisine in Thailand, “the Italian-Thai Chamber of Commerce has published this book. The restaurants named in the book have passed the test on an authentic Italian cuisine, and there is some interesting information on the restaurants as well.”
“I do some yoga exercise first thing every morning for about 30 minutes, which is very important to me. Then I walk on a treadmill for about 12 minutes. This is how I start the day. In my free time I like listening to music and I like reading a lot. You could say I am a ‘book eater’. Many friends suggested I should start playing golf and I can see the value of it and how it might be pleasurable, but I still haven’t decided to undertake that commitment.
“I like travelling and I have already visited several places in Thailand outside of Bangkok with my family. The first place I went to was Ayutthaya, and on the way I visited the beautiful Royal Palace at Bang Pa-In. I have been to Chiang Rai and recently visited Krabi, Phuket and Ko Kut, an island close to Cambodia.
“I speak English, German, French and, of course, Italian. When I was in Syria I tried to learn Arabic, but I have just a small vocabulary. I can read some Arabic. I nurture the ambition to learn some Thai. It is important to know the language if you want to understand the culture because the language reflects the mindset of the people. So I think it is important and I intend to invest some time in doing so. Of course there are different levels of Thai language, including Royal Thai. My ambition for now is just to be able to have a simple conversation.
“My wife Francesca and I enjoy living in Bangkok. The diplomatic community here is very lively, friendly and welcoming. Everyone has been very friendly to us. There are many events hosted by the diplomatic community in Bangkok and we enjoy going to them. There are also many initiatives involving the Italian community, especially through the Italian-Thai Chamber of Commerce, and I am pleased to attend many of their events.”
• Born in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1968; graduated in political sciences in Florence in 1992.
• Started diplomatic career in 1993 at the Department of Cultural Affairs; complied with national military service in Air Force in 1994; once back at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1995 took up post in the Press and Institutional Communication Service.
• 1997 to 2001, served as First Secretary at the Italian Embassy in Damascus, dealing mainly with commercial, development cooperation and consular sectors.
• 2001, moved to the Embassy in Dakar, with competence for
Senegal, Capo Verde, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry,
Mali and Mauritania, acting as Counsellor and Deputy Head of
Mission until 2005.
• Returned to Rome in 2005, assigned to the Directorate General for Human Resources, Budget and Innovation until 2007, when appointed as Head of the Office of the Secretary General.
• 2010, moved to Washington, DC, taking position of First Counsellor responsible for economic, commercial and scientific affairs.
• Returned to the Ministry in 2014, appointed as Head of the Office of the Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Senator Benedetto Della Vedova, and in this role frequently visited Asia, particularly Southeast Asia.
• Promoted Minister Plenipotentiary in 2016; in 2018 he was appointed as Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand, accredited also in the Kingdom of Cambodia and Lao P.D.R. He is also Italy’s Permanent Observer to UNESCAP.
• Ambassador Galanti is married and has three children. Two daughters live in Italy and one son lives in Bangkok.