Stefano Sannino, Italian ambassador in Madrid, after graduating in 1983, covered varied and important roles, both in Italy and in the European Commission.



At the first question about what had been the path to get his position he laughed answering: “Well, two main things: luck and hard work”.

He started his career with a diplomatic formation course and immediately he became secretary of the Minister of Foreign Affairs; “Renato Ruggero, (Italian politician and diplomat), played a fundamental role in my career: he helped me to meet important and relevant people who taught me the basis of diplomacy and Renato in particular transmitted to me a strong Europeanist feeling which convinced myself of the importance of trying an International career, living it with passion and commitment.” That’s the main reason why his training and experience were “atypical” as he recognized: “I spent only little time in Italy because the whole of my work was abroad, in Brussels or in the Balkans”.


Getting more inside the interview, I asked him what his daily activity consists of:” This is a bilateral embassy, the other headquarter is in Barcelona so that the work is shared”. He realized during this year of activity that Madrid is like a “melting pot, so that I have the daily part of ordinary work, for instance the defense of the economic, political and socio-cultural interests of the Italians, and a more innovative and operative part in which I am constantly looking for new ideas to make his activity smarter and more intriguing”.

The embassy addresses its work as well to the Spanish society and that’s the reason why he wants to “create strong connections and friendly bonds between Italy and Spain”.

“I take care of two main sharing currents: business to business, which means linking the Italian business activities with the Spanish ones trying to make possible that each of them can enrich thanks to the other, and people to people, namely melting both cultures and trying to appreciate the extraordinariness of each one”.

He revealed the most important issue he takes care of is the defense of the fundamental human rights and in particular the ones of the LGBT community: “here in Spain people are definitely more open-minded that Italians and the protection of the LGBT rights has been my goal since I settled here”.

Talking about relations and differences between Italy and Spain, he said: “I can recognize two main level of interaction. One is about the civil society, regarding the economic, cultural and entrepreneurial part where I find a strong penetration of ideals and common values: people know and understand each other. The other one is the political level and the sharing is more difficult due to different political traditions; I would say that the strength of social relations doesn’t reflect in the political ones”.


The top question was about to know if he has never had to solve any special diplomatic case or crisis in his career and he started his long memory about the amazing diplomatic mission in the Balkans: “during the 90s the Balkans where the powder keg of Europe. They used to represent a big and uncomfortable problem: Milosevic’s Serbia was the image of threaten and danger for the human rights and this inevitably led to sanctions and isolations not only of Serbia but of all Yugoslavia too”.

“My role was trying to keep contacts with no-governmental organization and the tortured minorities in order to maintain communicative channels open with those parts of the society which finally achieved to win, starting the democratic process.”


His moving words showed me the passion he had for his work and the experience thrilled him so much that he was sent once more to Yugoslavia in 2001 as leader and coordinator of the OSCE mission in Yugoslavia. “I was there trying to help the Kosovo government to restore the democracy in the region by supporting the police, the public television and giving Kosovo a democratic electoral law”.

His was as well a mission of crisis management: “We needed to solve the problem of three Southern Serbian provinces, with an Albanian majority, which wanted to separate themselves from Yugoslavian Serbia and annex to the Albanian Kosovo and we succeeded avoiding the fragmentation and developing an electoral law which evaluated all the ethnical connotations”.

Another project he concluded satisfactorily was the 2003 European Council of Salonica in which he and the other members of the mission were able to open for the first time a European perspective for the Balkans, beginning the process of European integration of the former Yugoslavia.


Summing up, he told me he’s very satisfied with his career: “the key is always interpreting new challenges positively, fitting each situation”.

This interview really amazed me, not only for the attitude he has to his work but also because it’s the career I would like to undertake and his words really convinced me.



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