The President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella and the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen are today in Palermo for the inauguration of the new academic year 2022-2023 of the University of Studies. "The day we meet - said von der Leyen in her opening speech - has a special value for Europe. Tomorrow will be a year since Russia began its brutal invasion of Ukraine. Seen from Sicily, it might seem like a distant conflict. But it is not. Young Ukrainians share with you the same desires, which are those of all young Europeans. They want to be independent and masters of their own future. They want to live freely in a democratic country. They want freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of movement," she said.

"It is often in the darkest hour that we find our inner strength. That is what is happening in our Union. The trials of these three years are probably the most difficult ever faced by Europe. First the pandemic and its economic repercussions, then the war and the soaring cost of living. But these crises have taught us something. We have learned that the destinies of us Europeans are intertwined," von der Leyen recalled.

To welcome the Head of State and the President of the EU Commission, the Mayor of Palermo Roberto Lagalla, the Prefect Teresa Maria Cucinotta, the President of the Sicilian Region Renato Schifani, the President of the Sicilian Assembly Gaetano Galvagno and the Rector Massimo Midiri. In the hall present various institutional, civil, military and religious authorities including Archbishop Mons. Corrado Lorefice, the chief prosecutor of Palermo Maurizio De Lucia and the minister of the University Anna Maria Bernini.

"Mr. President Mattarella, thank you for honoring us with your presence. We are always very pleased to remember that you were an illustrious professor of this University and we are proud of it. We know how much you care about the cultural progress of our country. His presence today, in addition to giving solemnity to this ceremony, renews our pride, our will and our commitment to follow his example as guarantor of legality and civil and cultural progress", said the rector of Palermo, Massimo Midiri who also thanked Ursula von der Leyen. "We are grateful to President von der Leyen for her presence today. We perceive his participation as a sign of awareness of our great responsibility and as a sign of willingness to accompany our work and our commitment to be worthy of the lofty task to which we are called".

The European Commission, he added, "has shown an extraordinary capacity for vision of the future, allocating the powerful investments of the Next Generation EU to a sustainable, uniform, inclusive and fair recovery plan. It was not obvious, world leaders have not always been able to show this courage and this vision in the face of the most difficult moments. But this time it was like that and Europe is now facing an extraordinary opportunity. An opportunity that Southern Italy must be able to seize, innovating more than others, building wealth, generating new knowledge to bridge historical gaps on the basis of new sustainable economic models projected towards the future".

Before arriving in Palermo, von der Leyen stopped in Capaci. "I begin my visit of Sicily to Capaci, to honor Giovanni Falcone, Francesca Morvillo and all the victims of the mafia. Falcone said: 'Men pass the ideas remain and walk on the legs of other men'. Today a new generation carries on its ideas", he wrote on Twitter after paying tribute last night, in front of the Capaci stele, to Giovanni Falcone and all the victims of the mafia.

"We are happy and proud of this visit. We really liked the significant stop that the President of the EU Commission, von der Leyen, made at the Capaci stele, in homage to Judge Giovanni Falcone, his wife Francesca Morvillo and the agents of the escort. We hope to be able to intensify relations with Europe in these five years", commented the President of the Sicilian Regional Assembly, Gaetano Galvagno, on the sidelines of the inauguration of the academic year.