The decoration – according to a note from the Presidency of the Republic, which VerAngola had access to – took place on Wednesday night. "On Wednesday night, the first of two days of President João Lourenço's visit to Italy, the Angolan head of state was decorated with the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, the highest order that the Italian authorities grant to recognize relevant services provided, ranging from politics to economics, arts and social activities", reads the note.
According to the statement, João Lourenço received the order "from the hands of his Italian counterpart, Sergio Mattarell".
João Lourenço also reciprocated the gesture, having distinguished "president Sergio Mattarella and first lady Laura Mattarella with the highest distinction that he attributes to foreign entities, the Agostinho Neto Order", the note also mentions.
The distinctions took place during a dinner offered to the President of the Republic and his delegation at the Quirinale Palace.
João Lourenço, while speaking at the dinner, took the opportunity to thank the award of the order: "From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for the award of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, which I receive in representation of all the Angolan people, in fact the great deserving of this distinction, for his contribution to the cause of liberation of peoples, peace and harmony among nations", he said.
As for the granting of the Agostinho Neto Order to the Italian president and first lady, the head of state said that they did so "as a gesture of recognition for the support that the Italian people" gave to the national liberation struggle that led to independence.
"By awarding the Order of Agostinho Neto to your excellence and to the most excellent First Lady the highest decoration attributed to foreign entities, we did it as a gesture of recognition for the support that the Italian people, through civil society organizations, provided to the fight for national liberation that led us to National Independence", he said.
The President also highlighted "the fact that Italy was the first European country to recognize, in February 1976, Angola as a sovereign State, and knew how to maintain relations of friendship and economic cooperation with Angola in the difficult years of the armed conflict until to the present date".
In his speech, he also said that they traveled to Italy with "the purpose of deepening the ties of friendship and cooperation that already exist between" the two countries, as well as "reaffirming the desire to see more and more Italian private investment in Angola and Angolan in Italy".
Thus, he stated that the "business environment in Angola is very favorable to foreign private investment in all areas of the economy that are of interest to investors".
"In the meetings I held today [Wednesday], I was able to see encouraging perspectives for the near future of our relations", pointed out João Lourenço, who added: "I reinforce, therefore, the hope that my visit to Italy represents an important milestone in building a strong partnership with reciprocal benefits".