City & State: In 2006, Turin hosted the Winter Olympics. Was it worth it for your city to hold the games?
Piero Fassino: For one century, Torino [Turin in Italian] was an industrial and manufacturing city, a real factory town. In the last 15 years the profile of the city changed. We continue to be an industrial city, but at the same time we are, today, an important center of excellence in research, investigation, innovation [and] technology. We are a great university town. We have two universities of high quality. One hundred thousand students. Thirteen percent foreign. We are a real capital of culture. We invest many, many euros in culture. And today Torino is the city in Italy that has the largest culture to offer. For this reason, in the last year, Torino is also a tourist destination. In this process, the Olympic Games played a strategic role. Because the event solicited the city to renew infrastructure, to build a new infrastructure, reorganize the life of the city and I think open the city.
C&S: I have read that you have been trying to attract partnerships with American universities in Turin. Is that part of why you are in New York City?
PF: We have two universities of high quality. Above all the Polytechnic University of Torino, the university for science and engineering is the best in Europe. The Politecnico has a relation or corporation with 400 universities in the world, many in the United States—for example, M.I.T. in Boston. At the same time Torino has a university of high quality— [The University of Turin, which] has 300 to 400 agreements with universities in the world. We want to improve this cooperation. Exchanges of students. Exchanges of experience. Common projects. Common research. Common initiative. [During] my visit [to] New York, and also [during] a visit I [made] in November, I [met] with representatives of Columbia, NYU, Massachusetts University, M.I.T. and others how it is possible to strengthen the relations between our universities and the universities in the states. I think there are many, many great opportunities. I think it is possible to implement many common projects.
C&S: You have also met with the heads of many of New York’s cultural institutions in seeking out partnerships. What other types of investment are you seeking in America for Turin?
PF: We are interested to try in many sectors. In the last 15 years we transformed 5 million square meters of factory abandoned. And we use this factory to reorganize the university system. To implement a new activity, industrial, service, trade and other—new residences. We have of the 5 million square meters open to transform. Our goal is to try [to get] foreign investors to support in Torino this transformation. At the same time we are very interested to develop or increase our profile in technology, research and innovation. And this is another front in which we want to try and develop capital resources, international resources, international funding to support the development of activity, research, technology and innovation. And finally we are very interested to invest in the university system. We are very interested, for example, to try and get some American university to establish a site in Torino.
C&S: Italy has recently again experienced political upheaval. There was a coup within your own party and Prime Minister Enrico Letta is going to be replaced by Matteo Renzi. What are your feelings about this change? Was reform not taking place as quickly as it should?
PF: In this hour [this interview was conducted on Feb. 21], Mr. Renzi will present to president of the Republic the new cabinet. The formula of the government is the same. Alliance led by the Democratic Party, the main party in Italy, the party of center-left with some allies. I think this government is born with one fundamental essential goal: to introduce a package of reform, institutional reform, economic reform, social reform, because Italy needs a great season of modernization. We need to implement a strategy for growth. Because in this last year, the Italy economy is very, very weak. The growth is low. I think with this government we want to push the society and the country to mobilize any resource, financial, technological, human in a view to obtain the high level of growth, because we want to reduce unemployment, we want to reduce the conditions of our many enterprises, we want to give to our country more and more opportunity of the growth, of the job, of the better condition of life.
C&S: Do you have any concerns that Prime Minister Renzi will be the third prime minister in a row who was not elected by the people?
PF: I think in this moment we need to adopt some new policy, speedily. The hypothesis of a new election [is that] we need the government to implement immediately some important policies. I think it is not useful for our country to delay this choice. Because the people’s claims are urgent today. For this reason I agree on the choice of this new government.
C&S: Since you have become mayor, Juventus has won the Scudetto [the Italian soccer championship] twice. Do you think they will win again this year?
PF: I hope that Juventus can win. As you know, Juventus is one of the great soccer clubs in the world. It is also one of the great images of our city. There are many, many people who know our city because it is the city of Juventus. So if Juventus wins, it is great for our city.