06/28/2017 16:50 EDT | Updated 06/28/2017 16:51 EDT

Italy's President: Europe Learning From Canada On How To Deal With Trump

Sergio Mattarella described the U.S. administration as a "novelty."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with Sergio Mattarella, Italy's president, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 28, 2017.
David Kawai/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with Sergio Mattarella, Italy's president, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 28, 2017.

OTTAWA — Italy's visiting president says Europe is learning much from Canada on how to engage with the "novelty" that is the Donald Trump administration.

President Sergio Mattarella says Canada's example of trying to find common ground with Trump can pave the way for good relations between Europe and the U.S. despite differences on refugees, climate change and free trade.

"Of course, this is a moment in time in which we are rethinking, perhaps, the way we relate to each other, the way in which we interpret each other. And that's why the way in which Canada relates to this novelty is interesting," Mattarella said in an interview Wednesday following a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Parliament Hill.

"I think that Canada's example can allow us to have good relations."

Speaking through a translator, Mattarella said the strength of the American people and their institutions will ensure their country continues to be a strong ally of Europe.

However, Mattarella said Europe will be watching the internal political debates within the U.S. and how Canada navigates its relations with a neighbour with which it shares an "intense" bond based on history and geography.

"The new U.S. administration will have to be tested over time. We'll have to look at the facts," he said.

"There is a significant debate happening within the U.S. on some of the current policies, and we will be respectfully waiting for the final decisions which will be made."

I think that Canada's example can allow us to have good relations.

Mattarella said Canada and Italy share "full convergence" on both the policy and the underlying values of climate change, the global refugee crisis and the importance of free trade — the three areas where Trump diverges from most of America's traditional allies.

He credited Trudeau for helping lend Italy "positive and effective support" during last month's fractious G7 summit in Sicily where Trump's opposition to climate change laid bare a significant transatlantic rift. He said Italy will return the favour when Canada hosts the G7 next year.

"We know we have to be open and inclusive. This goes for migration," Mattarella said.

"Of course, it has to be governed rationally, seriously. It also applies to trade because opening trade borders ? also fosters co-operation and it strengthens peace and stability."

Mattarella said he and Trudeau did not discuss Trump's pursuit of a travel ban on visitors from six majority-Muslim countries, which the U.S. Supreme Court partially reinstated this week before it hears full argument on its merits later in the fall.

Migration cannot be ignored: Mattarella

But he said Canada and Italy share a mutual understanding of the human tragedy at the heart of the crisis.

"This is yet another point which bonds Canada to Italy, namely the ability to understand that migration as a phenomenon cannot be ignored. It cannot be erased by saying, 'You cannot come in."

Italy is on the front line of the international refugee crisis with boatloads of fleeing people crashing its shores, often from nearby Libya, after perilous, sometimes tragic crossings of the Mediterranean Sea.

Mattarella is on a week-long trip to Canada that takes him to Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

He was feted at a state dinner Tuesday at Rideau Hall by Governor General David Johnston, at which the two heads of state celebrated their countries' shared values of inclusion and diversity.

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