In his interview for Euractiv, Italian Ambassador to Serbia, H.E. Luca Gori, speaks about all aspects of Serbian-Italian relations, including Italy boosting its presence and focus in the Western Balkan region.
Commenting about the latter, Ambassador Gori said that “Italy has always looked at Serbia and the Balkans as a strategic region, and together with Belgrade we are addressing some crucial common challenges. Peace and stability in the region, migration flows, growth and economic development, technological innovations: these are the fields where Italy and Serbia are cooperating.”
As for the current security situation in the area, he noted that “The security of the Western Balkans is key. Italy is particularly engaged in Kosovo with Kfor. Given the current tensions it is crucial to work for de-escalation, the EU has proposed a plan. Belgrade and Pristina need to go back to the negotiating table in order to implement the latest agreements reached in Brussels in February and Ohrid in March, starting with the creation of the Association of Serbian Municipalities”.
One of the cooperation segments that have been developing continuously in the last decade or so is certainly the economic collaboration between the two countries where Italy, according to the Ambassador, is “one of Serbia’s largest trade and economic partners. According to 2022 data, about 1.200 Italian companies are currently registered in Serbia, which have created as many as 50.000 jobs in total. In the same year, our bilateral trade reached a record of 4.6 billion euro (+10.5% compared to 2021), with 2.58 billion euros worth of Italian exports (6,6% of Serbia’s total import) and about 2 billion euros worth of Italy’s imports (8,4% of Serbia’s total export). Italy is currently Serbia’s third commercial partner, as confirmed also in the first quarter of 2023 when we reached 1.45 billion euros worth of bilateral trade. Italian companies contribute to over 5% of Serbia’s GDP.”
Commenting on the recent Italian-Serbian Business and Science Forum, the Ambassador said that it “is the expression of our vision to develop an organic strategy and place economic cooperation at the centre of the Italian presence in Serbia and in the Western Balkans. On that occasion, we brought to Belgrade 150 Italian companies. We organized 450 B2B meetings and signed 13 agreements. Our goal is to renew our economic presence in Serbia by focusing on the opportunities offered by some strategic sectors with a more important technological component: green and energy transition, sustainable agriculture and agri-tech, infrastructure and scientific cooperation.”
He added that several Italian business/trade organizations, like Credit Export Agencies, Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, SACE and SIMEST, will provide financing instruments to support the internationalization of Italian companies here.
As for Serbia’s effort to join the EU, Ambassador Gori once again expressed Italy’s support and said that he praised Belgrade’s effort to carry out important reforms, starting from those in the field of justice recently implemented”. He went on to say that “a lot remains to be done – further work and political commitment are needed to continue and deepen reforms, especially in the key areas of the media freedom and fight against corruption and organized crime. We encourage the government to continue its efforts, in line with the priorities identified by the European Commission’s Report on Serbia. We are fully aware of the frustration existing in Serbia concerning the enlargement process that has become very complex. We need new ideas. The rapid integration of the Western Balkans in the single market could become a new driver of change as the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, noted recently.”
Lastly, the Ambassador talked about his life in Serbia and his impression of this country, noting that he was “bewitched” by Belgrade and its extraordinary dynamics. He also said that he is especially pleased with the reaction of local people when he tells them that he is the Italian Ambassador which just proves that Serbs still carry a great love for Italy and everything Italian.
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