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H.E. Giuseppe Manzo, Ambassador of Italy to Serbia

ITALY: Stronger International Cooperation Needed

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On the whole, 2015 has not been an easy year for the world. Against a global backdrop where signs of economic recovery are still too weak, the recent surge of brutal terrorism, and the tragedy of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants crossing continents reminds us of the need for even stronger international cooperation to tackle these challenges

On the other hand, 2015 has been an exceptional year for Italy in Serbia. One might think it would be difficult to expect further improvements, but I am sure we’ll do even better – as we did in 2015, after an excellent 2014.

The meeting one year ago between prime ministers Renzi and Vučić launched an unprecedented period that included visits to Belgrade by President of the Republic, Mattarella, President of the Senate, Grasso, and Foreign Minister Gentiloni. Figures confirm this and rank Italy and its companies as number one in trade and investments in Serbia.

Good news for your country, and for us, is that Serbia is increasingly showing both the will and the capability to be part of the solution, as opposed to being part of the problem, as it was in the past. The OSCE chairmanship, a strong commitment to regional cooperation, internal economic reforms and the country’s stance on the refugee crisis – these are all the unequivocal acts of a country that not only wants to become a European Union member but also wants to act like one.

The opening of the first two chapters of EU accession negotiations, which we have advocated in favour of for a long time, is the natural result of all of this. Just as I wish Serbia to advance rapidly on this path, I also wish for Europe to welcome Serbia back into its family soon. I am sure the Serbian people and government will do what’s necessary – in terms of the still much-needed structural reforms – in order to make that happen.

Growth is what I wish for Serbia in 2016. This is a path along which Italy has started progressing steadily over the last two years

But if I had to pick only one thing that matters for Serbia (and Italy), growth is what I wish for Serbia in 2016. This is a path along which Italy has started progressing steadily over the last two years. I know this is a goal your leadership is pursuing alongside fiscal consolidation. It will help people perceive the benefits of structural reforms that make your country more attractive to foreign investors. Growth will also help Serbs gain more faith in the entrepreneurial skills they are acquiring by working alongside Italian investors and others.

I also hope for more local businesses to be launched in 2016 in Serbia and for the opportunities coming from what I believe are two of your biggest assets, culture and agriculture, to be seized. Italy is investing heavily in those two areas, through both private investors (Ferrero, Rigoni etc.) and scientific institutions and universities, which this year signed numerous agreements and started many projects in the field of advanced technologies.

I expect that our companies and yours will continue working together more and more, promoting growth in both our countries.