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Fabiana Urbani, Head Of The Economic And Commercial Office Of The Italian Embassy To Serbia

Untapped Bilateral Potential

Serbia may benefit strongly from leveraging advanced Italian academic resources and the knowledge and expertise of the Italian industry in the fields of Economy 4.0 and digitalisation

Italy pays special attention to the further development of economic and scientific cooperation with Serbia, particularly with regard to new sectors such as IT, digitalisation and artificial intelligence, says Fabiana Urbani, Head of the Economic and Commercial Office of the Italian Embassy in Belgrade.

Indeed, innovation was one of the pillars of the Italy-Serbia Business and Science Forum held on 21st-22nd March and resulting in the signing of different agreements in this field, starting from the one on cooperation in research and innovation.

“We have been encouraging collaboration among Italian and Serbian Institutions (CNR, CREA, BioSense Institute, Institute for Artificial Intelligence, universities), as well as among private companies, in an effort to unveil the untapped potential of bilateral collaboration in Economy 4.0,” says Urbani.

In the context of our bilateral cooperation, how are traditional and new industries, such as the green economy, ICT and digital agriculture, being prioritised and nurtured between Serbia and Italy?

Let me share some figures that few know: Italy is the European Country with the highest recycling rate for total special and urban waste (83.4%), much higher than the European average (53.8%); the world’s largest renewable energy operator is Italian (ENEL); 531,000 Italian companies have invested in green products and technologies over the last five years. We thus boast great knowhow to share with our Serbian counterparts.

New sectors, such as IT, digitalisation and artificial intelligence, are gaining prominence in the further development of economic and scientific cooperation with Serbia

The recent Business and Science Forum provided a striking example of our commitment to enhance bilateral cooperation in these sectors. It was indeed focused on three pillars: sustainable infrastructures, agri-tech and green and energy transition. In that context, we signed, among other agreements, a Memorandum of Understanding on agricultural research and cooperation between CREA (Council for Agricultural Research and Economics) and the BioSense Institute. Italy has been the Partner Country of the International Agricultural Fair in Novi Sad, bringing 21 companies and organising two seminars on applied technologies in agriculture. We will also organise a festival on innovation and start-ups in autumn.

We do believe that these sectors are the trump card for renewing our already excellent cooperation.

To what extent are Italian investments in Serbia influenced by nearshoring processes?

Serbia has always been a privileged market for Italian firms. We already count more 1,200 Italian companies registered in Serbia and many more are interested – in the wake of the success of the Business and Science Forum – in investing in this country.

The recent Business and Science Forum provides a striking example of our commitment to enhance bilateral cooperation in sustainable infrastructure, agri-tech and green and energy transition

The nearshoring process, rapidly accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the current war in Ukraine, is bringing new opportunities for internationalisation. Serbia, with its constantly growing market, is a natural choice for “Made in Italy” positioning. We are confident that the remarkable progress the country is making on its infrastructures, in its bureaucratic procedures and in the overall improvement of the business environment, will make the investment process even easier for our entrepreneurs.

How do SIMEST and SACE support cooperation between our countries, and are these resources sufficiently utilised in collaboration between Serbia and Italy?

As Minister Tajani stated during his visit to Belgrade in March, the Western Balkans – and Serbia in particular – represent a strategic region for the international growth of Italian companies. And the support of Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, SIMEST and SACE is crucial for them to expand further. They signed, respectively, an MoU with the Serbian Ministry of Domestic and Foreign Trade during the Business and Science Forum, thus boosting Italy’s financial and capacity-building support to Italian companies in Serbia.

SIMEST will soon open its first office abroad, right here in Belgrade. SIMEST and SACE will make available a series of financial tools aimed at supporting the internationalisation of Italian companies. In addition, the dialogue between Cassa Depositi e Prestiti and the Serbian Ministry of Finance is progressing in a positive direction. We are certain that these new important tools will substantially help to expand Italian investments in this market.

EXPERTISE

With the highest recycling rate for total special and urban waste in the EU, Italy has great knowhow to share with our Serbian counterparts

INVESTMENTS

We already count more 1,200 Italian companies registered in Serbia and many more are interested in investing in the country

FOCUS

The Western Balkans – and Serbia in particular – represent a strategic region for the international growth of Italian companies