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H.E. Luca Gori, Ambassador of Italy

More Italy in Serbia

Serbia is now among the few non-EU Countries to boast such a strong presence of the ‘Italian System’, underscoring this market’s strategic importance to us. The strengthening of Italy’s institutional presence in Belgrade has been accompanied by the launch of significant financial instruments to support investments by our companies and Serbia’s green and energy transition processes ~ Luca Gori

This year’s celebration of Italy’s national holiday also provides an opportunity to recall that it was precisely 100 years ago that the foundations of the embassy, located at the heart of Belgrade, were laid. Throughout this entire century, this embassy hasn’t only served as a venue for high level talks on politics and the economy, but also as a place to promote Italian culture, fashion, cuisine etc. “Italy, like many countries, embraces globalisation while nurturing its unique cultural heritage and values,” emphasises ambassador Luca Gori in this CorD Magazine interview.

Your Excellency, Italy celebrates its National Day on 2nd June. You have mentioned that this day is very significant because it is linked to the post-WWII renewal of Italy’s national identity. In today’s era of globalisation, where do national and identity issues stand?

— It is on 2nd June that we celebrate the date when Italians chose the Republic. This was a critical moment for our national identity. Over the past 20 years, globalisation has brought increased interconnectedness and cultural exchange, blurring traditional boundaries. However, rather than eroding national identities, globalisation has highlighted the importance of preserving and celebrating different cultures within a global framework. Italy, like many countries, embraces globalisation while nurturing its unique cultural heritage and values. Italy also promotes an inclusive identity that is part of European civilisation. The EU does not obliterate national identities, but rather welcomes and cherishes differences.

This year is marked by the “strengthening of the Italian system in Serbia,” which includes the opening of the office of the Italian financial institution for development cooperation, CDP. The Belgrade office, as mentioned during its opening in February, is the first of its kind to be opened in a non-EU country. Could you outline the CDP’s priorities?

— Following the commitment made during the bilateral Business and Science Forum of March 2023, we opened the representative offices of SIMEST, SACE and CDP in Belgrade. Serbia is thus now one of the few non-EU Countries to boast such a strong presence of the ‘Italian System’, underscoring this market’s strategic importance to us. The strengthening of Italy’s institutional presence in Belgrade has been accompanied by the launch of significant financial instruments to support investments by our companies and Serbia’s green and energy transition processes.

Italian financial institutions also participated in the second edition of the Business Forum held in Trieste last 24th May, which was opened by Italian Vice President Tajani and Serbian Prime Minister Vučević and attended by almost 200 Italian companies and 80 Serbian companies, with a focus on agri-tech, infrastructure and green and energy transitions. On that occasion, CDP – along with SACE and SIMEST – signed substantial new agreements with its Serbian counterparts, confirming our steady and solid commitment to Serbia.

Speaking in a previous interview with CorD Magazine, you stated that “economic relations between Italy and Serbia are not dependent on Serbia’s European Integration status”, but that Serbia’s approximation to the EU common market certainly “boosts the trade exchange”. In this regard, are you concerned about Serbia’s slow progress in its EU accession negotiations?

— The enlargement process is slow and I understand the Serbian people’s frustration. But there is a new scenario around enlargement today. The prioritising of this issue has returned, especially in light of changes in the European geopolitical landscape caused by the war in Ukraine. It is therefore time for a deep acceleration of the process of integrating Serbia and the Western Balkans into the European Union. Serbia must seize the restored momentum, utilising all tools made available by the EU, starting with the Growth Plan.

The inclusion of obligations arising from the agreements reached in Brussels and Ohrid in 2023 in Chapter 35 should be considered as an attempt to give new impulse to the process

Belgrade must take advantage of this new package because it aims to gradually integrate the region into the Single Market and can provide funding of up to six billion euros to the countries of the Western Balkans. Italy is confident that Serbia will be able to fulfil what is required of it by the EU to make substantial progress on its accession process, and we will continue to strongly support the process of integrating Serbia and the Western Balkans into the European Union.

What can be expected in Italy during June’s elections for EU institutions? Which parties will Italians support and will there be significant interest in participating in these elections?

— The European elections are among the largest democratic exercises in the world, involving over 370 million citizens across 27 member states. First and foremost, it is important that all EU citizens participate in this process. Democracy is indeed an achievement, but also a collective responsibility in which we all have a role to play. Europe is a vast system of values through which we have, over the years, built a context of security, prosperity and growth for all European citizens.

Whatever the outcome of the elections, we can be certain that the new European Parliament will continue to promote and operate guided by the founding values of the EU: peace, freedom, democracy, justice and respect for human rights.

How would you interpret the EU’s decision to supplement Accession Negotiation Chapter 35 with obligations to implement the Brussels and Ohrid agreements? Do you see this as further indication that non-recognition of Kosovo’s independence stands in the way of Serbia’s EU membership?

— Through the facilitation of Special Representative Miroslav Lajčak, the EU supported the conclusion of the “Agreement on the path to normalisation between Kosovo and Serbia” and its Implementation Annex.

With this move, following a period conditioned by increasing tension on the ground between Belgrade and Pristina, the EU tried to create new momentum for both parts to achieve progress in the normalisation of relations, the fulfilment of which represents a prerequisite for both parties’ future membership in the EU. It is up to the parties to define the content of this normalisation. Therefore, the inclusion of obligations arising from the agreements reached in Brussels and Ohrid in 2023 in Chapter 35 should be considered as an attempt to give new impulse to the process.

An Italian MP in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe voted against Kosovo’s membership in the organisation. Do you believe that Pristina has met the conditions for membership?

— Kosovo’s application for membership in the Council of Europe was not included on the agenda of the last meeting of the Committee of Ministers of this organisation. Italy, like other EU member states, believes that decisive progress on the establishment of the Community of Serb Majority Municipalities is necessary in order for Pristina’s request to be considered. By pursuing such a goal, the Kosovo Authorities can demonstrate their commitment to minority rights, thus strengthening Kosovo’s position and re-energizing the EU-facilitated Dialogue. We believe that this is the best way for Kosovo to pursue the success of its application.

Numerous cultural events organised by the Italian Embassy this year are tied to an interesting initiative. Could you explain what is behind the name “Birčaninova@100”?

— Behind the name “Birčaninova@100” stands an initiative aimed at celebrating the centenary of the laying of the foundation stone of Birčaninova Palace, built at the behest of Queen Elena of Montenegro to house the Italian Embassy in Serbia. The Palace is the house of the friendship between Italy and Serbia. It symbolises the excellence of our relationship. This year also marks two other anniversaries: 145 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Rome and Belgrade; and 15 years since the signing of the bilateral strategic partnership.

Moving from this important commemoration, we launched “Bircaninova@ 100” with a rich calendar of events dedicated to fashion, art, solidarity, design, music, cinema, language and so on. The initiative, created with the support of Unicredit Serbia and Banca Intesa Serbia, will unfold over the course of a two-year period.

IDENTITY

Italy promotes an inclusive identity that is part of European civilisation. The EU does not obliterate national identities, but rather welcomes and cherishes differences

RELATIONS

Following the commitment made during the bilateral Business and Science Forum of March 2023, we opened the representative offices of SIMEST, SACE and CDP in Belgrade

EU

Serbia must seize the restored momentum, utilising all tools made available by the EU, starting with the Growth Plan