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Intervista dell’Ambasciatore Giuseppe Manzo al quotidiano Dnevnik

L’agricoltura della Vojvodina può essere la nuova frontiera per attrarre
gli investimenti italiani –

“La Provincia Autonoma della Vojvodina è il maggiore contributore all’economia della Serbia ed e’ pertanto normale che sempre più investitori italiani prestino attenzione a quest’area, specialmente nel settore agricolo”, ha dichiarato l’Ambasciatore d’Italia Giuseppe Manzo in
un’intervista rilasciata al quotidiano “Dnevnik” nel corso della sua visita odierna in Vojvodina.

segue la versione inglese dell’intervista:

Serbia is at the door of the European Union, and soon expects opening of accession negotiations for EU membership. The European Commission said that the 2013 was an “historic year” for Serbia in which “the country has opened” a new page of cooperation, both with the EU and with neighbouring countries, with further intensification of the inner reforms. How do you see the progress of Serbia in the Association Agreement with EU?

I can definitely say that you are on the right track because of your increasing commitment and determination in pursuing the European goal. It is not an easy process but step by step Europe is getting closer to you. Negotiations with the EU will start at the latest on January 2014. It is mainly the result of the commitment showed by Serbia in complying with Brussels’ requests. We strongly appreciate it and encourage Belgrade to continue with the same steady engagement on its path of reforms and implementation of the agreements.

Former Italian Foreign Minister and former Vice President of the European Commission Franco Frattini will assist Serbia in the negotiation process with the European Union. How do you evaluate the assistance and cooperation of your diplomat with the Serbian government?

The choice of Mr Frattini as an advisor of the Serbian Government on the EU integration process has been wise. Because of his outstanding and long term experience at the highest level in European affairs as well as of his great standing in the international community, I am sure Mr. Frattini will provide a valuable mentoring for your negotiations with the EU, particularly on issues related to justice, rule of law and home affairs.

When in July was signed the first bilateral Protocol on Scientific and Technological Cooperation, which includes 15 joint projects, exchange of researchers in the field of biomedicine, agriculture, energy and the environment, you have expressed the belief that there is room for cooperation improving. Which areas it covers?

The bilateral Protocol on Scientific and Technological Cooperation encompasses 22 joint reasearch projects in biomedicine, agriculture, energy and environment. Some of them, such as the project FEDNESS between the University of Milan and the Institute of Food Technology of Novi Sad, are directly linked to the next Expo2015 in Milan whose central theme is “Feed the Planet, Energy for life”. Out of 100 scientific collaborations that Serbia has with foreign countries, 14 are with Italy. Together with United States and Germany, Italy has the highest number of joint scientific publications with Serbia. More than 400 scientists and experts of both our two Countries are involved in the Italo-Serbian Science Association AIS3. A high number of interuniversity agreements is currently in force between Italy and Serbia and our cooperation in science and technology is increasingly deepening. But, as I said, there is always room for improving.

“La Repubblica” once devoted a few texts to the business environment in Serbia, productive for foreign direct investment (FDI). What has the impact on the Italian industry, including companies Fiat, Intesa, San Paolo, Fondiaria, Pompei, Benetton, Calzedonia and the others to “escape to the Balkans”? How much is the “weight” of these investments, and what are the good investment conditions in Vojvodina?

As you probably know, Italian entrepreneurial presence in Serbia is very strong and well rooted. Italy is the first trade partner and the largest foreign investor in Serbia with more than 500 Italian firms employing more than 20.000 people. Led by FIAT investment in car industry, the Italian companies in Serbia range from the banking and insurance sectors with big groups such as Unicredit and Intesa Sanpaolo (both cover the 25% of the Serbian banking), Delta Generali and Sai-Fondiaria (45% of the insurance market) to textile and footwear companies like Benetton, Calzedonia, Pompea, Golden Lady and Geox, well established here in Vojvodina. Moreover, in Vojvodina there is also a strong presence of Small and Medium Enterprises, in particular related to the Agricultural sector: Food industry, Agriculture Machinery, Furniture and Leather industry. There is some important presence in the Iron and Steel and Oil and Gas Sectors (such as SIM). For sure this presence is the consequence of the good conditions offered from Vojvodina to investors: the first one of these certainly is the widespread entrepreneurial culture of Vojvodina (similar to the one you would find in Italy), the second one being the good logistical position of the region at the crossroads of the European markets.

It is considering that economic cooperation between our two countries is improving every day. As it is known, more than 500 italian companies have their businesses in Serbia. How do you see further development of those relationships?

I am well aware that I definitely do not have an easy job because I am supposed to improve relations that are in fact already excellent from every point of view. But let me say that at the last bilateral Summit, that we have just celebrated in Ancona on the 15th of October, we reviewed sector by sector the current state of play of our bilateral cooperation in order to identify and properly address the priorities where Italy could provide all its expertise along the accession negotiations of Serbia towards European Union. For this purpose, our Ministers of Foreign Affairs signed a Joint Declaration to activate a Committee of high-ranking officers tasked to deepen bilateral cooperation within selected negotiating chapters of the Serbia’s EU accession process such as rule of law, agriculture, food safety, transport, science, environment, industrial policy and energy. Starting from all of this, there will be for sure room for any further improvement in our cooperation.

The recent meeting of Italian businessmen and Serbian ministers Sasa Radulovic and Dragan Glamocic was a perfect chance for investors from Italy to present their ideas and to name the problems which they are meeting in Serbia. What is your opinion about how to improve relationship of Vojvodina as an agricultural region with similar regions in Italy?

The agricultural sector is on the top of our business agenda and we are working on different events aimed at increasing our cooperation in this field, specifically in Vojvodina. As I said before, Vojvodina has a widespread entrepreneurial culture and has a big number of Small and Medium Agriculture Enterprises. Some similarities with Italy are the basis on which we are building our cooperation. For instance, Italy will participate to the next Agriculture Fair in Novi Sad in May 2014. Another example: the local representation of the Italian Organization “Slow Food” is working to promote and give value to Vojvodina and Serbian typical products, such as rakija or the local cabbage from Futog, as it did successfully in Italy.

What are the forms of cultural cooperation between Italy and Serbia and how do you see the advancement of it possible?

Our cultural cooperation and the study of the Italian language are continously growing together with our economic relations. The more Italian companies come in Serbia to invest, the more they will contribute to spread the Italian culture. Italian courses are held in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Kragujevac and Niš. And with Minister Tasovac we are working on concrete projects to further strengthen our cultural ties such as by creating a daily radio news program in Italian language to be broadcasted by RTS in Serbia. Similarly a radio news in Serbian language will be broadcasted by RAI in Friuli Venezia Giulia.

What do you expect from the upcoming talks with the leaders of Vojvodina?

I look forward to very fruitful meetings with the local Authorities of Vojvodina. The largest contribution to the Serbian economy comes from this region and here in Vojvodina new potential Italian investors are focusing their attention, especially in agriculture. Starting from the current Italian business community in Vojvodina, I certainly do expect more and more investors from Italy coming here in the near future based on the reaffirmed commitment by the Serbian Authorities to create a better environment for investors.

You are in Serbia for several months now. How do you spend time in Belgrade and did your obligations allow you to meet and visit Vojvodina and Novi Sad?

Yes, for sure. Belgrade is a very interesting and lively city that you can really enjoy for many reasons. I like biking and spending freetime with my family at Ada Ciganljia or strolling in the dowtown. But also outside Belgrade, your country offers so many wonderful and interesting places to visit. So far I travelled with my family in Novi Sad, Mokra Gora, Fruska Gora, to Lepenski Vir and Tabula Traiana, but of course many other places are waiting for us in the near future.