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KOPAONIK BUSINESS FORUM 2014: Changing Serbia in a Changing Europe

Ambasciatore Manzo al Kopaonik Business Forum 2014

Ambasciatore Manzo all'inaugurazione del Kopaonik Business Forum 2014

Video Intervista dell’Ambasciatore Manzo all’Agenzia Tanjug

Video Inaugurazione del Business Forum Kopaonik 2014

Video Inizio Sessione Plenaria sul Processo Integrazione Europea

Plenary Session: Acceleration of Accession Process to the EU: What Is to Be Done

Interventi dell’Ambasciatore Giuseppe Manzo

I call this part of my remarks “You never let a serious crisis go to waste”.
It’s a quote I picked up in Washington and its about the opportunity that a crisis offers to do things we think we could not do before.
What kind of crisis are we really facing?
Yes, we are going through a fifth straight year of economic troubles in Europe and beyond. We all know the numbers. We have heard them today too. But there is something different about the current situation. Crises in Europe have arisen and have gone, though never we have seen such a complex combination of economic and political impasse striking the functioning of the Institutions and the bases for consensus in the European public.
It is true, this crisis owes much to the economic and social malaise which the Union has been unable to avoid. At the same time the deterioration in living standards and social standings (mainly through an increase in unemployement, and in youth unemployment) has generated disenchantment, distrust and sometimes rejection of the European project.
So, how do we tackle that and how do we change crisis in opportunity?
First by recalling what Europe is all about: a “Union of men and women, able to freely travel, meet, work together and prosper in peace”.
Secondly by not forgetting what we have done so far and its potentials. It is important when we are trying to shape our future. Italian President Giorgio Napolitano recently said that “Knowledge about the huge amount of achievements and potential of the EU must be spread in particular among young generations”. This is something, by the way, that we should also address when we’ll talk later about Serbia and the EU and in particular on how to engage the people of Serbia in the discussion on EU accession.
But let me just tell you few things about the Italian perspective

On Economy

We reacted to the sovereign debt crisis with drastic measures to keep the deficit/GDP ratio under control and to rebalance public finances. It means sacrifices but even the recent positive news about Italian GDP (growing for the first time since the crisis, + 0,6% in 2014, according to latest EU Commission report) will not lessen our commitment to keep the house in order. I am not sure everybody is aware of the cospicuous share of the burden Italy is carrying in Europe to counter the crisis as third largest contributor with 125 billions Euros to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), a permanent firewall for the Eurozone, providing instant access to financial assistance for states in financial difficulty.
Now it’s really time to focus on growth and employment. This particularly true when other areas of the world start showing consistent positive growth rate in their GDP.

When you are racing you make sure your car is safe and a performing one too. You make sure brakes work. You also want the engine to be fine tuned and the transmission to make the wheels go and so on. But at some point you must remember that you that others are actually racing in the same track. So you have to push on the accelerator…
Growth and employment are top priorities of the Italian EU Presidency from July 1 2014 and we are also planning a Summit on youth employment to be held in Rome. 2014 is crucial to finalize important measures launched in 2013, from Banking Union to Economic and Fiscal Union. We need to deepen economic integration to support structural reforms at national level, reach a greater integration in the single market and introduce some form of risk sharing in order to make EMU and Member States more resilient to shocks.
On structural reforms and future
Since we are talking about structural reforms, let me just mentions that policies and citizens will be the other pillar of our Presidency. We plan to work on a integrated European Defense Mechanism, including Maritime Defense on which our Greek collegues are already working. And 2014 is the Mediterranean Year in which Adriatic, Balkans, and Serbia will be very high on our agenda.3.
I am mentioning structural measures and policies because I want to go back in my conclusion to my first point: how not to let a crisis go to waste having in mind that and, as Albert Einstein used to say, “crisis brings progress”.
The need for reconciliation between Nations within Europe, the urgency of providing stability to the Continent against political and economic challenges coming from outside Europe were powerful incentives for reaching consensus on creating and consolidating European unity. Today, a no less powerful incentive may well be that of averting the decline of our continent.
As we weigh the options in front of us we should be doing it aiming not only at solving the current crisis but also with a confidence building approach. Yes, a new period of economic growth is essential to restore confidence. But it will not be enough if not accompanied by changes in the institutional and political life of the Union. We cannot miss the opportunity that the current crisis offers us to build a closer integration and to pursue the goal of creating the United States of Europe.
I am sorry if I will sound a bit rethorical, but I mean what I say: the efforts that countries like Serbia are putting into their European aspirations should inspire us too and remind old Europe how much it has accomplished when together it was  pursuing a vision that in 1957 must have seemed quite impossible: a Union of men and women, able to freely travel, meet, work together and prosper in peace.

Two basic concepts

I’d rather refer to two concepts that I believe are key to Serbia and to Serbs’ future. Not only as an economy, but as a society, as a European Nation. The concept are: set the rules and implement the rules.
Everything depend on the ability of the next Government: to (first) set rules that are clear and as broadly shared and recognized as possible; (second) to let the rules do their job in regulating the life of Serbia, of its citizens, its companies, its public administration, his teachers etc..
In my opinion the next one should be a constituent legislature. This will allow you to effectively pursue the goal of macro-economic stability, of a competitive business environment, a society in which workers, administrators, media, judges have non doubts on their rights and their duties, being free but also accountable.

This is what European Accession is all about: opportunities and responsibilities.
After January 21 politicians are now responsible to your citizens on how you use and not miss the new tools that Europe provides in  the new phase. And it will be even more difficult for your political leadership since they will also have to work on explaining people the benifts of the sacrifices they will be called to.
This is why our assistance to Serbia focuses on the rule of law or as Tanja would call it chapter 23 e 24. A functioning system of training for judges; effective and independent investigations against organized crime; open cooperation among law enforcement agencies: this is what Italy is doing by providing magistrates helping the Judicial Academy; a state of the art software to support Special Prosecutor’s office; organizing a regional conference of Chief of Police.
And we will seize the opportunities of our incoming EU Presidency in the second half of this year to push even more on these priorities and open the famous chapters 23 e 24.

Once you set the rules and they are clear and effective, business follows.
Until now Italian investors have shown to be reactive to the improvement of the business environment: 500 small and medium enterprises operate in Serbia employing more than 20,000 workers; imports and exports combined are more 3.5 billlions Euro; Italian investments in 2013 amount to more then 2 billions Euros; in November the Italian-Serbian Chamber of Commerce became the largest with its 245 members.
So, how EU integration works for improving the business climate in Serbia?
It works in two parallel ways. Now that you are officially negotiating the accession to the EU, foreign investors have more confidence in the fact that your path to reforms and stability will continue and hopefully soon will be completed. This means more interest from outside and more investments. At the same time the many requirements that the same negotiations process poses it’s an additional impulse for you to proceed on the reforms on many different sectors.
What needs to be done
Of course I can list laws, measures and plans that we have been talking all along: Privatization, Bankruptcy, Labour, and Construction, Anticorruption,    Restructuring public companies, Privatization. The same goes for sectors: Infastructures, Energy, Telecommunications, Agricolture, Information Technology. Of course Labour is crucial nobody hires anybody if they don’t know how much it will cost you or, worse, if they know they will have to pay for others too. Opening a business still takes too long and involves too many steps.  This is what Italian current and potential investors tell me. And this is what I am goin to tell the new Government that will be formed after the elections.
On the “to do” list let me pick two issues.
First Agricolture and Food Industry. I know you have discussed about this in a previous edition of the Forum but I think a lot more should be done to really use the potentials of it is evidentely one of your core business. Perhaps on of the few that can work as the spark to start the engine of a sustainable growth with quick effects on the people of Serbia.
It is a very positive signal the recent interest shown by a world wide leader in food production and transformation, Ferrero, to invest in Serbia and litterally create a complete new sector with a goal of making of Serbia a net exporter of hazelnuts.
Serbia’s territory its rural traditions are very compatible with our SME and Italian Trade Promotion Agency is focusing on Agriculture and on Agro-industry, with a significant presence to the next Agriculture Fair of  Novi Sad.
On food industry let there will be the kick off event of a new Twinning Programme between the Italian and Serbian Ministries of Agriculture to “Implement sustainable use of plant protection products”. And of course Food and Energy will be the focus of next year Milano World Expo, where Serbia will be participating in the Mediterranean cluster and has presented a theme statement on these subjects.
Second and only apparently unrelated issue is Media and Information
I have been a journalist before joining the Italian foreign service and I know how important it is to be really free when you are reporting, explaining or anayizing a particular event. On the other side a politician, a decision maker, will be more careful, responsible if he knows that media will indipendently and freely report and assess his conduct. This is why you need to have the strongest laws to guarantee a free and responsible information and not leave to the players to make the rules. On that Serbia rneeds to continue working, also with the EU accession nagotiations, to pass the laws that have already been put on the table and eventually to enforce them with determinantion. It was a good sign when few weeks ago Serbia climbed up from the 63rd to the 54th place on the Reporters sans Frontieres freedom of information list.

As I said, you will need a skilled, independent and balanced information system also in the very delicate task to explain citizens why they should embrace EU accession also when it means sacrifices. Explaining that chapters 23 and 24  aren’t just number for beaurocrats are the future of Serbia and of their children.

Agenzia NOVA
Serbia: ambasciatori a Kopaonik discutono del cammino europeo di Belgrado
Belgrado, 05 mar – (Nova) – Il rafforzamento dei diritti civili e delle istituzioni sono fra le tappe più importanti per il proseguimento del cammino europeo della Serbia. E’ quanto dichiarato dagli ambasciatori europei presenti oggi al forum economico di Kopaonik, che hanno partecipato al panel da titolo “Accelerazione del processo di adesione UE: cosa deve essere fatto”. Secondo quanto riporta la stampa serba, l’ambasciatore d’Italia a Belgrado, Giuseppe Manzo, ha ribadito come la mentalità e i diritti civili siano le priorità su cui lavorare nel processo di integrazione europea. E’ necessario, ha osservato Manzo, definire e applicare i diritti, migliorare il clima imprenditoriale e
comprendere che il cammino verso l’Unione europea rappresenta un’importante occasione e allo stesso tempo una responsabilità. 

Uno dei momenti importanti del percorso, secondo Manzo, è rappresentato dall’accademia per la magistratura, oltre che dall’azione imparziale dei media
per spiegare che i capitoli 23 e 24 del processo negoziale, relativi appunto alla giustizia e ai diritti fondamentali, rappresentano il futuro dei cittadini e non sono solo una cifra burocratica.

Il capo della delegazione europea a Belgrado, Micheal Davenport, ha riassunto in 4 punti le priorità del processo di integrazione Ue della Serbia, rappresentati da un approccio attivo del governo costituito dopo le elezioni del 16 marzo, un’amministrazione professionale, una capacità di predire le tempistiche per sapere “dove la Serbia sarà fra 4-5 anni”, e la partecipazione dell’opinione pubblica e della società civile in un dibattito positivo.

L’ambasciatore Usa a Belgrado, Micheal Kirby, ha sottolineato l’importanza di un cambio di mentalità, in particolare per quel che riguarda il settore pubblico e il lavoro. L’ambasciatore tedesco a Belgrado, Heinz Wilhelm, ha sottolineato l’importanza di creare una maggiore competitività, di riformare il ruolo dello stato e di portare avanti la riforma giudiziaria. L’ambasciatore austriaco Johannes Eigner ha ribadito l’importanza di ottenere un largo consenso politico sul tema dell’integrazione UE, oltre che di migliorare il clima imprenditoriale. L’ambasciatore francese Francois Xavier Deniau ha infine sottolineato l’importanza di seguire i valori e criteri europei per ogni governo che guiderà la Serbia, dopo la storica data di apertura dei negoziati di adesione, lo scorso 21 gennaio.