With the mission to Serbia led by Prime Minister Mario Monti, Italy is marking its first visit at Head of Government level since 2000. This is also Monti’s first inter-governmental summit, and testifies to Italy’s close bilateral relations and strategic partnership with Belgrade.
Italy is the main sponsor of Serbia’s accession to the European Union. A long-term support, “first from the Prodi Government and then from Berlusconi’s, with Foreign Ministers D’Alema and Frattini, and now from our executive”, noted Monti. The Prime Minister told his hosts he had been “delighted” to see Belgrade obtain candidate status on 1 March 2012 and shared Tadic’s “week-old joy at being able to fly the EU flag” in his country.
The Summit, which was attended by a large delegation of ministers, also served to further reinforce economic relations. Corrado Passera, the Minister for Economic development, explained that “we are Serbia’s third economic and commercial partner and can aim to grow further. […] With the Serbian Government, we have identified important areas for collaboration in the fields of infrastructure, the railways, and enterprise. Significant Italian investments are in play”.
A number of agreements were signed in Belgrade, on combating organised crime, drug trafficking and international terrorism. A memorandum was signed for collaboration in civil protection matters. Other agreements include a protocol on rural development and agricultural quality; cooperation in environmental protection matters; and a memorandum of understanding for IT cooperation between the Italian and Serbian finance police. Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi also a cooperation agreement on Belgrade’s EU integration.
On Serbia’s part, Tadic said he was “certain that we will continue to enjoy Italy’s support” on European enlargement. He stressed the important projects currently under way with Italy in the fields of energy and transport networks, and in the automobile, textiles and clothing sectors. Tadic noted that many Italian enterprises already operate in Serbia and provide jobs for 20,000 Serbian workers: from 150 companies in 2009 to 400 at present. “We are a country of producers, as I said to Monti, with a stable economy. We can achieve excellent results in the future too”.