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​Speech by the Minister at the Italy-Georgia Business Forum

(The authentic text is only the one actually delivered)


A warm welcome to Prime Minister Kvirikashvili, Vice Premier Kaladze, who is “on home ground” here in Italy (as a former A.C. Milan player), my colleague Janelidze, the other ministers and institutional representatives, our ambassadors, and our many Italian and Georgian guests.

We consider Italy to be a bridge across the Mediterranean between Europe and Africa. Georgia is also a strategic bridge, but between Europe and Asia. We are ancient countries, at the crossroads of history and geography. We share important values like pluralism, openness to dialogue and different cultures.

This year we’re celebrating the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations. But I would point out that Italy was one of the first countries to recognise the First Georgian Republic between 1918 and 1921, by sending an ambassador to Tbilisi.

We could look even further back. I’m not referring to the Romans, although they also left their mark in Georgia, but, for example 1629.

In 1629, the first book was printed in Georgian. It was an Italian-Georgian dictionary compiled by Italian missionary Stefano Paolini with  Georgian Niceforo Irbachi.

In 1643,  “Georgian grammar” was published by another Italian missionary, Francesco Maria Maggio.

These are fundamental historical texts that literally “gave us the words” to express our friendship.

Among the many stories of our friendship, I remember one that I find particularly moving as a Sicilian. Not many people know that, after the civil war in 1991-1993, many displaced children from Abkhazia spent their summers in Palermo.

For years they were hosted by Sicilian  families as a sign of solidarity. This closeness helped them react to the tragedy of war, and to establish unbreakable bonds.

Today there is a generation of “young people” who not only speak Italian but understand the Sicilian dialect and support Palermo’s football team!

These same people set up an association headed by the Italian school in Tbilisi, which will become bilingual next year.

Over time, we have built very strong diplomatic relations, all the more necessary  in the delicate stages of recent Georgian history, marked by difficult moments. Italy, it must be said, has always supported and will continue to support the territorial integrity of Georgia.

And I am convinced that the size of our economic relations, on which we are focusing today, is a cornerstone on which to  continue building our relations together.

Georgia demonstrates stability, pragmatism and reliability. It is a democratic and dynamic country, driven by enthusiasm and lively forces. It has a long history, but a modern and competitive outlook.

It has introduced ambitious reforms and continues to do so. As a result of this, it now ranks internationally as one of the easiest places to do business, offering high levels of economic freedom, transparency and low taxation. Economically, it has also maintained an average rate of growth in GDP of more than 3% in the past five years.

For all these reasons, we have supported the Association Agreement with the EU, which includes a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with the European Union (2014).

Another important step, which Italy has strongly supported, is the liberalisation of visas, which became a reality on 27 February this year, recognising Georgian commitment as a powerful relationship multiplier.

Today, the Business Forum provides an opportunity to take a further step forward in many sectors, thanks to the vital strength of more than 250 Italian and Georgian companies actively taking part in this initiative.

I am thinking, for example, of the tourism, infrastructure and manufacturing sectors, on which Georgia is basing its growth. These are areas to which Italian companies can make the unique contributions of know-how,  innovation and quality.

Italian excellence, which is well-known around the world, has the perfect characteristics to be successful in Georgia too.

Italy, Europe’s second biggest manufacturing country, and one of the world’s leading economies, wants to be an increasingly important partner for Georgia as “a channel of opportunity”.

In Georgia – I tell Italian entrepreneurs today – we can invest and produce, export machinery, products and materials, take part  in the many tenders launched by the country, strongly supported by financial and international institutions.

And thanks to the many free trade agreements, Georgia is a platform for a wider market, a crucial hub on the “new silk road”.

Many Italian companies, from Ferrero to Salini-Impregilo, are already very familiar with the Georgian market and enthusiastic about it. ANAS, Italferr, Saipem, Stoneware, and a wide range of SMEs will be telling us about their very positive experiences today.

This will encourage many other companies that have only just started to approach this market. SACE, SIMEST, BERS and the Georgian agencies will be describing all the potential that exists in the market.

I am convinced that the right conditions exist  to advance industrial cooperation and give a strong impetus to trade.

Our architects have contributed in designing the face of Tbilisi, and  will continue to do so. Made in Italy, “Italian  style” “Italian lifestyle”, Italian design and technologies are prized, particularly thanks to  the strong commitment of our embassy and the ICE.

There is no lack of opportunities or ambitious projects: including the construction of a technology institute in collaboration with the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics.

Continuing to look ahead: today two new  Memorandums of Understanding will be signed by SACE and Unioncamere with their Georgian counterparts.

The aim is to create an environment that is more favourable to business and collaboration between Italian and Georgian entrepreneurial communities. The aim is to grow together.

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