Relaunch Italy’s role in the Balkans, starting from Trieste, a natural “bridge” to the East. At the same time accelerate the integration of the region into the EU, a process that has suffered too many delays and cannot be further delayed. These are some of the objectives that will be on the table at the Summit scheduled for Tuesday, 24 January, in Trieste – Foreign Minister Tajani explained.
Mr. Minister, Trieste returns to the centre of the international scene through the Summit dedicated to the Balkans, which you strongly wanted. What are the key objectives of the meeting?
The Trieste Conference is the starting point for relaunching Italy’s action in the Western Balkans. The government considers this objective an absolute priority and intends to pursue it through a structured approach, involving all the components of the Italian system. We are starting from Trieste because this territory has always been the bridge connecting Italy to the Balkan region.
It seems that Italy wants to become again a protagonist in the neighbouring Balkans. How do you imagine Italy’s role in the region in the coming years?
Italy must play a leading role, aiming to establish itself as a platform for dialogue and cooperation with the Balkans, a facilitator of regional reconciliation and its integration into the EU. The government’s commitment is to work concretely in this direction by promoting concrete projects of collaboration between our realities, first and foremost the productive ones, and the Balkan world.
The Balkan region, with enlargement stalled, continues to have unresolved problems. One of these is certainly the Serbia-Kosovo issue, which is far from a solution. Does Italy have any proposals that could definitely bring Belgrade and Pristina closer?
We are working in the front line so that Serbia and Kosovo can normalise their relations. Through European facilitation, a proposal for an agreement has been submitted to both parties and Italian diplomacy is working, together with our closest partners, to try to achieve a result of historic significance, from which the entire region would benefit.
Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti told this newspaper that Italy should be more active and help Pristina maintain peace in the long term. What do you reply?
In my constant contacts with Prime Minister Kurti, I have reaffirmed the utmost determination underlying Italy’s action to build an all-round partnership with Kosovo and all the countries in the region, based on the values and principles underpinning the European project. Kosovo knows that Italy is there and will continue to play its part.
Having lastly obtained the status of candidate country, Bosnia continues to experience political tensions and be shaken by the pseudo-secessionist drives of the Bosnian Serbs. Are you more worried or optimistic about Bosnia’s European future?
The granting of EU candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina in December was a historic decision and a concrete sign in support of its EU membership. It is now crucial that all political actors work cohesively on the necessary reforms to bring the country closer to Europe. This is the message I will convey during my next visit to Sarajevo together with my Austrian colleague Schallenberg.
Another key country is Serbia. How do you interpret the two-faced Janus position of Belgrade, still divided between the EU and Russia?
Serbia is a key country for the stability of the Western Balkans. During my meetings in Belgrade with President Vucic, Prime Minister Brnabic and Minister Dacic, I positively noted the priority given by the Serbian side to the European integration process. The EU must also play its part by encouraging Belgrade to make a definitive strategic choice in favour of Europe.
In general terms, do you think that the EU enlargement to the Balkans has been delayed too much and should now be stepped up? Is it so unrealistic to think of immediately “encompassing” all the Balkan countries into the European Union, so that tensions can be allayed and problems be solved by removing borders?
The fact that enlargement has not proceeded at the desired pace is demonstrated by the fact that 20 years after the Thessaloniki Declaration that marked the Balkans’ European prospects, only Croatia has become an EU Member State. We cannot afford further delays. If the EU wants to be a global player, the Balkans’ accession is central and must be stepped up.
On Tuesday you will also take part in the “Selecting Italy” event in Trieste. What is the way forward in Friuli-Venezia Giulia for attracting foreign investment? What are the cards to play for our territory?
Attracting foreign investment is a government priority and this event shows the importance we attach to the sector: the inflow of capital from abroad is essential for Italy’s growth and technological development. Italy is the second manufacturing country in Europe. We have a leading position in the circular economy. We rank third in the world for space technology, second in Europe for mechanics and pharmaceutical production, and fourth in the world for the export of machine tools. The Friuli-Venezia Giulia region is at the forefront in many innovative sectors, and the Trieste Science and Technology Park, which includes world-renowned research centres such as the Synchrotron, is a successful example of the synergy between the worlds of production and scientific research. Dialogue between regional authorities, businesses and Ministries is essential to develop our potential. The “Selecting Italy” event is a valuable opportunity to deepen this relationship and understand what we need to do in order to attract foreign capital.