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Western Balkans. The way to Trieste

In a year which has seen Italy as a protagonist on the international stage and playing an increasingly crucial role, first with the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome and now with the upcoming G7 Summit in Taormina, the Western Balkans have confirmed their strategic importance, even more so now that the date of the Summit dedicated to them is approaching, taking place on 12 July in Trieste.For historical, geographical and human reasons, the Balkans are part of the European space and are linked to Italy by strong bonds. Our security and our wellbeing are at stake in the region. Supporting their consolidation and involvement in the common challenges we face is in their and our interest. The tragic events that occurred in Manchester remind us, although we would never forget, that terrorism has no boundaries and we must all be committed to defeat it. The Balkans have clearly and strongly called out to Europe – and this is a positive fact. This means that Europe, although subject to criticism, at times superficially, is still attractive for its values, its call to convey peace and stability, and its economic dynamism. In fact, no other political structure has had such ambitions and achieved the results obtained by this project, which was undertaken 60 years ago in our capital city. There is an ideal thread that links the Rome Declaration to the one which will be adopted in Trieste. A more diversified Europe, capable of renovating itself, will also be stronger and better equipped to welcome Western Balkan Countries in the future.There has also been a strong demand for Italy. Our country is appreciated for its ability to deliver and engage in dialogue. We know the Balkans well, their features and sensibilities, as not many other countries do. It is not by chance that in every country in the Balkans -which together make up a population of over 20 million – we are the first or second business partner. Our Balkan friends are aware of the diplomatic investment we have made in order to make progress with regional cooperation through initiatives we are currently leading, including the Central European Initiative and the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative. Hence, the Summit is a great opportunity for Italy because of its constant outreach commitment, and also for Trieste, a city that is symbolic as the gateway to Europe for the entire Balkan area.  The meeting I had yesterday, at Villa Madama with the Ministers of the Western Balkan Countries, in preparation for the Trieste Summit, served the purpose of confirming that Italy will continue to determinedly support the European prospects for the Balkans. Italy also wants to stand next to the Balkans in their modernisation process and democratic consolidation, which is the basis for the project. I have also encouraged the Ministers to leave divisive ideas behind along with the rhetoric of the past, which have unduly hampered  the process in past months, in order to take on a responsible cooperation attitude. This is preparatory to the quantum leap they deserve to make, which their people are calling for. With these objectives in mind, we will hold a Summit in Trieste (with the participation of Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, United Kingdom and Slovenia, on the European side) merging continuity with innovation. The former is represented by the development of infrastructural projects which seek to connect Balkan networks to the European corridors. These range from a deeper focus on regional economic integration to the commencement of youth training programmes, now that the Erasmus programme is celebrating its 30 year anniversary. Continuity will also be represented by the dialogue with civil society and agreements in scientific fields. Italy will come to the process with major elements of innovation through specific initiatives for small and middle-sized enterprises (SMEs), enhancing the contribution given to the creation of a solid economic fabric in the Balkans, and the cooperation  to prevent and counter corruption delivered through training seminars and knowledge transfer, with the support of our National Agency.  Therefore, Trieste will represent the commitment to relaunching Europe as a steward of stability and prosperity with a concrete contribution from the Western Balkans, in view of their accession to the common European project.

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