Balkan talks. On Tuesday, in the Northern city of Trieste, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani kicked off a conference – “Italy and the Western Balkans: Growth and Integration” – to promote Rome’s role in the region and foster its integration with the European Union.
- “From Trieste, we launch a message of Italy’s political presence in the Western Balkans,” he later tweeted. “We want to play our rightful role, bringing peace and stability to the entire region. Creating new growth opportunities for our companies as well. Italy is back as a protagonist.”
- “There is a lot to do,” stressed the EU’s Commissioner for Enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi, noting that Italy, as a “founding country and a large member state of the EU”, must increase its presence in the region.
Government-driven, history-powered. The conference’s intent is in sync with the government’s increased focus on the area and the past months’ tensions, which Ministers Tajani and Crosetto (Defence) helped defuse. Italy is heavily invested in the area, both in the field of defence – through the NATO-operated KFOR peacekeeping mission – and in economic terms.
- Seeking to expand business ties with Balkan countries and encourage their economic growth, Italy is deploying tools for the internationalisation of businesses.
- A plethora of representatives from Italy’s institutional and business-oriented spheres – including CEI, SACE, SIMEST, FINEST, EIB, and EBRD – attended the conference.
- The objectives of the strategic partnership were fleshed out in later panels, which featured Italian ambassadors in the region and representatives from the private sector.
A European future. “Italy will continue to fight in the front line so that the process of European integration of the Western Balkans can continue with even greater momentum and determination,” said Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in her video message. The EU, she added, “[must] develop a new vision of this region and place enlargement to the Western Balkans among its priorities. We cannot allow this strategic quadrant for our continent to remain outside the European common house for much longer.”
- As Giorgio Fruscione (head of Balkan analysis at ISPI) told Decode39, Rome is currently leading the pack of countries pushing for integration. The matter has a strategic dimension: the slower that process becomes, the more space opens up for Russia to exploit the situation in several manners – fuelling instability and undermining the wider European project.
- “If we are present politically, with our businesses and our peacekeeping forces, there is no danger of others occupying these spaces. Not only Russia – many are interested in the Balkans,” noted FM Tajani.
Security and migration. The Italian FM also highlighted the importance of stability in the region, through which migrants travel from Turkey towards the EU, stressing the importance of curbing illegal immigration. That dossier, he stressed, is intertwined with the economic one, as “stability also means the possibility of economic growth and the presence of our businesses.”