(BIZNIS) Umberto Vatani, President of Italian Foreign Trade Institute - Serbia's place is in European Union

Source: Biznis Thursday, 01.01.1970. 14:55

(Umberto Vatani)

Over 60% of eyeglasses in the world are produced by Italian companies, every mobile phone contains 10 to 11 components made in Sicily, Italy ranks first in production of furniture and machines and tools, not to speak about fashion, both high and "pret-a-porte"...

These are only some of the numerous details, both interesting and impressive, presented by Ambassador Umberto Vatani, the President of the Foreign Trade Institute, on Tuesday (October 14, 2008) at the press conference in the Palace of Italy on the occasion of the presentation of Italian Government's project "Training and Technical Assistance for Public Administrations in the Balkan". The Foreign Trade Institute has 117 offices in 86 countries on all five continents.

Ambassador Vatani, who is seen as maybe the luckiest joker of Italian diplomacy for decades, especially talked about the significance that his country attributed to the Balkan region and, of course, Serbia. He is of the opinion that Serbia should enter European Union as soon as possible, but he also points out that it is well-known opinion of the official Rome.

You are managing the institution that paves the path for Italian entrepreneurs to easier enter foreign markets. How does the Foreign Trade Institute function?

- Since there are about 4.5m enterprises in Italy, most of which are small and mid-sized, the job of the Institute is not to create, but to break ice. ICE is the institution that serves local and foreign entrepreneurs by providing various information to them, as well as advices and necessary instructions. ICE also finds partners for cooperation and promotes Italian economy, its potentials and real capacities in various ways. In the countries where it is present, ICE also keeps Italian entrepreneurs up to date with the situation in the field.

What are the previous experiences of ICE offices around the world?

- Our experience is very good. That can be best seen in Serbia. Almost all of about 200 Italian companies in Serbia, exclusive of "Fiat" and other accompanying groups ("Iveco" and "Magneti Marelli"), are here thanks to ICE. These companies register annual turnover of 2.4 billion EUR and they have about 18,000 workers.

The long-expected and, so far, the most significant foreign investment in Serbia, worth about 800m EUR, is placed by "Fiat". However, even before the arrival of Torino-based automobile company, there was a large number of Italian investments in Serbia, isn't that right?

- Certainly. We should not forget that Italy, with about 800m EUR worth of invested capital, is among the top five investors in Serbia. With the investments of Intesa bank and Sanpaolo Imi bank (which were both present in Serbian market before they merged into one bank), UniCredit bank and Findomestic bank, Italian banks now cover about 25% of Serbian banking market. It is similar with the companies from the insurance sector. At the moment, "Generali group" and "Fondiaria SAI" controls about 44% of the insurance sector in Serbia.

In order to provide support to small and mid-sized enterprises in Serbia, Italian Government launched credit line of 32.25m EUR in 2005 for procurement of Italian equipment under especially favorable terms. These funds were used up in less than three years, so that the Italian Government approved the second credit line of 30m EUR. In addition to small and mid-sized enterprises, this type of financing can be used by both municipalities and public utility companies.

Is "Italfer", the engineer company of the National Railways, going to do something in Serbia?

- "Italfer" has recently won on two significant tenders of the European Development Agency (CARDS fund): the project for development of new railway bridge "Žeželj" in Novi Sad and the design of master plan for transportation sector prior to year 2025.

Are you satisfied with "Fiat's" arrival in Serbia?

- It is not only "Fiat" and production of large number of passenger vehicles intended mainly for export. There are also "Iveco", from "Fiat Group", and "Magneti Marelli". Total value of these two investments should reach the amount of about 240m EUR.

During his visit to Belgrade, Mr. Vatani was accompanied with another bard of Italian diplomacy - Bruno Botai. They both used to be the Secretary General in Farnezini (Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs). Ambassador Botai is the CEO of famous "Dante Alighieri" Institute, and he also came in Belgrade on the occasion of presentation of project "Training and Technical Assistance for Public Administrations in the Balkan" since aforementioned Institute joined Italian economic expedition in Serbia. According to ambassadors Vatani and Botai, the great presence of Italian companies in Serbia demands appropriate promotion of Italian language and culture on this territory.

They are familiar with the fact that the citizens of Kragujevac have expressed serious interest in learning Italian language lately, so that they came to Belgrade to offer suitable solutions. "Dante Alighieri" will hire its professors to hold Italian language classes, not only in Kragujevac, but also in other cities in Serbia.

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