Welcome dear partners, or how guests from the Apennines are first to appreciate new market opportunities
Italy hopes Belarus-EU dialogue will intensify and makes pragmatic bilateral plans
The Intergovernmental Belarusian-Italian Commission on Economic Co-operation recently met in Minsk, with Benedetto Della Vedova — Italian Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation — noting, “We welcome the lifting of sanctions from your country. Moreover, we believe we inspired this. I’m convinced that co-operation in the political and economic spheres will strengthen from now on, between Belarus and Italy and between Belarus and the European Union. We’re happy that dialogue between our states will develop ever more intensively.”
Speaking of the session, Mr. Vedova noted that this has been an important stage in Belarusian-Italian relations. Representatives of leading Italian companies attended — such as Finmeccanica S.p.A., as well as small and medium-sized businesses. Mr. Vedova stressed that all are interested in establishing bilateral ties with Belarusian partners. Italy is now experiencing economic growth, which opens opportunities for Belarusian exporters wishing to access the Italian market.
The First Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus, Vasily Matyushevsky, also spoke of huge unrealised potential in Belarusian-Italian relations. Chatting with Mr. Vedova, he asserted, “We’d like to see more practical actions in our economic relations and for the Italian Government to make positive signals towards Italian business circles regarding Belarus.”
Mr. Matyushevsky sees it as symbolic that Italy is one of the first states with which Belarus has held a session of the Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Co-operation, following the EU’s decision to lift most sanctions. “We can now speak of a new, favourable background, while making plans without a backward glance at artificial restrictions,” he added. He notes that Italy is a traditional trading partner of Belarus and is among the leaders regarding the number of joint ventures. He commented, “We’d like you to feel that we are an open and hospitable country. Belarus has no geopolitical ambitions. Rather, it has a healthy aspiration to develop mutually beneficial co-operation with eastern and western partners. As we know, you’re a consistent supporter of constructive co-operation and dialogue as instruments to overcome crisis.”
According to the First Deputy Prime Minister, Belarus is interested in uniting efforts with Italy to ensure mutually beneficial collaboration. “We hope the visit will create additional impetus for our bilateral economic relations,” Mr. Matyushevsky stresses.
The Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus, Yelena Kupchina, also spoke of the necessity of Belarus and Italy promoting liaisons. On opening the session, she said that the event was truly historic, being the first sitting of the commission, and launching a serious stage in bilateral relations.
Ms. Kupchina noted that joint efforts by Belarus and Italy have resulted in establishing an efficient mechanism for successful realisation of bilateral co-operation. Also, we have set up promising avenues of interaction in the trade-economic, sci-tech and investment spheres, despite the continuing world crisis. She added that Italy is among Belarus’ key trade partners and, last year, bilateral dialogue intensified. Belarus’ potential was widely represented at the World EXPO-2015 Fair, in Milan, and, last September, Belarus’ Prime Minister visited Italy for the first time in many years, to successfully negotiate the signing of various agreements.
Ms. Kupchina notes that bilateral ties exist across other spheres, saying, “We’re close to each other thanks to trust-based dialogue in the humanitarian sphere. Over 500,000 Belarusian children have participated in recuperation programmes in Italy, for which we are thankful. We can assert that no obstacles exist to further enhancing our bilateral co-operation, particularly regarding volumes of mutual trade and intensification of interaction in other spheres.”
The recent delegation of Italian ministerial and business representatives to Belarus included over 60 people. After the Intergovernmental Commission completed its work, a Belarusian-Italian Business Forum took place in Minsk and, according to Ms. Kupchina, the rich agenda saw great mutual interest. Mr. Vedova expressed satisfaction with the intensification of contacts. Evidently, the Italian side hopes to see positive results in trade and strengthening of relations.
Belarus is hopeful of developing industrial co-operation with Italy — including opportunities in accessing the Eurasian Economic Union. The issue was covered extensively during the session, with Ms. Kupchina sharing her views. Traditional spheres of interaction have been studied and prospects for development outlined, including analysis of barriers to mutual trade, and ways of eliminating these, to ensure development of Belarusian-Italian trade relations.
Promising avenues of co-operation received much attention, including the establishment of an Italian industrial district in the Brest Region, development of interregional contacts, the use of European financial instruments to support joint investment projects and the development of co-operation between national agencies of export insurance. Belarus is keen to promote co-operation in the field of car and machine building, alongside science and technologies, and is interested in liaisons with Finmeccanica S.p.A.
After the event, Belarus’ Foreign Minister, Vladimir Makei, met Mr. Vedova to discuss topical issues of Belarusian-Italian relations and problems of interaction between Minsk and Brussels. A second sitting of the Intergovernmental Commission is planned in Italy next year.
Favourable prospects in focus
The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Italy, H.E. Mr. Alexander Gurianov, stresses that the Belarusian-Italian business forum aimed to find new commodity positions and enhance turnover between our two states. “Our goal is to increase turnover as much as possible. With this in mind, new commodity positions were studied in Minsk. Apart from trading projects, Italy is also interested in developing investment co-operation. Their interest is simple: Belarus is a gateway to the Eurasian Economic Union,” he stresses.
According to the Ambassador, Italy is among the most promising and active of Belarus’ partners within the EU. “We’ve been developing our business relations for a long time, and doing so fruitfully. We’re so similar: Italy is also a country-exporter. In 2014, we achieved a record turnover figure: over $2bn. Last year, it dropped and, accordingly, we need to work on reviving this turnover,” Mr. Gurianov noted.
In 2015, the volume of Belarus-Italy mutual trade reached $766.7m, with exports of Belarusian produce to Italy standing at $130.1m. Last year, $28.8m of Italian investments arrived in Belarus and 204 companies with Italian capital were registered in our country.
The Minsk business forum gathered over 30 representatives of Italian companies operating in the field of construction, transport infrastructure, metal processing, leasing, energy and agriculture.
By Victor Mikhailov