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President Meloni’s video message to the national conference ‘Italy and the Western Balkans: Growth and Integration’

Tuesday, 24 January 2023

[The following video is available in Italian only]

Good morning everyone.

My greetings and thanks go to Minister of Foreign Affairs Antonio Tajani, who has organised this important initiative dedicated to the Western Balkans, a region that is of strategic importance for Italy’s national interests. Being close to this region, Italy is well aware of its vital importance for the whole of Europe’s future. We know from experience that anything that happens on the other side of the Adriatic has immediate repercussions on us. 

There therefore could not have been a more suitable place to hold this conference. Trieste and the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region are closely linked and connected to the Balkans by     deep-rooted economic and cultural relations. Trieste, known as the ‘most Italian’ city at the same time as the ‘most Central European’ city in Italy, represents a natural and extraordinary bridge between Italian and Latin identity and the Slavic and Germanic peoples who are closest to us. This area’s entrepreneurial fabric also represents a winning example of Italy’s ability to perform well on international markets, thanks to its talent and creativity.
Current geopolitical dynamics make this conference more necessary than ever. The Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine (we are now into the eleventh month) presents us with choices that are inevitably strategic in nature. Europe has a great responsibility towards the Balkans and must be committed to reaffirming this region’s sense of belonging to our world and our values. This is precisely the message I conveyed at the summit between European Union and Western Balkan leaders in Albania on 6 December. It was important to reiterate the European Union’s commitment to supporting the region with concrete measures, and to do so in Tirana. I am thinking, for example, of the EUR 1 billion support package for the energy sector to mitigate the effects of price rises and to provide households and businesses with real help.
However, we cannot stop at economic measures alone. The European Union must urgently develop a new vision regarding this region and make enlargement to the Western Balkans one of its priorities. We cannot allow this area, which is so strategic for our continent, to remain outside of the “common European home” for much longer. This is why Italy will continue to spearhead efforts for the Western Balkans’ European integration process to be able to continue with even more impetus and determination. For us, this is also an issue of absolute importance that regards our national security, and this is also why we cannot neglect it.

This Government’s aim is to bring ‘more Italy to the Balkans’. After all, this is what all our friends in the region are asking us, and this is something that I saw first-hand during my meetings at the Tirana summit. Our companies already play a leading role in the region, but we must revitalise this presence and invest in strategic sectors. I am thinking not only about infrastructure and power grids but also about the development of small and medium-sized enterprises, for whom the Italian model can offer truly cutting-edge expertise. At the same time, we must take full advantage of the opportunities offered by the countries in this region, and make the most of the substantial growth margins that exist for our companies in those very important markets. 

Companies are already taking steps; it is above all Italy’s institutions that have to do more. We cannot find ourselves behind nations that have less experience than us in this region. That is why we have already taken action and I can see that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, led by Minister Tajani, is increasingly active, with regard to both political and economic relations. The Government is present and is ready to do its part to strengthen Italian companies’ presence in the Balkans. Today’s conference provides an opportunity to discuss concrete ways to revitalise Italy’s initiatives in this region and to make the most of the significant opportunities that the Balkans are able to offer our companies. I firmly believe there is great complementarity between our national economic system and that of Western Balkan countries and I am convinced of the possibility to develop successful forms of cooperation, on industry and trade, between the two sides of the Adriatic. 

The security and growth of all Western Balkan populations are crucial for Italy’s national interest. For our nation, it is not about focusing on one partner, and then on another, to only then ignore everyone; this is not what is being asked of us and this is not what we have to do. We have always been supportive of all our neighbours in times of difficulty, and we are working with everyone to achieve shared growth in terms of security. All this can only happen within a European context. This is why we are striving for regional integration within a European Union accession process for all countries in the region, and we believe that supporting stabilisation and full European integration means working to achieve cooperation in the fight against corruption, in combatting illegal trafficking, in managing and containing irregular migration flows and in preventing and countering all forms of radicalism.  

Many challenges lie ahead to strengthen the bond between Italy and the Western Balkans. There is a great deal of work to do, and I am convinced that this conference can be another important part of this path, along which institutions and the world of business must walk together, united. So, thank you and I wish all of you all the best with your work.
Have a good day.

[Courtesy translation]