Commitment to strengthen the bilateral partnership with Pristina and to encourage internal reforms, support to the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue facilitated by the EU, support to the European perspective of the entire Western Balkan region: Italian Ambassador to Kosovo Antonello De Riu, in an interview for ANSA, deals with the main topics in the relationship between the two countries, underling “the great desire of Italy” present in Kosovo.
“Italy has been among the first countries to recognize the Republic of Kosovo and our bilateral relations has been excellent ever since. For sure the economic sector is the one where our cooperation is more likely to grow”, affirms the Ambassador, according to whom “in addition to the increase in exports and imports of goods and services (the 2021 exchange was of 334 million of euros, a clear increase compared to last year), there is the possibility for Italian investors to bet on Kosovo’s market, which presents interesting complementarities with our economy: I think about the favorable tax environment and about the presence of young and qualified workforce”. “Obviously – states De Riu – progresses in the reforms are the key factor to reinforce the bilateral economic dimension, enhancing the entrepreneurial environment and fostering the investments’ attraction”.
In Kosovo, underlines the Ambassador, “there is a great desire of Italy. This is proven, among other things, by the enthusiastic response of institutions, associations, students, and entrepreneurs to our initiatives of integrated promotion realized so far: from the Italian Cuisine Week to the Italian Design Day, from the retrospective of films by Antonioni and Pasolini to the Italian Research Day in the World, passing by the exhibit of Raffaello’s portraits”. For the following months, he adds, “we are working with Manifesta (a biennial urban art festival that will take place in Pristina this year, from July to October, with the participation of Carlo Ratti) and we are trying to work together with Sunny Hill (a festival organized every year in August by Dua Lipa)”. “On other fields, in order to support the teaching of the Italian language at the University of Pristina, our Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recently activated an Italian lecturer at the Philology Faculty, a circumstance that has already fostered the interest of Kosovar students in our language, also sustained by the participation of our lecturer at the activity of the newly-founded Interfaculty Language Centre”.
Regarding the application of Kosovo for the Council of Europe and the possible negative repercussions on the negotiations with Serbia, Ambassador affirms that “Italy fully supports the EU facilitated Dialogue between Pristina and Beograd. It is an historic opportunity for both countries to finally close with the legacies of the past and move on toward the perspective accession to the EU. It is essential that Kosovo’s legitimate ambition to join the Council of Europe – important indicator of its commitment to democracy, rule of law and citizens’ rights protection – is fostered also by substantial progresses in the Dialogue promoted by the EU”. In this respect, De Riu asserts that Italy, “together with the other partners of the Quint (France, Germany, UK, USA), is at the front line to encourage both parts to work constructively under the support of the EU, in order to reach a crucial agreement for the stabilization of the region and the European future of both countries”.
Later, Ambassador refers to KFOR and the Italian contingent deployed (currently over 600 personnel), whose mission “remains that of ensuring freedom of movement and a stable security environment for the benefit of the people of Kosovo.” “As confirmation of the strategic value we reserve for this mission and its contribution to the stabilization of the Western Balkans, from next autumn Italy will again hold the position of commander.”
About the possibility that the armed conflict in Ukraine could lead further instability to the Balkans, Ambassador De Riu says that a worsening of the situation in the region, and especially in Kosovo, can be avoided by “making concrete and tangible the European perspective for the Western Balkans, which are an integral part of our strategic space.” “In the case of Kosovo – he adds – it is necessary to overcome the growing disillusionment in the local public opinion about the process of European integration, also due to the failure to liberalize visas for Kosovo citizens – the only ones in the region who do not take advantage of this measure – even though the country has long since achieved all the parameters for obtaining it”.