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KosovaPress interview to Amb. De Riu. Focus on Dialogue, Visa Lib and Cultural Events

The Ambassador of Italy to Kosovo, Antonello De Riu, is optimistic that under the Czech presidency, the first step will be taken to liberalize visas for Kosovo. In an interview for KosovaPress, he says that his country strongly supports the removal of the visa regime for citizens of Kosovo. Meanwhile, the Italian diplomat supports the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue, while emphasizing that European integration is difficult for two countries that have critical issues between them.

“Italy’s stance on visa liberalization has been clear from the beginning. Italy supports the liberalization of visas because Kosovo remains the only country in the Western Balkans that is subject to this discipline. Kosovar citizens also know the nature of the procedures within the EU, but of course they know that Italy will continue to support Kosovo’s position with its European partners, trying to convince the last partners who have not yet received a decision regarding this. We hope that with the Czech presidency, an important first step can be taken to start this process, which unfortunately has been blocked until now”, he says.

Speaking about the dialogue, Ambassador De Riu says that the Kosovar side’s principle of mutual recognition was not included at the beginning of the dialogue.

According to him, the two countries should bear in mind that only by finding a solution will they have a European future.

“First of all, we know that Serbia’s and Kosovo’s stance are affected by a history of the past, and at the same time that both countries must be clear that only through a dialogue, backed by the support of the EU countries, they will be able to go towards the path of European integration. On the other hand, it is difficult to imagine European integration between two countries that continue to have critical issues. Politics is the art of the possible, it is enough to exercise this principle, both from the Kosovar side and from the Serbian side, and then you can achieve a concrete benefit, which is the one that leads to European integration, because the citizens are the ones that will benefit… We are talking about a principle (mutual recognition), which has been raised several times by the Kosovar authorities, even if it was not included in the beginning when the dialogue started. The dialogue aims to create, to lay the bricks to build an object which must then, after a while, necessarily manage to normalize relations”, he adds.

Regarding Italy-Kosovo cooperation, Ambassador De Riu says that it should be further deepened, while talking about some of the Italian investments in Kosovo.

“Italy is a very good partner of Kosovo, because it is the 5th largest partner of the country, but there is still a lot of room to increase, above all, the Italian presence in Kosovo. I’m clarifying it better: If we manage to give better knowledge about the opportunities that Italian companies can find in Kosovo, that can be relocated, this would bring benefits both for the Italian companies that become more competitive, but above all for the Kosovars who will have more employment opportunities and will have more opportunities to stay in their country, instead of going to other countries to find work. Seeing the difficulties to provide more knowledge about Kosovo in Italy, we are working a lot on the Italian companies present in Albania, because unlike their colleagues in Italy, they already have an idea about the Albanian and Kosovar culture, as they are located close. However, we are pleased that recently, one of the first Italian companies already present in Albania, last month decided to build in Kosovo, near Pristina in Lipjan, creating jobs for about 60 women. We know that if we succeed, it will be precisely those few companies that will give better publicity to Kosovo by bringing other companies as well. I say this because I know from my experience in Tunis, this is what happened, and now there are 600 Italian companies. As for cultural initiatives where we seek cooperation, the same happens in economic initiatives. We want to come to Kosovo and give jobs to companies and people and avoid the country falling prey to the important resources of young people, the workforce by driving them away”, he said.

Meanwhile, he shows some of the cultural activities that will be supported by the Embassy of Italy in Kosovo.

“We started on July 12 with the University of Pristina with the International Summer, where we brought some of the delicacies of Italian gastronomy to the Kosovar students of the University of Pristina. Above all, we support Manifesta14 Prishtina, either directly through financial contribution but also in kind from a large Italian company called Generale Costruzioni Ferroviarie, which has helped in the construction of the Green Corridor ). We, as the Embassy, ​​have also organized a parallel event, practically the exhibition called Ecodesign marked 3Codesign, which will be held at the Bogdani Polis Gallery, at the “Mother Teresa” cathedral, and which we will inaugurate on July 29, and of course I want to invite the public to participate. The exhibition will be developed along the three principles of the circular economy: the three letters R: reduction, recycling and reuse. It is a topic completely in line with the principles of Manifesta14. There will be a wide selection of design objects made by Italian designers or Italian industries which are made with recycled and sustainable material. We also support the Gastronomy Festival in Pristina, with two Italian chefs, who will enliven the day of Italian Arbëresh on July 31, because we have a strong connection with Albania through the Arbëresh community in Italy. We will also support other initiatives with these Chefs, with a company here in Kosovo, which participates in the Gastronomy Festival and has a wide range of Italian products, that is Conad. We will also support the Gala evening of Ramë Lahaj, International Opera Festival, which will be held on July 31. We will also bring five young street artists to the Meeting of Styles, which is a manifestation organized here in the country”, he said, adding that they will also support the Sunny Hill Festival and Dokufest.

“We have decided to support the arrival of the famous Italian singer, Mahmood, to participate in the Sunny Hill festival. We intend to use the fame that Mahmood enjoys in Italy to increase the knowledge about Kosovo among Italians, which unfortunately is still not very developed. And in the end, we conclude with Dokufest in Prizren, which we will also support, there we will give our help for a better success of the initiative. An Italian month, practically with 10 events, which aims to cooperate and help activities that are carried out by Kosovar entities and organizations, to work in close cooperation to help them”, concluded Ambassador De Riu.