Italy-Serbia: let's boost cooperation, says Vucic

Calls for investments, support on EU, military cooperation

12 June, 11:03

    The first vicepresident and Defence minister of the Republic of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic The first vicepresident and Defence minister of the Republic of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic

    (by Franco Quintano and Dragan Petrovic) (ANSAmed) - BELGRADE - Serbian Deputy Premier and Defense Minister Aleksandar Vucic is in Rome today for talks with Italian Premier Enrico Letta and Defense Minister Mario Mauro. Vucic is expected to ask for Italy's support ahead of the next EU summit at the end of June, when the Union will pick a date to begin adhesion negotiations with Serbia.

    Boosting economic relations as well as military and defense cooperation are the other top items on the bilateral agenda.

    ''Serbia and Italy enjoy excellent relations, and we want to improve them even more. Italian investments are coming in and they are welcome, but we want more of them'', Vucic told ANSAmed in an interview on Tuesday, just hours before leaving for the Italian capital.

    ''Thanks to Fiat and other Italian companies big and small such as Benetton, Calzedonia and Geox, our exports to Italy have outpaced those to Germany'', said Vucic, who meets with Italian investors today afternoon. ''We expect a significant number of Italian businesses now operating in other countries to come to Serbia. We ensure stable and advantageous conditions, beginning with streamlined bureaucracy and faster permit releases''. The Fiat plant at Kragujevac has been key in boosting Serbian exports, with thousands of 500L cars already on the US market, Vucic went on. Another 10,000 cars will reach Russia before the end of the year, the deputy premier said, adding that Belgrade does not expect negative fallout from the economic crisis to affect Italian investments.

    The leader of the conservative Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) and head of a special government anti-corruption task force, Vucic is by far the most popular politician in Serbia due to his tough stance on crime. The SNS is part of the ruling three-party coalition along Socialist Premier Ivica Dacic and the pro-business United Regions of Serbia party led by current economy and finance minister, Mladjan Dinkic.

    ''I will ask Premier Enrico Letta to help with Serbia's European integration. We expect a date for the beginning of adhesion negotiations to be set at the EU summit in June. This will prove to investors that Serbia is well on the road to Europe, and there will no turning back'', Vucic said. The deputy premier pointed to Italy's key role in abolishing visas and pushing for Serbia's candidate status, particularly under the leadership of former foreign minister in the Berlusconi administration, Franco Frattini. ''We have done everything we were asked to do on Kosovo, we are fighting corruption and undertaking economic reforms. If this is not enough to obtain a date, that's OK, but someone from Brussels needs to come here and explain why to the Serbian people'', Vucic remarked. Serbia wishes to boost military and defense cooperation with Italy, added Vucic, who also meets with representatives from Italian defense and technology conglomerate Finmeccanica tomorrow. ''We have excellent relations, both bilaterally and within the NATO Partnership for Peace program'', the Serbian defense minister said. ''We are a neutral country, but we have excellent relations with the Atlantic Alliance and with countries such as Italy, whom we must thank for the professionalism of its troops in Kosovo''. (ANSAmed).

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