The Meloni government wants the EU to reconsider its strategy for the Western Balkans.

by Cristian Florescu

The European Union must rapidly build a new vision of the Western Balkans and prioritize expansion, said Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on Tuesday.

Meloni delivered a video message at the “Italy and the Western Balkans: Growth and Integration” conference in Trieste, which was organized by the Foreign Ministry on the initiative of Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Antonio Tajani.

The meeting is part of the government’s ambition to speed the accession process of the Western Balkan countries and “bring more Italy” to the area through investments in “critical sectors”.

“The (Italian) government is present and ready to do its lot to promote Italian firms’ presence in the Balkans,” Meloni emphasized.

Participants included Enac, Italy’s Civil Aviation Authority, Fincantieri, the country’s shipbuilding firm, and the bank Intesa SanPaolo.

During the conference, Tajani highlighted that the government wants to encourage Italian firms to invest in the Western Balkans so that other countries may capitalize on the chance for economic growth.

“If we are politically present, with our businesses and also with our peacekeeping forces, there is no chance of others dominating space. Many people are interested in the Balkans, not only Russia. “This is why Italy and Europe must be more present,” Tajani added. Claudio Graziano, President General of Fincantieri, agreed.

“The Balkan countries either become substantially European or risk slipping somehow under a game of other powers. If one goes to the Balkans presently, one sees large Turkish communities, strong Chinese interests, and Russian penetration”.

Stability in the Western Balkans is particularly critical for addressing the issue of irregular migration, as flows from Turkey travel through the area.

Tajani further emphasized that the government wants the area to be “in the European orbit” and to have access to the European market. According to Italy’s Ambassador to Serbia, Luca Gori, the matter “sadly slowed down in previous years since it was not deemed a priority by several European nations,” but has regained prominence because of Ukraine.

Olivier Varhelyi, EU Enlargement Commissioner, also spoke at the event, urging Italy to “push itself more firmly” in the Western Balkans and the EU.

The objective of expanding local economies and providing new employment possibilities in the Balkans and Italy is achievable “through trade liberalisation, the removal of trade obstacles, and the encouragement of investments in Western Balkan nations,” according to Italian Economy Undersecretary Sandra Savino.

Italy’s trade with Western Balkan nations totals €14 billion, including with EU members Croatia and Slovenia, as well as candidates for membership Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Albania, as well as potential candidates Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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