Belarus - The economic cooperation between Belarus and Italy will be raised to a system-based level

The economic cooperation between Belarus and Italy will be raised to a system-based level, said Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky as he met with Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini on 30 September.

"Today we are holding consultations concerning the forthcoming possible visit of Italy Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in order to fill his visit to Belarus with content," said Sergei Sidorsky.

Belarus believes that trade and economic cooperation with Italy is the key aspect. The Belarusian-Italian trade and economic cooperation develops rapidly. In 2008 the bilateral trade reached .2 billion. In Belarus there are 80 joint ventures with a share of Italian capital, with Italian banking institutions working hard.

Belarus enjoys the support of Italian banks in opening credit lines. Meetings of the Belarusian Prime Minister with the managing director of the Sace company have allowed largely boosting Italian investments into Belarus.

Cooperation between regions is active as well. The Belarusian Prime Minister reminded about his meetings with the Milan Mayor, during which "support for each other was always felt".

Belarus tightly cooperates with major Italian companies, including the automobile concern Fiat. Sergei Sidorsky has met with representatives of major Italian agricultural companies. In his words, "Small and medium companies of Italy and Belarus should come after big capital". Well-considered reforms are important for these processes, believes the Belarusian Premier.

Sergei Sidorsky reminded about Belarus' advance in the World Bank's rating of the countries that carry out active reforms. In 2008 Belarus ranked 58th in doing business conditions. "We liberalize all branches of the economy, including taxation, creation of free economic zones. All these actions should give an additional boost to further advance in Belarus-Italy relations," believes the Prime Minister.

Belarus and Italy are working on setting up a mixed bilateral commission for trade and economic cooperation. The issue was discussed in a meeting between Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorsky and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy Franco Frattini.

The Italian guest expressed hope that the issue of setting up a mixed commission will be settled during the forthcoming visit to Belarus Prime minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi.

For his part, Sergei Sidorsky noted that the setting up of such commission will contribute to promoting cooperation between the two countries. Thus the trade and economic cooperation will be raised to a system-based level, he said.

Franco Frattini confirmed the interest of the Italian government and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to the cooperation with Belarus. "Now we are preparing a visit of Silvio Berlusconi to Minsk," the minister informed. According to him, the present meeting in Minsk confirmed the interest of Italian companies to Belarus. "After the visit to Rome of President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko they are ready to make bigger investments," the minister said. He also added that the Italian side is ready to work more closely with Belarusian business. The cooperation with the Italian insurance company Sace will help increase the inflow of investment to Belarus, he believes.

Silvio Berlusconi plans to sign several economic agreements during his forthcoming visit. In particular, the minister confirmed "his interest in the presence of the Italian concern Finmecanika on the Belarusian market". Contacts have been also developed with the Fiat company, small and medium-sized firms. "All the aforesaid can pave the way for further cooperation," he said.

Franco Frattini also informed that a delegation of Italian businessmen could possibly visit Belarus within a year. The delegation will be led by the Deputy Minister for Economic Development. The visit is expected to highlight the cooperation in small and medium-sized business.

Franco Frattini also focused on the issues of protection and security of Italian investments. "We could think of particular zones in Belarus for Italian investors. It could help set up a permanent network of Italian companies and secure their protection," he said. Italy has already implemented a similar project in the Balkans.

Besides, Italy is interested in cooperating with Belarus in agriculture, transport and communications. According to Franco Frattini, Italy is ready to support Belarus in the European international organizations.



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