Italy supports an Afghan Led and owned solution Of Afghanistan Issue

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Vincenzo Pr 

Italy Committed To Stand Next To Pakistan

In Time Of Need; Pakistan offers to foreign investors a favourable legislative and fiscal framework; Students encouraged to come to Italy

Ansar Mahmood Bhatt
Ambassador of Italy Talks To Centreline and DNA

Mr. Vincenzo Prati talked to Centreline and Diplomatic News Agency (DNA) on a host of issues including war on terror and Pakistan’s efforts in this regard. The ambassador also talked about bilateral relations and gave a detailed account of efforts he and his embassy had made to further cement relations with Pakistan. Mr. Prati also talked about his cherished memories of his stay in Pakistan. Here are excerpts from his interview.

 

 

1: First of all if you could please highlight political and people to people relations between Italy and Pakistan? Are you satisfied with the current level of these relations?

Political relations between Italy and Pakistan have traditionally been excellent. We have identical positions on several relevant dossiers of the international agenda, such as the reform of the UN Security Council. Moreover Italy supports bilateral trade and investment as well as the access of Pakistani goods to European markets.

As one of the first development partners of Pakistan, we have mobilized a portfolio worth 210 million euro of development projects in every sector and province, the wide majority of which are implemented through Government institutions.

“People to people” relations are the bulk of the friendship between two countries and during my tenure I have invested in increasing and strengthening the already extensive network existing between Italian and Pakistani People and Institutions. A large and thriving Pakistani Community lives in Italy. The 110.000 Pakistanis in my Country serve as pivotal link between our two Nations: also thanks to their growing efforts Italy and Pakistan are growing closer.

In the cultural and academic field, I encouraged stronger ties between Italian and Pakistani universities and centres of excellence, one example is the recent link between the B. Zakaria University in Multan and the Polytechnic University in Milan, that now has a permanent seat in the “City of Saints”, through which it will organize yearly seminars on global issues and further encourage academic exchanges. Also as an effect of his efforts the number of Pakistani students applying for Italian universities has increased significantly and amounts now to over 450 per year.

1:During your stay in Pakistan, we have seen considerable growth of economic relations as well. How would you describe these relations besides sharing with our readers’ milestones that both countries have achieved in the trade economic field during past few years?

The  economic and commercial relations between our two countries are very good, but they could grow, in numbers,  much more. In fact, the economies of Italy and Pakistan  complement each other in many ways, with Italy being a World leader in sectors such as machinery, automotive, infrastructures, energy, textile, leather, jewelry, fashion and agriculture., all areas in which Pakistan has a key interests. The scope of bilateral collaboration in the economic sector is therefore endless.

For sound economic development, the political and economic situation of Pakistan is obviously very relevant. In my opinion, preconditions for an economy to be able to flourish at its’ full potential are political stability, an appropriate legislative environment, sound institutions, an effective labor market, a good education system and accessible sources of energy at an adequate cost. Pakistan has made enormous progress in the past decades in may of those sectors,. I believe that this Country will manage, also through its thriving entrepreneurship to catch the “Asian train of development and become in the next years one of the great economies of Asia, together with its’ largest neighbors India and China.  Italy is committed to stand next to Pakistan as a friend and partner for future mutual benefits.

3: How many Italian companies are doing businesses in Pakistan? Are they (companies) satisfied with the investment climate?

Over the years, Pakistan has become an increasingly interesting market for Italian companies. In fact, in a World that becomes every day more “global” the Italian business sector, that has always been particularly dynamic, is now looking with increased interest at the many opportunities the Pakistani market can offer.

Even if in the past 2-3 years the flow of Foreign Direct investment to Pakistan has decreased, Pakistan offers to foreign investors a favourable legislative and fiscal framework. The sectors of main interest for our companies are the ones in which Italy has acquired international recognition as a World leader: machinery, automotive, infrastructures, energy (including renewable), textile, leather, jewellery, fashion, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, marble and agriculture. To further encourage business links between the two Countries and promote bilateral trade, the Economic and Commercial Office of the Italian Embassy in Islamabad has promoted a rich program of activities in the majority of the abovementioned sectors.

In particular, in the field Energy: The Italian energy giant ENI Spa, is operating both on land and off-shore through a network of extraction plants and platforms from a significant number of years and is today the major foreign Oil and Gas extracting company in Pakistan, extracting over 10% of the Pakistani gas. Landi Renzo together with FABER, Lovato and BRC are leaders in the CNG Kits and cylinders sector. Furthermore, a certain number of Italian companies active in the filed of renewable energies are looking with growing interest at the renewable energy market in Pakistan that has a tremendous potential.

In the filed of Infrastructural projects in Pakistan we witnessed a strong interest of some Italian companies to explore the possibility of participating to the procurement of the construction of several major infrastructural projects, including the Daimer Bhasha Dam and the extension of the Tarbela Dam (to the building of which the Italian company Impregilo had an important stake), sharing their technology, best practices and know-how in the sector.

In the Automotive sector: there is a Joint Venture between the Pakistani company RAVI and the Italian giant of the two-wheels Piaggio in Lahore (since 2008) aiming at targeting mostly the Chinese market. Interest in intensifying collaborations in this sector. Furthermore, FIAT, is increasing the sales and distribution of agricultural machinery of it’s controlled company New-Holland. Finally, companies such as Nuovo Pignone or Brembo, that produce mechanical components have a very relevant positioning in the local market.

Pharmaceutical is also a relevant field of bilateral cooperation with several major Italian pharmaceutical companies, such as Angelini and Chiesi, both operating with great success in Pakistan.

Finally, Italian companies are looking also at the great potential existing in Pakistan in the fields of gen-sets, marble, jewellery, furniture, leather and fashion.

 

4: Can you share with us details of humanitarian aid?

Italy has always stood by the friendly people of Pakistan in time of need. We were among the very first to intervene after the 2005 earthquake; as soon as the floods magnitude became clear in 2010, we immediately sent two relief flights. We committed over 80 million euro to the flood emergency, through bilateral and multilateral contributions. Responding to the request of the Pakistani Government, we earmarked 57.75 million euro to the Citizens Damage Compensation Fund.

Emergency relief is just one component of the Italian cooperation in Pakistan. Under my tenure, the Italian cooperation portfolio has reached about 210 million euro worth of projects implemented in all provinces and sectors. The most relevant ongoing programme is the debt for development swap programme, worth about 100 million USD and including projects implemented mostly by Government institutions, but also by Italian and Pakistani NGOs.

The Debt Swap Programme is considered a best practice and some of the projects under its umbrella are truly unique. Among other examples, an 850 million rupees project for the revitalization of the ancient Walled City of Multan, or a major project in Swat focused on archaeology but also vocational training in the field of tourism. Under Debt Swap are also relevant projects in the health sector, such as a project to fight against Thalassemia and the equipment of a major Burn Centre in Multan, in cooperation with the Government of Punjab, aimed at treating acid victims.

Agriculture and rural development make up for a relevant share of our portfolio. The main individual project, worth 40 million euro, is implemented through the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund. But we also have Italian institutions, such as the Agricultural Institute for Overseas, implementing projects in the field of horticulture and olive cultivation. The olive tree is a symbol of peace in the Mediterranean culture and olive oil is a staple in the Italian diet; now we are sharing this with Pakistan.

Cooperation has been increasing also in the cultural field. I have followed very closely the Italian Archaeological projects in Swat and Sindh and promoted the rebuilding, through a debt swap project, of the Mingora Museum damaged by a blast. Italian archaeologists have hold important conferences in Islamabad and Karachi. Not least, we have brought Italian opera to Islamabad, organizing concerts by singers and pianists.

 

5: How do you see Pakistan’s role in war on terror and fight against extremism? Do you think international community needs to address Pakistan government’s financial difficulties, which it is facing because of this war?

Italy recognizes and appreciates the sacrifices made by Pakistan and the contribution in the war on terror and we condole the terrible loss of lives. Pakistan is our partner and we are fighting together in the common interest. In consideration of these sacrifices, we have concentrated our financial assistance in the conflict affected areas of Pakistan.

6: Situation in Afghanistan is still volatile due to which regional peace and stability is on stake. What according to you can the amicable solution of Afghanistan and what kind of role you expect from neighbouring countries such as Pakistan, India and Iran to play?

We support an Afghan led and owned solution of the situation in Afghanistan. Regional countries can contribute and play a very important role. The Italian Presidency of the G8 in 2009 was the first to promote the outreach to neighboring countries interested in the stabilization of Afghanistan. Italy supports the Istanbul process, RECCA and all regional initiatives.

7: Pakistan and India have engaged in fresh round of talks. How do you see this development and according to you how important are these talks and contacts for the regional peace and stability?

We congratulate and encourage further talks and contacts. Regional cooperation is an enormous opportunity and it can bring huge benefits to both countries, both in terms of peace and stability, and in terms of trade, people to people contacts and economic growth.

8: Pakistan is eying for the GSP plus status and FTA with European Union. Italy happens to be the key member of EU. Would you assist and support Pakistan’s quest for GSP plus and FTA?

Italy is amongst the 6 founding members of the EU, currently one of the most populous EU countries (together with Germany France and the UK) and the third largest economy in the Euro-area. As a close partner and friend of Pakistan Italy is following with the utmost attention both dossiers currently being discussed at EU level and is offering its’ support to Pakistan. Also with the support of several other European countries, we will continue working in a way as to help Pakistan manage to achieve its’ goals.

 

9:Anything you would like to add?

My 4 years in Pakistan have been not only extremely rewarding from a professional point of view but also very special on the more personal side. I have found in this beautiful country many true and generous friends, very hospitable people and a sometimes challenging yet always conducive environment. I would like to thank the Authorities and people of Pakistan for making my stay, even at the most difficult times, so interesting and enriching. I believe Italy has a very active role to play as an ever-closer economic and political partner of Pakistan in the future.