The Balkans represent an important market for Made in Italy products, also thanks to the excellent trade relations between Italy and the countries of the region. Two of these countries in particular present great business opportunities for Italian companies: they are Serbia and Kosovo.
However, relations between Serbia and Kosovo are characterized by unresolved tensions dating back to Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008. Serbia is yet to recognize the State of Kosovo and relations between the neighbouring countries are still marred by numerous political and commercial frictions. The two countries’ process of integration into the EU is in fact hampered by the rigidity of the positions they take towards one another.
These conflicts, in addition to making relations between the two countries complex, also have a significant impact on their relations with the European Union. The EU tried once again to mediate between the two rivals during the EU-Western Balkans summit that was held on 6 October in Brdo, Slovenia.
An improvement in bilateral relations and greater political stability in the two Balkan countries could enhance business opportunities for Italian companies, exponentially increasing the feasibility of new commercial agreements.
As the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, stated after the EU-Western Balkans summit, “for us [Europeans], this summit was an opportunity to confirm the European perspective of the Balkans” but also to “reiterate that we are ready to mobilize resources to support economic reforms and the fight against corruption in the region”.
“Serbia and Kosovo, business opportunities after the European summit”, a research paper drafted by the Research Department of SACE, the Italian export credit agency, analyses Italy’s trade relations with Serbia and Kosovo, demonstrating the importance of commercial relations with the two countries.
Italy is a fundamental partner for Serbia, with Italian exports to the country – mainly machinery, textiles and clothing and metal products – reaching a total value of €1.6 billion in 2020. In the first six months of 2021 exports to Serbia grew by 29%, thanks to the tanneries of Vicenza and Pisa, the machinery producers of Milan and Monza and Reggio Emilia, the metal of Brescia, the tiles of Modena and Reggio Emilia and the footwear made in Florence. Over 600 Italian companies are present on the Serbian territory, and direct investments amounts to approximately €3 billion, mainly concentrated in the automotive, banking and textile sectors.
Kosovo imports Italian goods – mainly agri-food and mechanical products – for a total value of €105 million, in proportion to its smaller demographic size (less than 2 million citizens). In the first six months of 2021 Italian exports to Kosovo grew by 45% with the contribution, among others, of household and metal products from Brescia, coffee and sweets from Turin, machines for the paper industry from Lucca and of machines for the wood industry made in Pesaro-Urbino. About 20 Italian companies are present in the country.