Friday, March 13 2020 19:52
Marianna Mkrtchyan

Vincenzo Del Monaco: Democratic wind blowing in Armenia has triggered  a renewed interest of Italian entrepreneurs and businessmen in the  local market

Vincenzo Del Monaco: Democratic wind blowing in Armenia has triggered  a renewed interest of Italian entrepreneurs and businessmen in the  local market

ArmInfo.Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Italy to Armenia  Vincenzo Del Monaco in an interview with IA ArmInfo spoke about the  Armenian-Italian relations, trade, economic and cultural interaction,  joint struggle against coronavirus and other issues.  

Mr. Ambassador, at what level are the Armenian-Italian political  relations today? Are high-level visits expected in the foreseeable  future? 

First of all, let me thank you for this valuable opportunity given to  me to share my views with ArmInfo and your readers. I will answer  your question very straightforwardly: we are experiencing a very high  momentum in the political relations between our two Capitals. The  political dialogue is particularly dynamic and it can leverage on a  steady increase in the exchange of institutional visits. We register  a broad convergence on many items of the international agenda and we  cooperate actively at international level, within the Organizations  and Fora we both belong to. Let me also emphasize the very positive  dynamics between Armenia and the European Union. I attach the  greatest significance to your relations with the EU, with the  potential to generate extraordinary results.  The Armenian relations  with the EU are in the meantime a sort of high octanes propellant for  the bilateral relations with Italy and other Member States.

How would you assess the Armenian-Italian trade and economic  relations? Are there any new areas for cooperation that countries  could develop? As we know, last year a positive dynamics was recorded  in the foreign trade turnover between the two countries, and in this  vein I would like to know which Armenian goods are in demand on the  Italian market and vice versa? 

I completely agree with your assessment. Last year was a very  positive one for the bilateral economic and commercial relations, and  statistics on trade exchanges provide the most vivid evidence to this  reality. I would add that even the internal economic growth rate of  Armenia did not go unnoticed abroad. As a matter of fact, the  democratic wind blowing in Armenia has triggered a renewed interest  of Italian entrepreneurs and businessmen in the local market and in  the opportunities it offers.  The business community attaches  considerable importance to the reform agenda of the Armenian  Government, especially in the field of rule of law. During my career  I have come to appreciate the fundamental role of the rule of law for  the attraction of investments and for the economic development.   During his visit in Milan and in Rome at the end of November last,  this message was clearly conveyed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan  to the Italian business community and I may assure you that it was  very well received.  Armenia is undertaking commendable efforts in  that direction and results are already visible. There is also a  significant potential stemming from the belonging of Armenia to the  Eurasian Economic Union, in addition to the opportunities offered by  the Armenian market.  To answer your question on the demand of  Armenian products in Italy, let me underline that in 2019 we have  registered an increase also in the Armenian exports to Italy, for  instance in the textile and jewelry sectors.  Italians are very  demanding consumers, attracted by products coming from Countries like  Armenia with a deeply-rooted culture. Your products carry a cultural  message, they contain the identity and the traditions of your  territory and of your ancient civilization. In the meantime, Armenia  is a country of mathematicians and physicists, and this sort of  twinning between "future and past" can easily work as a powerful  communication tool to better penetrate also the Italian market.

The Italian Renco construction company signed a contract with the  Government of the Republic of Armenia on the construction of a new  TPP (Thermal Power Station). At what stage of implementation is the  project? Does the construction company plan to implement other  large-scale projects in the territory of the Republic of Armenia?  

After having reached in the first half of 2019 the financial closing  with the international financial partners of the project (IFC, DEG,  OFID, ADB), Renco started the construction phase in May 2019. Works  should continue until roughly summer 2021.  The construction  activities already performed include excavations, earthworks,  completion of the foundations of the main power plant equipment and  buildings. Nearly 15.000 concrete cubic meters have been poured so  far. In May 2020 Renco should start receiving the technological  equipment, therefore allowing the mechanical installation of the  above mentioned items together with the construction of water and gas  pipelines. The company might also decide to invest more in Armenia  and in other fields of activity 

At the end of last year, the Ceramisia plant was opened in Armenia,  which was founded as part of a joint investment project of the Multi  Group concern and the Italian Stoneware holding. Are there any plans  to develop other similar projects, if so, what sectors may they  affect? 

As you rightly said, Ceramisia is part of the Italo-Armenian success   stories of 2019. The factory is operating smoothly, and has adopted  the highest European standards. Ceramics are successfully placed on  the international market and the brand "Made in Armenia, Designed in  Italy" is proving to work very well. It was indeed an excellent  marketing choice, as far as I understand from the entrepreneurs. I  would add that the company has hired more workers to satisfy the  demand and I would not be surprised to see even more job offers in  the future. To summarize, my impression is that the partnership  between Italian Stoneware company and Hon. Gagik Tsarukian is  performing very well.  More in general, I trust that in the future  more initiatives and more Italian investments will see the light in  Armenia.

What is the state of cultural and humanitarian contacts between the  two countries? What new joint projects are expected?

Culture is a major highlight of the bilateral relations between  Armenia and Italy.  With the impeccable cooperation of local  Authorities, last year we offered to the Armenian people, to the  international community living in the Country and to tourists a  particularly reach program of initiatives, ranging from ancient art  to contemporary painting, from music to video mapping. For my Embassy  all those initiatives translated in an increased effort and let me  take this opportunity to express my gratitude to my staff for their  commitment. The final result was a very rewarding one, and I look  forward a new set of initiatives during the current year. 

Has the coronavirus outbreak affected the interaction of the two  countries in such sectors as economy, tourism, etc. if so, how  serious is the damage caused? 

The coronavirus outbreak has not and will not impact the level of the  bilateral relations between our two Countries.  Actually, the  solidarity I am receiving on a daily basis from Armenian institutions  and citizens make our bonds even stronger.  Italy is going through a  very hard moment. Unlike 9/11, History is unfolding without a  tangible enemy, but the number of casualties and of infected people  captures the seriousness of the threat posed by the devious nature of  Covid-19.  The line taken by my Government is crystal-clear: full  transparency and maximum cooperation with the WHO, the EU, our  partners and the international community. There is no other way to  challenge and defeat this pandemic, than by coordinating our efforts,  sharing best practices and hard-won experience. Pandemics ignore  borders and administrative demarcations.  I am in regular contact  with the Armenian Authorities, I am grateful to them for their  cooperation, for the assistance they are providing to the Italian  citizen affected by the virus. I also commend the transparency of  your Authorities since the early appearance of the virus. When this  crisis will be over - and it will be over - we will make an  assessment of the toll it will have taken on business and we will  quickly recover for lost time. Let me underline here that the virus  is not transmitted by goods.  For the time being the fight against  this intangible enemy must absorb all our energies.

Italy has extensive experience in the restoration of buildings and  monuments of cultural and historical heritage. It is known that the  Italian side expressed its readiness to share experience with Armenia  in this direction. At what stage is the interaction in this issue?  

Preservation and restoration of historical heritage are indeed fields  in which Italy excels. From July 2019 the Regional Office for  Cultural Heritage Enhancement, Management and Protection (ROCHEMP)  has started its works, and I am particularly satisfied with the  ongoing cooperation between the Armenian Authorities and experts,  starting from the Director of Rochemp, Dr. Ani Avagyan, and the  Italian counterparts from Bologna University.

Mr. Ambassador, thank you for the interview. 

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