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The adventures of Italians in Caucasus

Businessmen from the Apennines have taken interest in the economic potential of Dagestan and other republics of the region

The adventures of Italians in Caucasus

Last month, thereve been multiple publications on the net about the fact that some Italian business owners have meen setting sights on the North Caucasus region lately. Investments have been flowing from the mountains of the Apennines to the Caucasian mountains there is already a consulate in Grozny, one is expected to be opened in Makhachkala, and a wide range of investment projects is planned in different spheres of the economy. How did this colaboration come to be with such a region that seems quite risky even for the domestic businessmen? How did they manage to convince foreigners that there are opportunities for business development in the North Caucasus (in particular, Dagestan)?

In mid-November, diplomats and representatives of more than 30 Italian companies visited the republics of the North Caucasus: North Ossetia, Chechnya and Dagestan. The business trip was held within the framework of the project "Italy meets the Caucasus", which is aimed at developing business relations between Italy and the North Caucasian republics of Russia. Among them were Pierpaolo Lodigiani, head of the trade and economic department of the Italian Embassy in Moscow, the first adviser to Ambassador Niccolo Fontana and others. The project is supported by the Italian Embassy in Moscow and the Consulate General in Krasnodar in cooperation with the Italian-Russian Chamber of Commerce and the Gim-Unimpresa Association of Entrepreneurs.

According to Mr Lodigiani, they are planning to open an Italian visa center in Dagestan. He is claiming that this will greatly facilitate the implementation of projects at the administrative, economic and tourist level.

Surprisingly, the Italians have managed to make out, much more clearly than their Russian counterparts, the prospects for the development of the tourist business in the North Caucasus, and decided to invest in the local tourist infrastructure, the construction of hotels and restaurants the necessary accompanying facilities of any tourist center.

During a meeting in Grozny with members of the Chechen government and businessmen, Niccolo Fontana noted that Italy intends to develop economic and cultural cooperation with the region. He expressed his confidence that the meeting was a prerequisite for the fact that the sides will see each other more often and will be concentrating on building successful and strong ties in the sphere of economy and culture for a long time. Traditionally, Russia and Italy have always supported bilateral cooperation, I hope that the businessmen of the Chechen Republic will be the leading players in the development of these ties, Fontano said.

The adventures of Italians in Caucasus

It is for certain not coincidental that the consulate was opened precisely in Grozny Chechnya is known as a republic with a very low crime factor, and a relatively high official culture, greater observance of order than in the Caucasus on the average. During the meeting in Grozny, Khasan Khakimov, Deputy Prime Minister of the Chechen republic, stressed that a regulatory and legal framework has been created within their jurisdition that will provide investors with comfortable conditions for doing business and protect their interests.

At the same time, the Italians intend to open a consulate in Dagestan despite the fact that the situation in the republic is far from stable, although with the arrival of Vasilyev there is some hope that the situation will change for the better. Then again, it is more than likely that Italian investors have received immunity at the political level from all kinds of control and extortion. With that kind of a step it wont hurt to get some garanties from authority figures.

This conjecture is also confirmed by the words of Pierpaolo Lodigiani. During the meeting in Makhachkala, he noted that the Italian side wants to go through with their plans at the highest level possible in order to guarantee security and support for their businessmen. Theres no doubt that foreign investors have learned the rules of doing business in our country. For the safety of the big bucks, one definitely would need a so-called "roof" at the political level.

We can only hope that the Italians will succeed in their aspirations and that their culture of doing business will have a beneficial effect on the Caucasian business environment. And in many ways a similar southern temperament will help to build bridges and strengthen relations.

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