By Angelino Alfano, Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
A contribution to the first issue of our magazine Investor Visa Italy
The most difficult economic crisis of the post-World War II era is at last giving way to a phase of economic development. Many factors helped Italy to overcome these hard times: the social fabric could count on its traditional safety nets; the production system, with its thousands of small- and medium-sized businesses, made use of its ability to combine tradition and innovation to maintain its competitiveness on international markets; the Government began a courageous reform path of which, now, we can reap the benefits.
Reforms take time to show their effects, but in the short term they have the aim of creating an economic environment which is more favourable to Italian companies and more welcoming for foreign investors. Indeed, foreign investments represent an essential component for the smooth running of the economy of any country. Italy, too, can only benefit from an increased influx of foreign capital since this can increase the presence of our small- and medium-sized businesses on international markets, and encourage investments in new technologies and modern production methods.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, (MAECI) stands at the core of the Government action supporting the Italian production system with the implementation of a dynamic economic diplomacy, focused on the needs of companies, whether they are already operating abroad or
intend to commence internationalization.
At Farnesina we have created a specific unit with the task of representing a reference point for foreign investors, and to support our Ambassadors and Consuls, the first port of call for both the largest institutional or private investors in their reference countries. MAECI is also pursuing an integrated promotion strategy which aims at relaunching the Italy’s presence abroad: a strategy that led to participating in more than five thousand events in the last two years. The Italian Trade Agency has now nine FDI-desks, with highly qualified personnel, in those countries where it is probable that investments could originate (San Francisco, New York, London, Istanbul, Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing, and Tokyo). MAECI and Borsa Italiana (the Italian Stock Exchange) signed a memorandum of understanding to ease contact between listed companies and international investors.
Attracting foreign investors has become an integral part of the activities of the Steering Committee for Italy’s internationalisation, and MAECI reinforced its commitment in the Interministerial FDI Committee at the Ministry of Economic Development. This Committee supports investment projects by formulating national strategies for each sector. Although Italy is lagging behind the main European economies (in 2016 Great Britain and Spain attracted investments up to almost 45% of their GDP, France reached a little over 28%, and Germany 22.2%, while Italy only 18.7%) the latest data are
encouraging. According to the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD), foreign investments grew from 19 to 29 billion USD (from 2015 to 2016), thus allowing Italy to pass from the 17th to 13th position in the world’s ranking of investment destination countries.
In this framework, an entry visa policy is crucial. We have worked to ensure that the bureaucratic procedures of issuing visas for foreign entrepreneurs and managers, partners of Italian entrepreneurs and first clients of “Made in Italy” production, be easier and faster. The Italian diplomatic-consular network is committed to reducing the time needed to deal with visas for commercial purposes, without compromising the controls required to guarantee all aspects of security. In 2016, diplomatic and consular offices abroad dealt with 178,074 business visa applications and we expect to surpass this level by the end of 2017.
Three years ago, the “Start-up Visa” was introduced in order to attract creative and innovative companies, and at this very time the new “Investor Visa” is going into effect: this visa will ease entry and sojourn in Italy for production and financial investors. This is an important innovation, and even though we will be able to verify its impact only in the long run, it is useful to underline at least two of its peculiarities compared to similar measures adopted by some of our European partners.
Firstly, the Italian law does not provide for any facilitations for mere investments in real estate since our aim was to endorse production and financial investments, in particular those concerning start-up companies.
Secondly, from a perspective of integrated promotion and considering the empathy and recognition gained abroad by the extraordinary Italian heritage, the law also includes philanthropic donations benefiting culture and projects dealing with the preservation of cultural assets and landscape heritage among the activities which entitle application to the visa.
With these initiatives and this attitude, Farnesina confirms its commitment in support of the Italian economy by regulating the increasing investments and economic development.