When was the Italian Consular Office in the Kurdistan Region opened?
The office officially opened in July 2011. We are currently in the process of upgrading our presence here to a full-fledged Consulate.
Can you give us an idea of Italy’s historical involvement in the Kurdistan Region?
The Kurdistan Region has been an exceptional market for us in terms of small to medium enterprises, as well as for mid-to-large sized companies. It has certainly been a great market for companies to establish a base of operations to enter other parts of Iraq. Our activity here was initially focused on cooperation projects. The involvement of the commercial sector came later. Since 2003, many cooperation activities began, especially in the health sector as well as a shift in business relations. Business interests grew during this period. In 2006, we held the first Italian Fair here in which over 100 companies participated. From that time on, the relationship developed. Currently, our involvement could be classified as 360 degrees.
In which sectors are Italian companies presently the most active?
A major area of interest is engineering design and architectural development. This is a sector in which Italy has traditionally been quite active. In the Kurdistan Region, there are many examples of this type of involvement; perhaps the best would be the new transportation system that was designed by several Italian companies. In the construction industry, Italian companies have also been quite active, particularly in terms of supplying the industry. I expect this level of involvement to increase, especially since our Constructors Union is coming in June to gauge opportunities in both the public and private sectors. So I would say that design, engineering, and construction are the main areas of interest for Italian companies.
In terms of increasing Italian involvement in the Kurdistan Region, what would you say should be the key priorities?
We are not just coming here and simply trying to win a tender or sign a partnership agreement; we have also prioritized promoting investment. We have encouraged some of our investment promotion agencies to get involved here in the Kurdistan Region. One of these, Sace, is the main export credit financing and investment protection company in Italy. Sace works to provide a variety of services and protection to Italian companies operating abroad. They are the ones that study the market, determine opportunities, and examine the guarantees offered by the government or the private sectors. To do this, they have met with the relevant ministries to understand and analyze the Investment Law, as well as what the Kurdistan Region offers in terms of governance. They also went to the private sector companies operating here and tried to understand how these companies are registered, how they are financed, if they are financially stable, and if they are in line with international accounting practices. This was all in an effort to see if they could support joint-venture partnerships with Italian companies.
Have there been any limitations for Italian companies operating here?
From the research that we have conducted, there are multiple opportunities here that should be more publicized because of the guarantees offered by both the public and private sectors.
How many Italian companies are currently operating in the Kurdistan Region?
There are approximately 50 Italian companies operating on a stable basis in the Kurdistan Region. Our numbers indicated that these companies have about 150 important contracts in a variety of different sectors.
What would you say are your office’s main priorities at the moment?
The office has a broad mandate in order to intensify institutional relations, economic cooperation, development activities, cultural initiatives, and, naturally, consular services for Italian citizens.