Italian investors who are already present in Croatia and many new ones wish to continue investing in Croatia, however, they are waiting for the business climate in the country to improve, it was said at a conference on Italian investments in Croatia in Zagreb on Wednesday.

The conference, held at the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) Zagreb office, brought together some 50 representatives of Italian companies operating in Croatia.

Addressing the event, Economy Minister Tomislav Panenic said that the new government was working on improving the investment climate.

He cited agriculture and the energy sector as two of the most important investment areas.

He called on Italian business people to continue cooperating with Croatia, notably in the manufacturing sector, adding that he believed that Croatia would have an important place in global trends of returning production from eastern markets to Europe.

Italian Ambassador Adriano Chiodi Cianfanari commented in his address on the traditionally good political and economic relations between the two countries.

He pointed to new tenders for cross-border cooperation, the first of which would be published in the autumn, worth EUR 236 million, which, he said, could open up new possibilities for cooperation between Italy and Croatia.

He said that there were many Italian companies that had been present in Croatia for more than 20 years and that the outlook for the future was good because a lot of new Italian companies wanted to invest in Croatia.

Croatia offers advantages for Italian investors, but is also has some critical points and we hope the investment climate will improve, as announced by the new government, he said.

Cianfarani and the head of the Association of Italian Business People in Croatia, Dubravko Hoic, commented on Croatian official statistics showing that from 1993 to 2015 Italian companies invested EUR 1.4 billion in Croatia, which accounts for 5% of all foreign investments.

They both said that they believed the Italian investments had been underestimated and were much higher.

Hoic said the Association's data showed that Italian investments in that period totalled more than EUR 2 billion and accounted for more than 10% of all foreign investments, with banks being the biggest investors with investments worth EUR 481 million, followed by investments in the real estate sector of EUR 300 million, and investments in tourism, totalling EUR 120 million.

Hoic said the difference was due to insufficient statistical monitoring on Croatia's part.

He noted that more than 150 Italian companies operated in Croatia, employing more than 15,000 people.

Hoic said the most frequently cited problems encountered by Italian investors were lack of legal security, frequent changes of tax legislation, unequal treatment at local level, parafiscal charges, a complex public administration system, long court proceedings and labour legislation.

He called on the Economy Ministry to set up a service where all businesses encountering problems could report those problems.

The owner of the Italian Florian Group, Elvio Florian, said that the group planned to invest 25 million euros in a parquet factory and a co-generation and pellet plant in the eastern town of Vukovar, where it planned to hire 500 new workers and sign contracts with at least five-six small local wood-processing factories as sub-contractors. 

Florian also announced other investments for this year worth EUR 15 million in Lipovljani and Ludbreg.

At the conference, a cooperation agreement was signed between the Investment and Competitiveness Agency and Finesta, the financial institution supporting and promoting companies from northeast Italy abroad.

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