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The vice-governor of Smolensk region R. L. Rovbel payed an official visit to Milan

Interview with the vice-governor of Smolensk region

R. L. Rovbel

Rostislav Leonidovich Rovbel ― the deputy governor of Smolensk region ― headed the delegation of Smolensk entrepreneurs, who arrived to Milan to meet with Italian businessmen on May 15th, 2017, following the invitation of the Italian Trade Agency (ITA) and the Italian-Russian Chamber of Commerce (CCIR). Upon the conclusion of the Russian-Italian Forum, R. L. Rovbel gave an exclusive interview to our magazine.

Rostislav Leonidovich Rovbel, deputy governor of Smolensk region, photo © Еvgeny UtkinRostislav Leonidovich Rovbel, deputy governor of Smolensk region, photo © Еvgeny Utkin

- Rostislav Leonidovich, what prospects of cooperation between Italy and Smolensk region can you envisage?

- The most significant ones. As for Smolensk region, its trade turnover with Italy is the second largest after Germany. Our region houses a large leather-processing enterprise owned by an Italian company Thimeco. The leather it produces isn’t necessarily exported from the country; it can be used to manufacture shoes, in furniture and automotive industries. It is a very interesting and promising direction, and we welcome the Italians to participate. What is more, a large milk-processing and cheese-making plant is about to be launched ― and we view Italian businessmen as ideal partners for this endeavor.

Our country’s President pays great attention to food supply security, so we are developing this approach and offer partnership in producing potatoes and rape, and growing vegetables both in the open and under glass. Moreover, under the import substitution policy we have to localize machine-building industry, including agricultural machinery. We have partners for joint production of feed dispensers and gearboxes. Currently we are negotiating with Italian manufacturers ― leaders in the sector ― to identify the opportunities for production growth.

Fields of Smolensk region, photo WEBFields of Smolensk region, photo WEB

- The shortest ways leading from Central Russia to Europe are passing through Smolensk region. You’ve also mentioned that the “Silk Road” will pass through your region. How are your logistical structures developing?

- Smolensk is one of the Russia’s westernmost regions, and 75% of European shipments are transported via the highway passing through Smolensk region. By the Russian President’s order we are currently working on the “One Belt, One Road” concept for building a Shanghai ― Hamburg road. Governor A. V. Ostrovsky is personally supervising the designing and we have already formed an easement lane. In the nearest future the designing and construction will commence. This road and the Europe-heading Е30 will join all the highways into a single hub in Russia. The corresponding expansion of logistical infrastructure, customs terminals, distribution centers ― everything will facilitate the development of Italian business in Russia.

75% грузов из Европы проходит по трассе через Смоленскую область

75% of shipments from Europe are transported via a highway passing through Smolensk region, photo WEB

- In your opinion, why may it be profitable for Italian entrepreneurs to invest in your region’s economy? Howcanyoumaketheminterested?

- Our region isn’t abundant with investors; the governor holds personal meetings with them, gives his mobile number. He is ready to discuss any problems with each of them and to correct errors if there are any. For the construction period we will grant free land and tax benefits. We have good pool of professional workers, we are ready to reform the educational system and to train required professions if an investor needs it. For instance, we know that Italian pharmaceutic industry is well-developed; we have the State Medical University, we have venues, which meet the standards for developing this business.

Italian pharmaceutic industry is well-developed, phot WEBItalian pharmaceutic industry is well-developed, phot WEB

- After imposing sanctions and countersanctions, Italians are unable to supply mozzarella. You have wonderful milk to produce this kind of cheese, ricotta and other well-known Italian cheeses ― not only to satisfy the region’s needs, but to sell to Moscow and other regions.

- Indeed, our region lays an emphasis on animal production. We have high-quality milk in sufficient quantities, the production can be increased if needed. Now the market is open not only in Smolensk region but all over Russia. We experience a general lack of dairy products, so we invite Italian business to launch their cheese and other dairy products manufacturing. We have strong partners. For example, a local investor has purchased the famous “Rosa” plant, which used to be owned by Danon. This plant can daily process up to 400 tons of milk and we are ready to help with markets, which is also very important.

Smolensk region agroindustrial sector is actively developing, photo WEBSmolensk region agroindustrial sector is actively developing, photo WEB

- A couple of words about tourism. What can attract an Italian tourist in your region?

- Smolensk is 1153 years old. It is one of the oldest Russian cities with rich history. Event tourism and pilgrimage tourism are very developed here. Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Cyril served in Smolensk for 25 years. The first cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, a composer Mikhail Glinka and many famous writers and poets were born in our region. However, we lack infrastructure, hotels, ecological clusters ― especially considering the Year of Ecology ― and many opportunities are open to experienced Italian business, they can invest money in this industry.

Smolensk is a city with richest culture, photo WEB

Smolensk is a city with richest culture, photo WEB

- How would you evaluate the forum’s work?

- The forum is very important. It is a real opportunity to communicate with Italian businessmen directly, to tell them about our region, about its investment potential. We’ll keep developing and reinforcing out mutual bonds.

Evgeny Utkin, Italy, Milan