Bolstering trade ties and economic and migration cooperation are at the centre of a trip by Italy's foreign minister Antonio Tajani to Croatia and Slovenia on Friday, with the Russia-Ukraine war also on the agenda.
In Zagreb, Tajani, who is also Italy's deputy premier, will hold talks with his Croatian counterpart Gordan Grlic-Radman and with Croatia's premier Andrej Plenkovic, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Bilateral economic partnership and new initiatives between companies to create more investment opportunities will be at the centre of the Zagreb talks, said the statement.
Italy is Croatia's leading trade partner, with the value of annual bilateral trade amounting to over eight billion euros, according to the statement.
Economic and industrial cooperation are on the agenda for Tajani's talks in Ljubljana with Slovenia's president, Natasa Pirc Musar, premier Robert Golob, and foreign minister Tanja Fajon, said the statement.
Annual trade between Italy and Slovenia is already "intense" and amounts to some 13 billion euros - commercial cooperation that is underpinned by cross-border cooperation, the statement noted.
"This fact is highlighted by the designation of Gorizia and Nova Gorica as European Capital of Culture for 2025," the statement said.
Tajani's talks in Zagreb and Ljubljana will focus on migration, the Western Balkans, and the war in Ukraine, according to the statement.
"Concerning the migration emergency, the minister will underline the need to rapidly implement concrete, joint action along all the main migrant routes, including the Balkan route," the statement said.
Over 130,000 people attempted to enter the European Union last year via the Balkans, noted the statement.
At Friday's talks, Tajani will underscore Italy's "strong commitment" to forging ahead "with renewed impetus and credibility" in the European integration of the region, the statement continued.
On the conflict in Ukraine, Tajani will stress the need to keep up "close coordination between Rome, Zagreb and Ljubljana, especially within the EU and Nato, to rapidly reach a negotiated and just peace," the statement concluded.