The visit of Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni to Qatar today will focus on enhancing the economic and commercial co-operation between the two countries, Italian ambassador Pasquale Salzano has said.
Plans to establish the first Italian school and a school of Italian design and fashion in Qatar are also on the table, the envoy told Gulf Times.
“Our prime minister’s visit will further reinforce our bilateral relations. In the last three months we welcomed to Qatar the visits of three Italian ministers: our minister of foreign affairs in August, minister of infrastructures and transport in September and minister of defence in October,” Salzano said.
He stressed that common challenges to security in the Mediterranean and Middle East region will also be discussed. 
According to Salzano, Qatar and Italy built a growing friendship based on increasing mutual trade, flourishing investments and a strong co-operation on political and security issues. 
Some of the leading Italian companies are contributing to the vision of the Qatari leadership for the development of the country while major investments from Qatar are feeding the key industrial sectors in Italy, he said. 
“Italy and Qatar share common goals to ensure prosperity and security in the region.” The two countries’ total trade volume in 2016 accounted for nearly €2bn and the first seven months of this year witnessed an increase by 21%.
“This is a further sign of the strengthening of our relations. Industrial equipment, mechanical tools, furniture, cars, fashion products are the most prominent components of our exports to Qatar,” Salzano said.
Some of the leading Italian companies are involved in the construction of the Doha Metro and other major projects, he noted.
“Highways and roads are being designed and built by Italian professionals, new ambitious urban transformation projects are developed by Italian teams,” the envoy said. “More than 50 Italian companies are based in Qatar while preparations for the World Cup will involve an increasing number of contractors.”
Salzano is also looking forward to working with the Qatari authorities to share best practices on the institutional support to the small and medium entreprises (SME) sector. He said Italy hosts the largest number of SMEs in Europe with more than 220,000 companies regularly exporting. The envoy described the Italian business model as an excellent example of how SMEs may contribute to economic growth.
In tourism, he noted that the number of Qatari tourists to Italy grew by 60% last year, a significant increase compared to the previous years.
“We are proud to promote Italy as a favourite destination for the Qatari families. For sure, tourists will be the most passionate ambassadors of Italy once they’re back home.” 
Salzano also aims to increase the number of Italian tourists to Qatar to further strengthen “the bilateral bonds” between the two countries.
“During my first visits to the cultural landmarks of the beautiful city of Doha, I’ve been impressed by the vision of a country looking at the future while maintaining its roots and traditions,” he pointed out.
“This powerful combination is unique in the Middle East and the Gulf. Thanks to the daily connections provided by Qatar Airways with Rome, Milan, Pisa and Venice, the tourist flows in both directions will keep on growing,” the envoy said. 

Emir to meet Italian PM today
His Highness the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani will meet at the Emiri Diwan today with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, who will arrive in Doha on an official visit. The Emir and the Italian prime minister will discuss aspects of co-operation between the two countries and ways to develop them in various fields.