MILAN, Italy, July 12 (UPI) -- Representatives from 30 Mediterranean countries gathered in Milan, Italy, where Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said he saw a bright future for the area.
"There is the possibility of developing extraordinary relations in this area," Berlusconi said during the two-day conclave. "Prospects are positive and there is a coherent desire to proceed (with closer relations)," ANSA reported Monday.
Berlusconi said his government was intent on bringing nations across the Mediterranean closer together in this, the eighth year of the Euro-Mediterranean meeting which has drawn ministers, officials, leaders and business experts across the region.
The talks aim to further economic development between public and private sector representatives especially critical in light of the current economic crisis, ANSA said.
Italian Foreign Undersecretary Stefania Craxi suggested closer ties leading to better business opportunities ultimately end in mutual understanding between nations.
"There are still too many walls of hate and intolerance in the Mediterranean that politics is often not able to overcome," she said.
Emma Marcegalia, the head of Italy's industrialists association, Confindustria, said she favors a free trade area within Mediterranean countries.
"The real issue for all of us here and for Italy is the creation of a single market without duties or protectionist taxes," said Marcegalia.