Serbia’s to the Nordic region ties date back to 19th Century, and up to this day Serbia has high interest and recognition of Nordic culture, economy and regional model of cooperation. Our premise is that development of the Balkan – alongside the negotiation of its countries with the European Union – can continuously be improved by using experiences and benefits of the Nordic model of cooperation. At the same time, numerous bilateral projects, increasing trade relations and inflow of foreign direct investments from Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark, present key importance in strengthening our relations with a positive effect on Serbian economy and competitiveness.
Dr Dusan Crnogorcevic, Ambassador of The Republic of Serbia to The Kingdom of Sweden answered the question of Nordic Business.
- How is EU membership going to affect Serbia’s business relation with Europe at large and Sweden in particular?
The past year was marked with Serbia`s quest for a European future – as country receive candidate status and progress towards screened procedure. Process needs to be sustained, and I am confident that we are on the clear path towards European Union as enthusiasm among population is arising with clear determination of the Government to continue along European Union accession negotiation process. We would like to emphasize that economic reforms are at the same time high on the Government agenda, especially through adoption of new set of laws that will ensure more flexibility into the labor market, sustain private sector growth and to finally conduct privatization process of the public companies.
A recent report by the European commission showed Serbia is on track to become part of the EU and those implementations of reforms are paying off. Based on European attractiveness survey, Serbia is considered as one of Europe’s favorite investment locations in CEE a few years in row. Serbia – when compared to its neighboring countries – record consistently high results in attracting FDI over the last 5 years. Simultaneously, export is growing – followed by increase in export oriented foreign capital inflow – that is of key importance in improving innovations, use of technology and competitiveness of the private sector in general.
The experience of Sweden and other EU Member States will be a great support in improving economic governance and competitiveness in the country. Emphasis will be put on structural reforms. EU is Serbia’s biggest trading partner; according to data the EU accounted for more than 61 per cent of Serbia’s exports and imports in the last two years. One of our major goals is to ensure that trade between the EU and Serbia continues to grow. Sweden has been a great supporter of Serbia when it comes to European integration process. We truly appreciate their continuous enthusiasm for enlargement of European Union as a negotiation is a cornerstone of our Government along with the economic recovery. Still, our notion is that we have a lot to do on economic front since Serbia-Sweden bilateral trade in US$ 2014 was with 347,7 million below potential, marked by high trade deficit on Serbia`s side. We believe that Swedish-Serbian business partnerships will not only continue in the same positive manner – as more than 70 Swedish companies already present in the market – but become even more beneficial for both sides by prospering from opportunities within the internal market.
Dr Dusan Crnogorcevic, Ambassador of The Republic of Serbia to The Kingdom of Sweden
- What are the invest – trade opportunities in Serbia- and particularly emerging sectors
Serbian economy is gathering momentum on the strength of key industries: ICT, automotive, machinery, food, textile and wood processing industry. Export of cars from Serbia have increased and reach record high level of US$ 2.1 billion in 2014, as result of FIAT investment in the country. Food sector is also boosting its export performance to both European Union member countries and Russian market, backed with Free Trade Agreements Serbia holds with these countries. Our companies from food industry have great potentials and large quantities of high-quality that can be offered to consumers on foreign markets, yet still lacking behind in knowledge of export procedures, market trends and packaging. Serbia ICT industry is an engine of economic and innovations growth marked with gaming companies have already achieved global success with their creativity, enthusiasm and talented professionals. For exapmle, gaming company Nordeus, set in 2010, launched popular Facebook game “Top Eleven Manager”. The game has seen a steady growth and currently has over 12 million monthly active players and 5 million daily active players, while 10-people start-up became a leading company in the sphere of entertainment software development in this part of Europe with today more than 150 employess.
There are number of possibilities for enhancement of investment and trade in particular within ICT, machinery, food and textile sector. Our premise is that strong political relations and Sweden`s support to Serbia accession negotiations process to the EU is very keen to transform into strong economic relations that benefit both countries. Embassy of the Republic of Serbia in Stockholm with great support from newly established Serbian Swedish Business Council is working toward that goal.
- For Swedish companies what would recommend specifically about Serbia and Serbian business market? Business fairs etc. as last words.
Serbia is open for business – all potentials for cooperation are open and our companies are constantly looking for new partners in foreign markets. However, depending on the needs of the individual company from Sweden we can offer specific investment and trade prospects. If company is interested in ICT I would say that Serbia ICT sector is the strongest in the region with booming outsourcing potential, same with food, textile industry and machinery. One of the key competitive cornerstones of Serbian economy is strong supplier’s network that can deliver products and services within short delivery time and superb quality. Hence, I can not single out one specific sector, as there are many opportunities for greater business cooperation with Swedish companies.
Nowadays, Serbia is one of top investment locations in Central and Eastern Europe, and it is considered as one of the favored destinations in Europe for large manufacturing projects. The Economist intelligence unit estimates an average annual economic growth of 3.6 per cent in 2014 to 2018. In 2014, the largest part of expected FDI inflow will be directed to the energy sector (48%), followed by manufacturing (20%) and trade (7%), Many of world know companies are alredy present in Serbia embracing Fiat, Telenor, Stada, Michelin, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Gazprom, Intesa Sanpaolo, Siemens, etc. Some foreign investors decided to use Serbian manufacturing hub potentials which enable duty-free exports to a market of almost 1 billion people together with good geographical position with delivery within 24-hours to most EU locations, abundance of resources and long tradition in key industries. While others appreciate highly skilled and easy trained workforce offered with highly competitive costs.
We are looking forward to welcome more business delegations from Sweden to Serbia. Opportunities are numerous from internationals fairs in capital Belgrade and Novi Sad to specially created matchmaking and b2b events where partnering companies can meet in person and talk business.
- A short introduction about Serbian Business Culture
Serbian business culture has undergone through profound changes in last couple of years. Before agreements we set up and confirmed during lunch in so called “kafana” within more homely, pleasant atmosphere. Today, we have shifted to more “Western style” meetings even though café culture remains for an informal gathering with your business partners. The most common opening when meeting your Serbian counterpart for the first time is a handshake and a smile. Exchange of business cards is part of the etiquette as well usually followed by courtesy introduction and short off topic conversation. Majority of business representatives are fluent in English or some other language, and formal dress code with suite and tie is a must and presents respect to your partner. Serbians are open, communicative and friendly, and do like to engage in conversation with foreigners.