In the past two years, Diplomacy&Commerce magazine has given to its readers abundance of news from politics, business and culture, has reported on the opinions of relevant stakeholders both from Serbia and abroad, covering all segments of life, and opened up topics that were not written or talked about enough. With its latest issue, Diplomacy&Commerce is celebrating its second anniversary in Serbia. We are very proud of the fact that, in two years and 24 issues, we have managed to interview the leaders of the Serbian political, business and diplomatic community, as well as the renowned regional and the global public figures. In these past 24 issues, we have also published special supplements dedicated to overall relations between Serbia and European and world countries.
We have asked Serbian officials – Serbian PM, government ministers, ambassadors and representatives of business associations in Serbia – to give us their opinions about the most important changes that Serbia should make in order to become an EU member, and about the investment climate in the West Balkan region.
1. What do you think are essentially the most important changes that Serbia should make in order to be ready for EU membership by 2025?
2. Do Serbia and the Western Balkans have enough capacity to attract large multi-nation companies to their markets?
Serbia has made significant steps forward, raising economic resilience through reducing fiscal imbalances or by important reforms as acknowledged by its improved ranking in the World Bank Doing Business index. However, there is still a lot to be done. EBRD is keen to help as we do now at the electric company, EPS, Railways and Belgrade transport company, among others. We expect to continue and expand our focus on improving governance in both public and private companies, as well as in the way Government regulates the business community. Considerable growth enhancing effects come from improvements in infrastructure, given several decades of underinvestment. Engaging more young workers through traineeships opens up untapped resources. Further improving political and economic ties with neighboring countries is also key to create stability and a larger, more attractive market. Access to finance can be made easier by reducing non-performing loans (NPL) or bolstering the deposit insurance system. EBRD assists in both areas through technical assistance and/or lending. The new EBRD strategy for Serbia (2018-2023) acknowledges these development needs and focuses on building a more competitive, well-governed, better integrated and greener Serbian economy. EBRD investments support companies that bring new technologies and new ways of doing business. As a recent, EBRD invested Euro 101.5 m to support two wind farm projects which have a total investment of Euro 488 million. We will continue to focus on investments in the green economy. Another area of potential EBRD engagement is to support the private provision of infrastructure through public-private partnerships (PPPs) and concessions. We are working with the government and other financiers to support private infrastructure in areas such as lighting, parking, water and waste.
Clearly yes as demonstrated by many multi-national companies settling in Serbia and in other WB countries in recent years. For now, Serbia’s attractiveness as an investment destination has been based at least in large part on low wages and government subsidies. However, it has other advantages, including geographic location and ability to produce quality workers, and therefore an emphasis on connectivity improvements and training can help to produce a more sustainable attractive investment climate. Serbia must also continue to focus on improving the business conditions by making the economic and regulatory environment more stable and predictable. These efforts make Serbia attractive not only for multinational but also for domestic investors. In turn, new investments will bring the technology and ways of doing business which make the economy more competitive.