MARKO ČADEŽ, President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia (CCIS): DEDICATED CONNECTING SERBIAN AND ITALIAN ECONOMIES FOR YEARS

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In the context of the development of digital industry, Italian investments are all the more important considering that
companies in Italy were among the first to embark on automation and robotization of production processes.
Thanks to the project implemented by Confindustria in Serbia together with the Academy of Engineering Sciences of Serbia, the Belgrade Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia, and following the formation an Italian-Serbian platform for cooperation in advanced technologies, the links between experts and business people in the field of innovative technologies, and above all of robotics, have been significantly
improved.

Confindustria Serbia has played an important role in promotion of digital economy in the region through thematic conferences and other activities. How important is for the CCIS and Serbian economy that this topic has been included in national agenda?

— The decision made by the Serbian government to make digitization one of the highest priorities is of particular
importance for the development of digital economy, the digital transformation of traditional industries and the promotion of new digital businesses, which, in the rest of the world, is considered vital for survival, achieving greater competitive-ness and economic development. By adopting the necessary strategic documents and key laws, the
state has rounded up the regulatory framework and defined its digital agenda. The state is also working on the digitization of public administration, its administrative processes and communication with businesses and citizens.
At the same time, through the digitization of its services and the activities of the Centre for Digital Transformation
of the Economy, the Serbian Chamber of Commerce helps companies, especially small and medium enterprises, to transform their business as quickly and efficiently as possible: informing, advising and educating them, proposing transformation and financing models, supporting the implementation of digital solutions, and connecting them with the people who possess the know-how, technology, instruments and funds. Thanks to the support of the German
Organization for International Cooperation and the Austrian Chamber of Commerce, certified consultants will
start working with 40 companies in October to create their digital maps and digital transformation strategies.
The plan is that, as a result of this project alone, we will certify about 300 consultants, that about 10,000 small and medium enterprises will get their “digital signpost”, and that our Centre will provide co-financing for the introduction of technological solutions foreseen by their strategy.

What are the most important results of the cooperation so far and what is your view of the role of the Italian government and businesses in the development of digital industry and technological modernization of the Serbian economy?

— Italy is one of the most important investors in Serbia with Italian companies in Serbia investing about EUR 3 billion since 2000, according to Banca Intesa’s assessment. In terms of the number of implemented projects-
about 80, Italian companies take the number one place on the list of foreign companies that have invested in our economy. Sectorally, the majority of Italian investments were made in the textile, automotive, furniture and wood processing industries. Italian banks and insurance companies also have a strong presence in the Serbian market. In
recent years, and a number of Italian ICT companies in Serbia has grown. Now, there are a total of 116 ICT companies with Italian capital operating in Serbia, and with seven new companies being established since the beginning of this year. Foreign investments, including the most numerous investments of all – those from Italy, are important for Serbian economy, not only because of the capital they invest, the boosted export, the business they
bring to our companies and new jobs for our citizens, but also because of the transfer of know-how, technology,
contemporary business standards and business formats that our local companies can emulate. They also raise the technological level of our economy, contribute to the growth of our production and export, and change their structure in favour of products of higher degree of processing. In addition to the large business systems in Serbia, an increasing number of small and medium Italian family businesses have been coming here for years, not only as suppliers of large companies, but also independently. This gives additional quality to our investment cooperation and creates new opportunities for the transfer of knowledge and elements of a successful Italian small and medium enterprises development model.

How important is local infrastructure in attracting foreign investors and what opportunities are there for a greater involvement of Italian companies in such projects?

— The level of infrastructural development is one of the most important issues and the most frequent topic of
conversations with potential investors, which have been analyzing an investment and business destination. Serbia is aware that investments in infrastructure are both the prerequsite and the source of its sustainable development, hence, in the last few years, the country embark on a large cycle of investments in infrastructure projects. The total value of current and planned investments, only in the road and rail network, is about 16 billion euro. However, it is very important that the construction of the highest-quality infrastructure goes parallel with the development of a regional and local network, and that local governments recognize their potentials, offer them to investors, and create
conditions for implementation of projects that will make their respective towns locally attractive. When it comes to the development of local infrastructure, great opportunities lie in the still underdeveloped model of public private partnerships, since we already have a regulatory framework in place and have fulfilled all the conditions required y European standards to forge this kind of partnership. Thanks to the local infrastructure conference, organized by Confindustria, EU Build, Build Energy Team and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia, 35 Italian companies have already had the opportunity to get acquainted with more than a hundred projects in the field
of treatment of municipal and industrial waste water, waste management, energy efficiency, public lighting and replacement of heating systems, and to talk with the representatives of local self-governments about the possibilities of cooperation in implementation of these projects. They are encouraged by the experiences of Italian companies that have already forged public private partnerships here, or have participated in the construction of regional or local
infrastructure projects, such as waste management systems.

Can you tell us more about the training project for young managers?

— The project, which was financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy with the view of bolstering the economic and cultural cooperation between the two countries, and implemented by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia in cooperation with Forma Camera from Rome, has made it possible for young Italian and Serbian managers to present their companies, experiences and potentials either in Italy or Serbia, get acquainted with the functioning of their specific industry in another country through trainings, bilateral and multilateral meetings, study visits and business practices so that they can be better informed about the opportunities for their businesses in the Serbian and Italian market, learn how to better position their brand and export their products, establish business contacts and contemplate together about their future business cooperation.
In December 2017, on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the establishment of Confindustria Serbia, the CCIS received the “Institutional Partner” award.

What does this award mean to you and what are the new opportunities for Italian-Serbian partnerships?

— The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia has been dedicated to connecting Serbian and Italian economies for years. We are providing not only support to domestic companies to export more to the Italian market, but also to the Italian companies operating here and to those who intend to invest, produce and export in our country. We are happy that the Italian business people have recognized this. We have implemented the model
that we used before in cooperation with German and Austrian provinces, and renamed it „New Economic Opportunties for Companies from Italian Regions“. In cooperation with our Italian counteroparts and with the support of the governments from Italian regions, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia has been organizing business forums in Italian regions. We are presenting to companies, banks and other financial institutions there the business conditions in Serbia, the advantages of investing in our country and opportunities for joint business deals with companies from Serbia with the view of having joint production and exporting to thid markets. We have organized the first, in the series of forums, in Trieste, the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, where the CCIS has is representative office, and in the next month or month and a half we are going to organize such events for business people from Veneto and Lombardia. We think that Serbia, as an investment destination, provides many new opportunities and that we can better use them in the mutual interest; that Serbia should receive high-quality
Italian investments,and that Italian companies should expand their business, as part of their internationalization
process, in Serbia, as the largest economy of the region. We also think that Serbia could become their hub for expansion in the Western Balkans , the region with 18 million consumers, but also they could take advantage of
the free trade agreements that enable manufacturers to have duty-free or more favourable export from Serbia
to markets with more than one billion consumers worldwide. We want to attract new Italian investors in Serbia – large companies, but also small and medium enterprises – that will connect to local small and medium companies here, conclude joint venture arrangements and various kinds of business cooperation with the view of joint production and export.

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