MIRJANA KOJIĆ, The Secretary General CCIS: WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN ALONGSIDE ITALIAN COMPANIES

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The main objective of the Italian-Serbian Chamber of Commerce is to promote exchange and trade between Italy and Serbia

The Chamber is a strong association with approximately 180 members. What I have tried to change is the way in which it is managed, by promoting greater attention to members’ needs, greater transparency in management and more active governance. Mirjana Kojić was appointed Secretary-General, with the intention of giving a greater degree of tangibility and a greater level of service to members, increasing the members and developing relations between Italy and Serbia in a new phase that started in parallel with European Union accession negotiations.

 

What are the objectives of the Chamber and what does its work consist of?

– The main objective of the Italian-Serbian Chamber of Commerce is to act as a point of reference between Italian and Serbian business. We support Italian companies that want to enter the Serbian market, and vice versa, we support Serbian companies and businessmen who are interested in widening their business in the Italian market Our work translates into two main areas of action, we are part of Assocamerestero,  which is the Association of the Italian Chambers of Commerce abroad, and we participate to the events organized by the network. This allows us and our associates to take advantage of Assocamerestero’s articulated system and initiatives. On the other hand, the ISCC conducts its own activities, often in collaboration with its members and partners. We strive to involve the largest number of Italian and Serbian companies in our membership network, also to contribute the exchange between our two countries. Emblematic examples of our initiatives are the Roadshow Serbia/Italy, B2B meetings, Business Missions, Made in Italy in Serbia fair and many others. Our concern is always to keep the associative base informed on the topics of interest.

 
Which are the new channels of the cooperation Italy-Serbia and what are the plans to improve it?

– First of all, it is necessary to highlight the excellent intergovernmental, diplomatic and commercial relations between Italy and Serbia, which are now characterized by a long-standing tradition. These relations facilitate the entrance of companies in the respective market of interest. The new channels to improve cooperation between the two countries are represented by the regional level: going beyond the intergovernmental relations and the Assocamerestero network, our Chamber resumed the collaboration with several Italian Regions, trade associations and foreign centres for internationalisation, both in the context of European Union’s projects but also through own initiatives; the objective of these bodies is to promote their own Region in neighbouring foreign countries, also organising presentations, missions and delegations to enhance their visibility and to increase opportunities for collaboration.

 
Which are the positive and negative effects of working in the Republic of Serbia?

– There are plenty of benefits in working in Serbia. In the first place, the country is in a very stable economic situation. According to the 2018 Eurostat data, Serbia’s general growth trend remains vibrant. In the first quarter of 2019, real GDP increased by 2.3% in comparison to the corresponding period of 2018. Also if vulnerable to risks, these statistics and the Word Bank forecasts are encouraging: by 2023 Serbia should be the leading economy among the candidate Balkan countries. Details just provided confirm the efficiency and the synergy that the “Sistema Italia” develops for the benefits of the Italian companies that invest in the Serbian market. Secondly, companies can take advantage of extremely competitive production costs and fixed costs. The presence of important Italian companies as well as the enlargement of their production, confirm the excellent relations between the two countries. Despite the fact that there are many pros in investing in Serbia, there is still work to be done in order to achieve European Union standards and to adapt the legislative framework.

Can you tell us about collaborations with public institutions and bodies?

– As an association, we are also representing institutional body and, according to the type of activity, we closely cooperate with local authorities, with the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, with the Regional Chambers of Commerce and with municipalities. The purpose is to point out to the competent institutions the issues that our associates and partners encounter in their work and to provide solutions to these eventual problems. Thanks to a survey carried out among our members, the necessity for extensive cooperation with local institutions has emerged. To be more precise, companies have this need to extend their knowledge and to be informed on the regular base what are the major changes in regulations, bylaws, especially in labour and financial policy and  procedures. This demand has been converted into valuable initiatives of the Chamber: the “Business Breakfast” with the Minister of Labour, Zoran Đordjević, and the one with the Minister of Finance, Siniša Mali. Participants had the opportunity to ask questions directly to the Ministers and to present them the issues they face every day related to the Labour Law, the safety at work, the activities of the Labour Inspectorate, tax policy, etc. All these activities are organized according to the necessities and requests of the associates, and since they have been extremely successful, they will undoubtedly be part of the Activity Plan also for the next years.

 

Which sectors offer the most interesting business opportunities for foreign companies?

– The most interesting sectors that represent investment opportunities for foreign companies, besides the agricultural and automotive ones, are definitely renewable energy and the ICT. The Serbian energy sector is completely different from the Italian one. Infrastructure and plants are almost totally owned by the State and managed by public enterprises. As a consequence of a long period of carelessness and lack of investments, installations are often obsolete and in need of modernisation. This is the main reason why this sector could constitute an investment opportunity for foreign investors. On the contrary, to some extent, there is already an Italian presence in this sector on the market. For example, Fintel Energija AD acted as a pioneer introducing in the Balkans the first wind farms in 2016 and renewable energy sources in general. Their most ambitious project is the construction of the largest wind farm on the European continent, the Maestrale Ring project. ICT is one of the most promising sectors in Serbian industry, having an impact of more than 10% on the GDP. Serbian companies mainly produce software for a wide range of sectors, from agriculture to medicine, transport services and online games. Foreign companies also rely on local firms to manage call centres and lines of assistance to clients. Alkemy See D.O.O., one of our associates, recently acquired 51% of the shared capital of Kreativa New Formula, one of the main independent agencies working in the digital in Serbia. Some big corporations, such as Intel, IBM and Microsoft established developing centres in Serbia. Moreover, Google is contributing to this growth with a programme designed to help the community of developers and programmers and to assist the start-ups. What Serbia needs now is the high-quality know-how that big companies can provide and consistent investments in an expanding sector of the market.

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