Text: Žikica Milošević
There is no country that is closer to Serbia, not only in the cultural but also in the economic sense, than Italy. The way of doing business, the mentality, the flowing language and the market proximity – all these are factors that make the cooperation between Italy and Serbia necessary, large and developing.
For decades, Italy and Serbia have been the most important economic partners, and along with Germany, Italy has been the pillar of Serbia’s economy partly due to the proximity of the two countries, and the compatibility of our mentalities and economies. A large part of the economic cooperation takes place through meetings of business people from the two countries, which is partially done directly at trade fairs, especially those in Italy, but also through ICE – the Italian trade agency. Lately, the number of these meetings has increased significantly, and there is no major Italian fair that is important for the Serbian economy that delegations of the Serbian business people did not visit thanks to ICE’s branch office in Belgrade. This is one of the ways in which the “Made in Italy” quality is promoted, which ICE also used on earlier occasions, and certainly one of the most effective ways to increase the trade between the two countries.
In the previous period, the economic cooperation was characterized by a balanced trade, significant contracts in the field of joint investments and production cooperation, as well as a high level of cooperation in the field of banking, finances, transport and tourist services. Italy is one of the most important partners when it comes to banks, since Italian banks are one of the strongest in our market and have helped the development of the Serbian economy with their banking products, which both our country and the economy needed. Serbi mostly exports to Italy cars, clothing and footwear, non-ferrous metals (copper pipes and aluminum in various stages of processing), wood industry products (sawn timber, compensates, individual elements and veneer), agricultural products (mushrooms , sugar, sugar beet, fruit and vegetables / fresh and frozen), outer tyres, raw bovine leather, polyethylene and magnesium. We usually import from Italy raw materials for the footwear and leather industry (additional processing projects for Italian partners), packaging and plastics machinery, new and used passenger cars and trucks and their parts, household appliances, furniture and parts, seamless pipes, confectionery products, paper and cardboard, marble and granite, etc. Investments by Italian companies, other than FIAT and the banks, can be seen mostly in the textile industry, the footwear industry, the export of non-ferrous metallurgy products, fruit industry, as well as in the sugar industry.
TRILATERAL AND FIGURES
An interesting aspect of the cooperation between Serbia and Italy is carried out through another Italian partner in the region, the neighboring Albania, to which Italy is, by far, the most important economic partner. Serbia is also trying to establish cooperation with Italy through trilateral meetings between Serbia, Italy and Albania, a country that was not favoured by the Serbian business people in the past.
Evidently, Italy and Germany are the two largest foreign trade partners of Serbia.The external trade with Italy in 2017 amounted to over 4 billion euro, which is a quarter of our total value of trade with the EU. There are 600 Italian companies operating in Serbia and employing several thousand workers. Italy has invested 400 million euro in the last four years in Serbia. Italy is, by far, the largest and most important export destination for Serbia.
PRIORITIES OF FUTURE COOPERATION
Serbia continues to lag behind the leading EU countries in the development of small and mediumd enterprises, and here it is the Italian experience and Italian investments that could be of crucial importance. This segment is incorporated into the plans for the further cooperation between our two countries. Small and medium enterprises that Serbia wants to have more of should be export-oriented. Also, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia and the ICE say that the priorities are bolstering the competitiveness of companies in Serbia and the internationalization of business, in addition to improving the business environment. Another priority is the cooperation in the implementation of the Adriatic-Ionian and Danube strategies, which are the result of the geographical closeness of the two countries.