Both countries have been recording better results in bilateral cooperation year-on-year, but the pace of overcoming obstacles in doing business is still relatively slow
”The Hellenic Business Association of Serbia (HBA), as a non-governmental and non-profit organization which firmly believes that new, constructive and mutually beneficial business partnerships can be built through networking and providing appropriate support. The HBA has been focusing on implementing activities, mainly with the Greek Embassy in Belgrade, which ultimate goal is connecting business people and finding new opportunities for economic cooperation,” Selena Djordjević, Executive Officer of the HBA, said at the beginning of the interview.
Are HBA members satisfied with the business climate in Serbia?
– The traditionally excellent economic, political and business relations between Greece and Serbia have contributed to the fact that Serbia is one of the most attractive business destinations in the southwestern Balkans. Our members show great satisfaction with the business environment in Serbia as the conditions of the business sector are improving year-on-year since the state, through various programmes, is facilitating and boosting the operations of domestic and foreign companies in order to achieve economic growth. Proximity to the market, free trade agreements with many countries, educated workforce, low tax rates, better living standard, competitiveness and state subsidies are just some of the advantages for Greek companies in doing business or are interested in doing business in Serbia. Furthermore, the process of alignment with EU regulations, judicial reform and streamlining of bureaucratic procedures have made the conditions for bolstering and expanding bilateral economic relations even more favourable in 2019, since the business climate in the country is much more stable for the existing investors and more attractive for potential ones.
How much interest are Greek companies showing in investing in Serbia?
– In recent years, the successful implementation of structural reforms and other measures by the Serbian government with the view of ensuring economic and financial stability have significantly improved the business and investment environment in Serbia. This was confirmed by the recent World Bank Doing Business report, which ranked Serbia among the top 10 countries in terms of improving the investment environment. This was precisely the reason why many Greek companies recognized Serbia’s investment and economic potential and decided to locate or relocate their businesses to Serbia. In our opinion, it is quite optimistic to note that the Greek economy’s expected growth in the coming years will lead to the even greater interest of Greek companies and investments in the Serbian market. The establishment of the High Economic Cooperation Council by the two countries will contribute to this.
How can we further improve the economic cooperation between the two countries?
– The Hellenic Business Association of Serbia brings together companies from the banking, construction, hospitality, heavy industry and telecommunications sectors, but according to the latest economic trends, an increasing number of Greek firms we expect to join us come from sectors such as energy and renewable energy sources, transport, telecommunications and construction, which indicates that our ambitions in promoting the aforementioned areas have produced quite positive results. Of course, the great recovery of the Greek economy contributed to this, relative to the previous years, which promises the further development of bilateral economic relations. We should also note that, because of the importance of economic and business cooperation with the EU, Serbia has been aligning its standards with the European ones for quite some time, which has also resulted in several positive developments in economic cooperation with all European countries, including Greece.
What activities have you carried out this year?
– This year was extremely successful in terms of the number and variety of events we organized, as well as welcoming new members. These activities include B2B meetings in the building materials and energy sector, presentations by the EU Delegation to Serbia, presentation of the benefits of the Pirot Free Zone, business cocktails, etc. At the same time, the Association is also working on improving and overcoming business obstacles through formal or informal meetings that it constantly holds with Greek and Serbian officials. Plus, as our members operate as socially responsible foreign investors, the Association also insists on supporting the promotion of the Greek culture and the protection of the Greek community in Serbia through activities such as providing space and purchasing equipment for the Greek School in Belgrade, or contributing to the renovation of the Church of Saint Archangel Gabriel in Zemun.
What are your plans for 2020?
– Generally speaking, in 2020, the Hellenic Business Association of Serbia will try to improve its services and adapt them primarily to the needs of its members, but also to the needs of Greek entrepreneurs interested in the Serbian market. We think that the needs that have to be addressed to a greater extent have to do with the information. So, our plans for 2020 are aimed at conducting information seminars and presentations for different sizes and types of companies, providing refined information on certain topics and guidelines on investment and financial opportunities in the country, and, of course, enhancing the existing ongoing dialogue between the Association and system’s institutions in Serbia and Greece. The Association is also searching for new opportunities for business cooperation between the two parties and working on improving the existing cooperation. The data so far show that both countries have been recording better results in bilateral cooperation year-on-year, but the pace of overcoming obstacles in doing business is still relatively slow. For the two parties to communicate and bolster their business relations more effectively, our Association will strive to organize various thematic presentations, seminars and meetings next year aimed at better acquainting our members with the Serbian legislation, the market and the opportunities for its utilization. We strongly believe that the time has come for Greece and Serbia to make a greater effort by joining forces to overcome problems that hamper their truly great economic potential.