Very close relations between our two governments and business people form an appropriate environment for the expansion of cooperation
We have talked with Dejan Vladić, economic adviser at the Slovenian Embassy in Belgrade, about economic cooperation between Slovenia and Serbia in these very challenging times, Slovenian investments in our country, Serbian investments in Slovenia, as well as opportunities for further improvement of cooperation.
Dejan Vladić, Economic Adviser at the Embassy of Slovenia
The conditions for improving economic cooperation are very challenging at the moment. How would you summarize this year in terms of Slovenian investments in Serbia?
Corona has brought challenges and despair but also new business solutions. Public mobility has changed – we started going more to the parks than malls and other closed-environment locations. We started using new solutions for shopping, banking, dining, travelling. Some companies have not been able to overcome the crisis, others have been soaring, especially those offering online solutions, smart logistics and travel. Slovenian investments in Serbia are stable at around 970 million Euros with a positive outlook.
Slovenian NLB bank, the biggest financial system in the region, is in the process of acquiring Komercijalna Banka; the deal which will add on around 380 million in investments in Serbia. One of the biggest logistics companies in the region, Intereuropa, was acquired by Slovenian Post and has since been preparing to resurge, especially in Serbia where it plans new investments. Tough corona times proved to be an opportunity either for big business or for technologically driven, progressive companies. As much as we desperately want to see the year 2020 to end, we can conclude it has been yet another year of learning about the economy and ourselves.
Serbian companies have been investing in Slovenia too. How would you rate the overall economic cooperation and how can we improve it?
I am happy to say Serbian investments in Slovenia also have a growing tendency. Again, big corporations are leading the way. Very close relations between our two governments and business people form an appropriate environment for the expansion of cooperation. Recently, one of the Serbian corporations became an important stakeholder in the real estate and financial market in Slovenia, infusing new energy and ideas to our market. There is around 9 % decrease in the our trade between the two countries due to the crisis, but I believe that will pick up soon.
“Corona times proved to be an opportunity either for big business or for technologically driven, progressive companies”
New opportunities lure in ecological solutions and infrastructure, energy efficiency, e-mobility where Slovenian technological companies and institutes offer vast knowledge and references. Serbia has a great need for those. I hope we will be successful to get in this field of business, which is highly competitive. Green industries have been topping the agenda in the EU for some time now, as well as in China, with Chinese companies being very propulsive in Serbia. The Slovenian green industry has competitive advantages which are reference-based. With Slovenian development assistance, we have built the first modern wastewater treatment plant of bigger capacity, thus taking care of the tourist destination of Zlatibor. This plant is of great importance as an engineering reference and a learning facility for future plant technicians in Serbia. The Serbian budget has allocated financial means to construct the first bulk of such plants, out of at least 300 projected. Slovenia stands ready to support the Serbian government in accomplishing this important goal.
What do Slovenian investors think of the future of investments concerning Serbia’s progress in the light of the European integration process and reforms?
The fact that our investments have been growing says it all. Our companies are satisfied with business opportunities and environment here. Serbia is the second most popular destination for Slovenian investments. Serbia also has a proven leading position in the Western Balkan region. Many foreign companies use Serbia as a main entrance point to the whole region. With such high level of infrastructural investments in Serbia in the last few years, I believe the business community will further acknowledge its central position in the region.
Regionalisation is the “new black” in the global economy and Serbia has been preparing well for it. We see China turning to their dual circulation strategy, cutting dependence on overseas markets and aiming for domestic production and consumption, supported by domestic innovation. Long-term, China plans to rely on itself. We have also just seen the signing of the biggest Asian regional economic partnership. Serbia is a leader in connecting this region with better and faster mobility, as well as with the influx of capital. Due to Serbia’s proven progress in infrastructure, macro-economy and business environment in recent years, the country can expect even more investments. The EU integration process is timely, especially in the context of the global crisis and EU internal reforms. The EU has become a very complex community and the need for internal reform has become evident. Serbia’s prospects are bright, and we all agree that it belongs in the stronger EU.
What do Slovenian companies think about the workforce availability in Serbia and are they ready to invest in lesser developed areas in the country?
In some parts of Serbia, for instance in Vojvodina, demand for the workforce is high and companies are almost stealing workers from each other. Strong demand for the workforce is always good for increasing salaries and improving working conditions. In other parts, companies are still managing to find good workers. Slovenian companies are evenly spread out all over Serbia and except for Vojvodina, they do not have problems acquiring new staff.