DJORDJE PETROVIĆ, Director of the Dutch-Serbian Business Association (DSBA): Bright Future for Economy

In addition to the already significant cooperation in the IT sector, which will surely expand, there is a lot of room for further expansion of the cooperation in the agricultural sector

Dutch companies employ more than 15,000 people in Serbia. They are active in the number of sectors from shipbuilding and IT to sales, agriculture, beer industry and design. We are talking to the Association’s Director, Djordje Petrović, about where did the initiative for establishing the Association come from, its further plans and room for further cooperation.

Last year,  four Dutch companies, which operate in  Serbia,  launched an initiative for establishing a business association. How did this initiative come about?

Interestingly, the whole idea of establishing the DSBA was created after the inception of an informal Serbian-Dutch  club  in  the  Netherlands,  where Bojan Leković, the owner of KupujemProdajem, Tom de Boer, owner of Todebo, and myself, as the owner of Companies Connected, with the huge support of the Serbian ambassador in the Netherlands, H.E. Petar Vico.  had a meeting at the  Serbian  Embassy in the Netherlands, attended by about 30 officials. After this initial meeting in the Netherlands and upon  returning  to  Belgrade,  follow-ing a conversation with Mr. Oliver Sa-rov, Senior Economic Advisor at the Dutch Embassy in Serbia, we came to the conclusion that, despite the significant presence of Dutch companies in Serbia, the Dutch business community had no association in Serbia and that it was the right moment for such an initiative to be launched. Apart from the three of us and considering our close business ties with Serbia and the Netherlands, we also met a Dutch national, Cees Hilhorst, who is the owner of the Serbian company of S-Biom, at the aforementioned meeting in The Hague. So, the four of us, with strong support from the  Dutch  Ambassador to Serbia, H.E. Henk Van Den Dool, Mr. Sarov and the entire team at the Dutch Embassy in Serbia, launched the initiative for establishing the DSBA.

Considering how many Dutch companies operate in Serbia, how come the Association wasn’t founded earlier?

Bearing in mind that, in the last year, the Netherlands invested close to EUR 2.5 billion in Serbia and that the Dutch companies employ over 15,000 people in Serbia, it is quite surprising that there was no business association that would gather all those companies. I think that the reason for this was a lack of concrete action to implement this initiative in practice. Furthermore, we should bear in mind that this action implies that there must be a willingness of all parties involved to invest considerable effort into this endeavor. Believe me, a lot of work had to be done to launch the DSBA. All of us involved in the launch had to sacrifice something since we all have tight schedules because we have our own companies and jobs, and our work regarding the DSBA is purely on a volunteer basis.

What conclusions did you make at the session and what activities are you planning for this year?

— Following our first general assembly session in February at which, among other things, we appointed members of the Managing Board, in April, the Managing Board had a meeting at which we had a detailed discussion about the conclusions from the general assembly session, operative details and the DSBA’s plans for this year.  One of the DSBA’s primary goals for this year is establishing cooperation with other business associations in Serbia and networking among members. To this end, we had a networking cocktail with the BSBA (Belgian association) in April, while on May 23rd, we attended the international networking cocktail, which was organized together with 12 other business associations. As you can see, we have already devoted a great deal of attention to implementing this goal in practice too.

What is the future of the economic relations between Serbia and the Netherlands going to be like?

— There is definitely a very bright future for the economic relations between the two countries.  Judging from the information that we dispose of, the overwhelming majority of Dutch companies have positive experiences with doing business in Serbia. Considering there is a  huge room for improving the overall business climate in Serbia, which the DSBA will contribute to with its activities in the years to come, we think that this trend will continue and even grow. Also, the very existence of the DSBA sends a very good message to all Dutch companies planning their arrival on the Serbian market. In addition to the already significant cooperation in the IT sector, which will surely expand, there is a lot of room for further expansion of the cooperation in the agricultural sector, where the Netherlands has enormous knowledge and technology,  and Serbia has a huge untapped potential. If you take a look at the situation in the field, so to speak, there isn’s a sector in which the two countries don’t cooperate in some way. It is our responsibility to ensure that this huge potential is maximized and utilized in the coming years.

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