dr GIORGIO AMBROGIO MARCHEGIANI, President of the Italian-Serbian Chamber of Commerce and CEO DDOR insurance: MORE VALUE FOR THE 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

The Chamber is a strong association with more than 200 members. The associates remained pretty much the same, which means that the Chamber is a stable institution. 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. The Secretary-General has also changed in recent months. 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 Italyand Serbia in a new phase that started in parallel with European Unionaccession negotiations.

How much has Serbia evolved when it comes to economic reforms in the last year?

― A one-year period is very short to assess the path of kind of structural reforms that Serbia has been going through in recent years. Certainly, the country has progressed along its path of reforms, both by harvesting the fruits of work done previously and by launching new initiatives. Other foreign investors, especially Italians, appreciate the government’s stability and its intention to continue along the path of accession to the European Union. However, it is necessary for the government’s strength not to overstep the mark in terms of influencing or changing the competition among economic operators.

Where do you see room for the Chamber to help Serbia’s European integration and accession to the European Union?

― Let’s say that entities like the Chamber “make economic integration happen”, while it is the task of politics to structure the framework at the time when this integration takes place. I see clearly the opportunity for the Chamber to support the EU accession process, because it aggregatesthe needs of its members together with other institutions of the “Sistema Italia” in Serbia, – the Italian Trade Agency – ICE, the Institute of Culture and the Embassy. Along with other bilateral Chambers, it brings together several factors in the economic area that circulate on the negotiating tables. This helpsto configure the EU accession path.

Which are the most promising areas for the growth of cooperation between Serbian and Italian companies?

― Cooperation takes place in two directions: from Serbia and towards Serbia. Towards Serbia: the country is an attractive destination for Italian companies on many fronts: investments in manufacturing capacity, agriculture, infrastructure and services like software. It is also good for the export of “Italian excellence”, including design, fashion, and food. All these areas are promising for different reasons. In particular, for manufacturing companies, Serbia’s attractiveness is linked to its geographical position, labour costs and the presence of a skilled workforce with technical skills, as well as the possibility, through Serbia’s trade agreements with Russia and Turkey, to access those markets more easily. The strong presence of Italian financial groups in Serbia represents important support in Italian companies “doing business” on all fronts. Insurance Company DDOR, which I represent, as part of the Unipol Insurance and Banking Group, is an excellent example. Others of great importance are Banca Intesa, Assicurazioni Generali and UniCredit. From Serbia: Italy is a market of great importance for Serbian companies, and with accession to the European Union this market will become even more important. I believe that Serbian companies may be interested in becoming the providers of intermediary products or services for Italian companies – such as software development. I also note that in some segments of agriculture and food processing there is potential for Serbian companies to specialise in high value added niches that represent growing market segments in the EU. For example, the transformation of organic agricultural products and local specialities, with which Serbia is much richer than you think (for example, preserves, fruit juices, dairy products, honey etc.).

What is the role of the Italian-Serbian Chamber of Commerce when it comes to supporting this process of convergence between Italianand Serbian businesses?

― The Chamber of Commerce is an association that has the institutional task of making networks, fostering contacts between Italian and Serbian companies and providing services in this regard. Obviously, the Chamber is not an advisory company and therefore its services are focused on creating contacts and familiarisation with, and participation in, the “Sistema Italia”, which is a very important element for operators. The Chamberis not alone – it is an element in the territory of a policy of contact between the two countries, which, from an Italian perspective, are supported by the Italian Trade Agency – ICE and the Embassy, and, from the Serbian perspective, is supported by the Government.

What services can members of the Chamber expect?

― Members expect the Chamber to help them with contacts that increase their development opportunities and the volume of their business. The way these services are delivered leaves space for innovations, due to technologies and the accessibility of large databases and information. From this point of view, the Chamber has important potential that I would like to emphasise, especially in contact with other Italian Chambers of Commerce, which are a great contact tank, as well as with many Serbianinstitutions, both central and local (municipalities, chambers of commerce etc.).

How do bilateral chambers cooperate mutually in Serbia?

― The Italian-Serbian Chamber has excellent cooperation with numerous bilateral chambers, including the German, Greek, French, Austrian, Scandinavianand Swiss chambers. Moreover,the Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Serbia (CCIS) recentlyconstituted the Council of ForeignChambers, so now they have a coordinating point between them. This collaboration between the bilateral chambers is already in progress and the ISCC is keen to develop it further.

As the Managing Director of DDOR Insurance and representative of the Unipol Group, how would you assess the outlook of the financial sector?

― Unipol invested in Serbia as part of its international development path. We came to Serbia because we are interested in developing this market and we believe it will graduallygrow with the economy. We are here to stay and to support the Serbian economy in its development. We have no doubt about the stability of our presence here. The financial sector is related to the growth of the economy: it is a basis and a consequence at the same time. Prospects for both banking and insurance in Serbia are positive, although both sectors need to evolve in the regulatory structure and, consequently, in developing a more advanced service offering. In the case of the insurance industry, in which I work, a very deep effort of regulatory development and the education of companies and the population to cover risks with insurance are required. This evolution of the culture of insurance must also be promoted and supported by economic and fiscal policy measures. The same applies for the banking world. In both segments of the financial industry, there are still two majority or totally state-owned companies in Serbia: Dunav and Komercijalna Banka. Their privatisation represents a key element in the evolution of theindustry and the creation of normal market relationships. In the case of the insurance industry, which I can talk about with greater knowledge when it comes to the cause, the presence of such a large player and public equity in an insurance market that is still small does not favour a balanced business relationship and market development for customers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.