We want to see an even bigger team Orange in this ruggedly beautiful part of Europe – and we hope to welcome more Dutch companies in the future
The Netherlands has always been at the forefront of international business. We are the third largest FDI player in the world. And, in the past decade, the Netherlands has etched itself as a major investment player in the Serbian economy. I am very proud that the Dutch business community has been growing and transforming – something I have seen first-hand during my mandate.
Dutch companies are very much ingrained in Serbian everyday life. With around 500 business employing almost 20,000 people in a variety of sectors, Dutch businesses include household names that almost every Serbian knows and uses, including Ahold-Delhaize (Maxi/Tempo), KLM, Philips, KupujemProdajem, Heineken, Unilever and many more. Our bilateral trade has been strongly growing at an average of around 20% per year and last year surpassed the milestone of €1 billion.
But I feel this is just the tip of the iceberg. The potential to increase our cooperation is vast. The European Union is a big driver of economic opportunity through pre-accession funds and programmes like the Green Agenda. The impetus on green growth, infrastructure and energy diversification hit at the centre of Dutch competencies. The Embassy has been promoting opportunities in the renewable sector, waste, waste water treatment, port infrastructure and agriculture.
Agriculture, in particular, is in Dutch DNA. We are the second largest exporter of agriculture goods in the world, just after the US. This is quite a feat for a country that is less than half the area of Serbia. However, we clearly see opportunities in Serbia. The climate, fertile soil and skillful farmers are an excellent match for Dutch innovative solutions. We’ve exchanged knowledge on new berry varieties that don’t bruise easily, covered production (i.e. greenhouses) and sustainable farming. We promote the importance of cross-pollination of ideas and knowledge between scientific institutions, government and the private sector – the so-called “golden triangle” – and work with Serbian stakeholders to improve and modernize the agricultural sector.
Agriculture, in particular, is in Dutch DNA. We are the second largest exporter of agriculture goods in the world, just after the US.
We are now applying this knowledge exchange principle through a new initiative – Green Cities Serbia. Through a Dutch government programme called ‘Partners in Business’, we are supporting a consortium of Dutch companies from the urban landscaping sector to present sustainable and innovative solutions to Serbian cities and towns for greener and more livable cities. In fact, just in May this year, we completed a successful study visit to the Netherlands with city urbanists and decision-makers from around Serbia, which will hopefully result in some pretty neat green initiatives popping up around the country soon.
It is practical programmes like these that bring me joy. Solutions and knowledge that are easily transferrable and that can make an immediate impact on the lives of ordinary citizens.
I believe that there is potential for deepening our economic ties. It is my hope that the positive experiences of Dutch companies operating in Serbia can serve as a calling card for other companies to test out the market. The Dutch Serbian Business Association has also been doing its part to promote Serbia as place to do business.
Amid the current global challenges facing companies, including the war in Ukraine, the pandemic, and Brexit, the country is well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the near-shoring trend. With its cultural and geographic proximity, Serbia has the potential to attract companies looking to expand their footprints or simply move their supply chains closer to home.
However, there are also things that we would like to see Serbia continuing to work on, which would help it capitalize on its potential. This includes accelerating the reform agenda, especially in the fields of rule of law, public administration and state owned enterprises.
Our continued goals as an Embassy are to support Serbia through its reform journey, but also to promote the country as a potential investment destination for Dutch businesses. We want to see an even bigger team Orange in this ruggedly beautiful part of Europe – and we hope to welcome more Dutch companies in the future.