Serbia is investing a lot of effort into creating the best conditions for doing business and investment influx. One of the ways in which this is accomplished in Vojvodina is through the work done by the Development Agency of Vojvodina (RAV), a place that deals with all issues related to investment process. The Agency’s task is to find investors, and to send detailed reports on business climate, operating costs, incentives, tax, customs and work procedures, available workforce, logistics etc. They also inform investors of available locations, connect them with potential local suppliers, companies interested in joint ventures, representatives of local self-governments, provincial and state institutions, private property owners and local companies.

How many Italian companies do business in Vojvodina and in which industries are they present?

— Currently, 66 Italian companies operate on the territory of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina (APV). These companies invested over EUR 840 million here and employ over 12,000 people. As a result of this, Italy is among the top five countries in terms of the amount of capital invested through foreign direct investments in APV. Italy also ranks second in terms of the number of new jobs created by its companies here, while in the terms of the number of currently active companies, Italy is ranked first in Vojvodina. According to the level of investments, Italian companies invested the most in the following sectors: financial sector, textile industry, green industry, agribusiness and metal sector. In addition to these sectors, Italian companies operate in the automo-tive, service, electronic, pharmaceutical, plastics and construction industries, as well as in the construction, wood processing, chemical and paper industries. In regard to the number of employees, Italian companies have the biggest number of employees in the textile industry, financial and service sector, metal processing and construction sector.

How did the cooperation with Confindustria come about and what is the best quality of this cooperation?

— The first contact happened in 2010, when a representative of the Development Agency of Vojvodina took part in a conference in Salermo, organized by Confindustria, after which we established a strong cooperation that lasts to this day. Thanks to the cooperation with Confindustria, we put together over 15 so-called road show tours of Italian companies and conferences. As a result, we had new Italian investments in Vojvodina, such as investments
by Plados in Nova Pazova and AQ Magnetica Technology in Sremska Mitrovica. Another result of our cooperation with Confindustria was accomplished in 2014, when we visited seven cities in Italy on two occasions and had over twenty business meetings with Italian companies. In December of the same year, we signed a cooperation agreement in order to formally establish a cooperation on a more efficient management of investment projects of Italian companies interested in investing in AP Vojvodina. In June 2018, the Provincial Government and the Development Agency of Vojvodina gave their support to the fifth annual scientific-business conference of the Italian- Serbian Platform for Cooperation in Advanced Technologies – ISCP. The conference was held at the Rectorate of the University of Novi Sad and its aim was strenghtening the connection between science, research and economy in the service of “fourth generation industry”, as well as the bolstering connections between Italy and Serbia in that area.

What can Vojvodina provide to Italian companies?

— Vojvodina offers investors a good base of qualified and highly qualified workforce, as well as quality and
safety in production. These are some of the reasons why big global brands and companies invest and continue to operate in Vojvodina. The companies that are already here say that we have the optimal ratio between work quality, labour productivity and quality of the final product. Other major advantages of Serbia are competitive operating costs, numerous financial, tax and customs reliefs, and the 15% profit tax, which is among the lowest in Europe. Investors are also given favourable access to foreign markets with over one billion consumers, thanks to Serbia’s free trade agreements with the CEFTA countries, EFTA, Turkey, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, as well as the preferential agreements with the EU and the US. Vojvodina’s additional advantage lies in the fact that the province is only a border away from the EU, and that this excellent geographical location ensures Just in time/Just in sequence production which is especially important to companies that supply automotive industry. Apart from the favourable business environment, investors also have at their disposal 20 fully equipped industrial zones with four being free zones in six different locations.

How has the Provincial Government contributed to the development of these business relationships?

— Italy is our first-rate economic partner, the number one market in terms of Serbia’s exports and the number two market in terms of Serbia’s import, as well as one of the leading countries in total investments and the number of investment projects. In 2017, Serbia exported EUR 1.99 billion worth of products to Italy, and imported EUR 1.95 billion of goods. The value of the total external trade amounted to EUR 3.94 billion euros, and this value has been
constantly growing. The value of the total trade between the two countries, in the first six months of 2018, was EUR 2.149 billion, of which the export from the Republic of Serbia was worth EUR 1.10 billion euros, and the import from Italy EUR 1.03 billion. This means that we have recorded a trade surpuls of EUR 70 million. AP Vojvodina has very strong relations with the Italian regions of Friuli Venezia Giulia and Umbria, and we expect to sing a cooperation agreement with Lombardia too. These agreements are a regional appendix to existing interstate agreements and strong business relations, which will be improved in the upcoming period. I would also like to say that the National Association of Italian Co-operatives (AGCI), Confindustria Serbia and the Cooperative Union of
Vojvodina participated in the signing of the Protocol on Cooperation with the Provincial Secretariat for Agricul-ture, Water Management and Forestry, which stipulates a strategic partnership between Italian and Serbian
cooperatives, creating conditions for the implementation of the Italian cooperative model in Serbia, as well as
the transfer of know-how, technologies and experiences between cooperatives, agricultural producers and
breeders. The plan is to expand the cooperation to include the agro-industry, the social cooperatives sector and the tourism sector. The Provincial Government is also the recipient of the “Best Institutional Partner” award, which Confindustria Serbia gives for exceptional cooperation and support achieved during the first five years since the Association’s establishment. We would also like to single out the recently implemented cooperation with the Trento Alto Adige region and the establishment of political contacts and contacts with interested investors, who also took part in the Business Forum in Novi Sad in September 2018. Partners from the two regions agreed that there was enough room for cooperation in environmental protection through an exchange of experiences and establishing connections between companies in the field of wastewater treatment, metal processing, tourism and agriculture,
as well as for an exchange of experiences in the field of science. Italian business people have also expressed
their readiness to contribute to drafting of project proposals for applying for financial assistance from European
funds covering these areas. The value of the external trade between AP Vojvodina and Italy in 2017 stood at around EUR 939 million. The value of the total export amounted to EUR 438 million, and the total import amounted to EUR 502 million, which means that, in the observed period, AP Vojvodina recorded a trade deficit in the amount of about EUR 64 million. Italy occupies a high place as one of the most important foreign trade partners that AP Vojvodina has a relatively balanced trade with. The import to export ratio is 87%.

What is the biggest significance of the strategic partnership agreement concluded between Italian and Serbian co-operatives?

— In terms of economic indicators, profitability of agricultural holdings, realized profit, achieved business results, and the number of cooperatives and employees, the Italian cooperative model in the field of agriculture and joining of producers in cooperatives, with clearly defined statutory rules, proved to be very successful. Considering that Serbia has a long tradition in organizing farmers in cooperatives, that there are 400 cooperatives
with over 100,000 people which were established with the aim of forming a closer cooperation between the two countries in the segment of cooperatives, the Protocol on Cooperation between the Provincial Secretariat for Cooperation Agriculture, Water Management and Forestry, Confindustria Serbia, the National Association of Italian Cooperatives (AGCI) and the Cooperative Union of Vojvodina was signed in the Provincial Government on October 31st, 2017. The Protocol stipulates the transfer of knowledge, experiences and technologies between Italian and Serbian cooperatives and agricultural producers, thus creating conditions for the concrete implementation of the Italian cooperative model in Serbia, and the development of strategic partnerships between Italian and Serbian cooperatives and agricultural producers.

What are the possibilities for cooperation in this area?

— Joint activities can boost knowledge, foster the exchange of experiences and production technologies, create conditions for investments, strengthen partnerships in cooperation on projects financed by European funds, accelerate the process of bringing producers together and lead to discovery of new markets for joint export of goods and services. There is room for improvement and development of cooperatives in various fields – agriculture, health care, social protection, sports, culture, and tourism. In the agricultural sector, we see a huge opportunity for technological advancement, modernization of production in small agricultural holdings, better use of natural resources, bolstering production and processing capacities, and greater advances in the formation of specialized
fruit and vegetable, wine making and livestock breeding cooperatives. Not only that! The cooperative partnership enables an easier access to agricultural projects that are funded from the EU pre-accession funds. It is also important to note that the cooperation between the Italian and Serbian cooperatives creates conditions for a bigger placement of agricultural products from both countries in third markets, thus improving the national foreign trade
balance, on condition that sufficient quantity, quality and continuity in the delivery of goods are ensured.

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