Annino De Venezia, President of the Italian-Serbian Chamber of Commerce: Italians look at Serbia with interest

We, CCIS, are planning some important missions to Italy in order to let Italians and Serbians meet around a table of possible business

As the new president of the Italian-Serbian Chamber of Commerce, Annino De Venezia introduced himself talking about his focus on economic cooperation, what unites Italy and Serbia, progress and the event Made in Italy which Serbian people really love.

Annino De Venezia, President of the Italian-Serbian Chamber of Commerce

In January, you were appointed the new president of the Italian-Serbian Chamber of Commerce. Which aspects of economic cooperation will you focus on the most?

This is a very hard historic moment. Everyone knows that some businesses are facing big trouble because of some important increasing costs: raw materials first of all, but also the energy.
The Italian-Serbian Chamber of Commerce will continue its commitment to fulfilling the requests of the companies belonging to the various economic sectors, creating intervention models aimed at supporting the Italian and local companies and addressing the recovery of the economic relations with the foreign markets. All activities will have a dual purpose: to promote Made in Italy in the best possible way by working together with ITA (Italian Trade Agency) to present the business opportunity in Serbia and to support Serbian companies on their expansion in the Italian market.
The agricultural sector is very active and relevant. In fact, as part of the 89th International Agricultural Fair, very important for products and machines, held in Novi Sad from the 21st to the 27th of May, the CCIS gave its support to ITA led the Italian pavilion and gathered 24 Italian companies. The CCIS will continue to promote and support ITA, in Serbia, the major Italian fairs in the field of agricultural machinery and equipment, with the idea of encouraging Serbian companies to participate.
The good positioning of Serbia in the European and world markets of the ICT industry leaves room for even greater progress, as well as for the further development of cooperation in this sector in the future. The good conditions and tax incentives that Serbia offers to the investors together with a stable business environment are a guarantee of a business.

“In the first four months of 2022 Serbia exported goods with a value of 8.404,30 million euro”

To give greater support to the strengthening and growth of the ICT sector in Serbia, CCIS, accompanied by the relevant Serbian start-up companies, this year participates in the We Make Future Festival – the largest digital innovation festival to be held in Rimini (Italia) from the 16th to the 18th of June. The energy sector is also very important for the economic development of Serbia and at the same time offers the space for investments. Italian know-how can contribute to the creation of new jobs, especially in the field of sustainable energy, recycling and systems of water cleaning.
Among the sectors traditionally interesting for Italian companies, there are also the metalworking sector, the automotive industry and the textile sector which represents one of the fastest-growing sectors thanks to the Italian investments.

Thanks to the cooperation within the Italian System, under the aegis of the Italian Embassy in Belgrade, the CCIS guarantees support to both Italian and Serbian companies, thus providing all the information necessary for the complete development of their business.

What unites Italy and Serbia? How desirable is Serbia as an investment destination for Italian investors? What do you think is Serbia’s special advantage as an investment location?

Serbia can be a very important hub for important Companies. Italians look at Serbia with interest and I can confirm that from Vojvodina till Nis we started great cooperation with some relevant associations. It means CCIS is doing its homework to connect Italian and Serbian businessmen.
About the special advantages, I just wish to highlight the importance of the impulse given to the infrastructure (highways) work. In some European countries, the most popular foreign language is English. Serbia, as far as I know, invests a lot and many citizens speak it well. That’s amazingly important for the investors.

“Serbia offers a wide range of opportunities: the most important is the geographic strategic position”

RAS (Development Agency of Serbia) is the Agency that supports foreign investors through a wide range of services to facilitate direct investments, to promote competitiveness and exports.
FDI (Foreign Domestic Investments) has never stopped, not even during the pandemic. Serbia is the addressee of 60% of the investments made in the Western Balkans region. The Central Bank estimated that these investments amounted to 3,60 billion euros for the whole year of 2021 (almost like the 3,90 billion achieved in 2019). According to government data, 18 production facilities were opened in 2021, for a total investment of 760 million euros, with the creation of 11.680 new jobs.

Over 600 companies, founded with Italian capital, operate in Serbia. In their opinion, what advantages does Serbia have in terms of doing business?

Serbia offers a wide range of opportunities: the most important is the geographic strategic position; then the labor cost is still competitive compared with the other Countries around Serbia. It’s also important to note that infrastructures are becoming very good.
The financial system is considered stable and sufficiently capitalized, while there are numerous fiscal incentives as well as financial and territorial advantages. In addition to those of the central government, there are many incentives offered by the various municipalities that compete with each other for the establishment of companies capable of hiring manpower. Very relevant is the creation of numerous free zones: 15 zones in which 215 multinationals employ over 40 thousand employees.

What advice would you give to Serbian companies that want to expand their business to include Italy?

First of all, they must really understand the Italian needs. We, CCIS, are planning some important missions to Italy in order to let Italians and Serbians meet around a table of possible business. Italians don’t know some special and original Serbian Products. It is time to work on this matter. In fact, in order to contribute to the creation of concrete initiatives for the meeting and cooperation between Italian companies in the province of Vojvodina, the representatives of our Chamber met with the President of the Provincial Government and Secretary for Economy and Tourism in Novi Sad and they discussed a cooperation agreement that both will soon sign.

“Serbians love Made in Italy. We make events to increase that love”

Furthermore, the second institutional visit this year was held in Nis, where I met the representatives of NAIUSSUS (Entrepreneurial Club of Nis). The aim was to define joint cooperation through B2B meetings and implement internationalization, involving partners of both organizations and Italian companies interested into it.

Which segments of Italian-Serbian cooperation have progressed the most and which should develop more?

In the first four months of 2022, Serbia exported goods with a value of 8.404,30 million euros, registering an increase of 27,30% compared with the same period of last year. Imported goods’ value is 12.176,50 million euros, that equals to an increase of 45,80% from the same period of last year.
Commercial interchange has been more profitable with those Countries with which Serbia signed Free Trade Agreements. EU members represent 59,70% of total commercial interchange. Italy is also Serbia’s second client (667,30 million euro) and fifth supplier (828,90 million euro) as well as one of the main foreign investors in the country.

Italy lifted all COVID-related entry measures on March 1st this year. What will the trade between the two countries be like this year, in these already facilitated circumstances?

According to previously analyzed data, COVID-19 and the resulting global economic slowdown, have had fewer consequences for Serbia due to its economic structure, the relatively low weight of services in GDP and a timely package of economic measures, effective and complete.
However, the Serbian economic growth will slow this year up to 3,20% instead of 4,40% as the previous forecast, due to several economic crises around the world, including the war in Ukraine. The consequences of the war in Ukraine negatively impact exports from Serbia, as well as foreign direct investments, remittances and tourism revenues, but Serbia is expected to maintain macroeconomic stability despite pronounced negative risks that could occur in 2022. The Serbian economy is expected to grow steadily at around 3% per annum over the medium term, similarly to the pre-pandemic growth rate.

You support the Made in Italy event and what it promotes. How much do such events contribute to boosting the cooperation between the two countries?

Serbians love Made in Italy. We make events to increase that love.
Italian excellent speciality of goods is not only represented by the famous commercial brands. It is also coming from small companies where the quality and the service to the Customer is a daily target. We are working on this matter very hard to promote those Italian and Serbian small companies that want to make a strong and profitable business.

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