Dutch companies are active in Serbia in a wide array of sectors, ranging from retail, IT and manufacturing to shipbuilding and agriculture, among others
”Serbia has significant economic potential across economic sectors, be it due to its geographic location, favourable climate, skilled workforce, various free trade agreements and many other.Factors,“ says at the beginning of the conversation Oliver Šarov, Senior Policy Adviser for Economic Affairs & Trade, Embassy of the Netherlands.
The Dutch-Serbian Business Association was founded in Belgrade at the end of last year. What does that mean for the relationship between the two country?
— That’s something I am particularly proud as I think it symbolizes a significant step in the al-ready strong economic relationship between Serbia and the Netherlands. By organizing into the Dutch-Serbian Business Association, which now has close to forty members which include household names and some of the biggest companies in Serbia, I think our business community has sent a very clear signal of being here to stay and wanting to contribute to making Serbia an even better place to do business. From a personal perspective, I am very glad to have been in a position to support it from conceptualization to realization and look forward to continuing to provide our support whenever we can. There will be some interesting joint initiatives coming to look out for!
What does Serbia need to do in order to unlock its potential and attract more multinational companies and FDI?
— One of the key issues that are still holding the economy back, and one I hear about from companies often, remains the rule of law and the efficiency of public institutions. If Serbia is to unlock its potential and attract more multinational companies and FDI, addressing these issues is key. Companies make strategic decisions based on the predictability of doing business, which is, to a large extent, based on the uniform and transparent application of regulations which affect the business environment, such as the uniform application of tax regulations, execution of inspections and application of parafiscal charges. In that sense, the Government’s initiatives to reduce the administrative burden for business-es in general, including start-ups, in order to en-courage (youth) entrepreneurship and increasing the ease of doing business are positive developments and will be important for Serbia’s growth. In addition, progress on (key) infrastructural pro-jects that increase economic activity and facilitate greater (regional) connectivity, can do much to further unlock Serbia’s significant potential. The proof is, as they say, in the pudding. And I can already see the positive effects of the increased interest we get from Dutch companies. What is the interest of Dutch companies for investing in Serbia? How often entrepreneurs contact you for a piece of advice on how to enter the Serbian market?— As I’m sure you know, Dutch companies are active in Serbia in a wide array of sectors, rang-ing from retail, IT, manufacturing, shipbuilding to agriculture, among others. There are a couple of focus areas that Dutch companies have particularly strong, and world-re-nowned, expertise, which also reflects in terms of where we see the largest potential for growth. These are agriculture, energy and water – some of, what the Dutch Government has called, our top sectors. Generally, these sectors are also where we see the most interest from Dutch companies and we are actively working to increase that interest by promoting Serbia as an investment destination, with a particular focus on the agricultural, water and energy sectors. Which areas are the most interesting to the Dutch companies when it comes to investing in Serbia? — Part of what makes my job interesting is its inherent diversity. That is, of course, to a large part due to the nature of my mixed portfolio, but it is also to a large part due to the sheer diversity of areas that Dutch companies are either active or interested in. I just mentioned some of those sectors and the interest of new companies remains as diverse. Just over the past few weeks, I’ve had meetings on a variety of topics such as water, manufacturing, IT, health and life sciences, construction, retail, etc.
Could you tell us something about new activities of the Embassy of the Netherlands? In which way are you promoting the Netherlands in our country?
— Like every year, this is another busy year for the Embassy and that is, to a large part, due to the fact that we’re always trying to think of new creative ways to bring people in Serbia in touch with the Netherlands. And I’m particularly glad that we’re doing so increasingly in partnership with the Dutch business community. This year we had a record amount of partnerships with Dutch companies! This year we will have a string of events and workshops focusing on Dutch DJ-ing, culminating in a proper Dutch EDM party. Recently we were part of the Mikser Festival, focusing on the circular economy. Together with the Serbian Cham-ber of Commerce, we organized the first Serbi-an-Dutch Water & Energy Forum, which gener-ated a lot of interest. As you can see, we don’t sit still! So, as we always say; make sure you stay in touch with the Dutch