Patrizio Dei Tos, President of Confindustria Serbia – Italian businesses want to come to Serbia

We want to have even better and stronger cooperation between our two countries, because of a strong connection between Italians and Serbs.

“Italian companies want to invest and work on even greater development. A year ago, there was a lot of fear and uncertainty and everyone was keenly observing what was happening but today the world has changed and the economy is growing. There are certainly a lot of challenges looking forward that we have to face in the future, with someone and all of us together, but I am confident that we have a good future ahead of us.”

Patrizio Dei Tos, President of Confindustria Serbia

Following the assembly meeting of Confindustria held in September, one of Confindustria’s members – Istrabenz Plini – officially opened its production plant in Šimanovci. How important are such events and new investments even in times of crisis?

We organized this gathering at the company founded by an Italian businessman who still believes in investing, especially in business and the future, even in these uncertain times. This is of great importance because, in addition to the company having a large number of employees, it is also an important hospital supplier.

For me, this was an exceptional honour and validation that the Italians are present, that they want to be present here, and that they want to continue investing in Serbia. This builds mutual trust. Furthermore, all this shows that Confindustria wants to continue cooperating with Serbia and to develop our businesses here.

We also had a meeting with PM Ana Brnabić, with whom we talked on various topics. At the meeting, we pointed out that we are always available for cooperation and that we want to work together, regardless of all challenges.

What connects Italy and Serbia and what do Italian businesspeople single out as advantages of Serbia as an investment destination?

Every company has a motive to invest in Serbia. Simplified bureaucracy, proximity, and even the fact that Serbia is a smaller country and because of that, easier to share a problem you might have when trying to do something positive. All this gives an advantage to investors so they can invest in the country. Everyone has their reason, obviously. Today, with all this that has happened with the COVID pandemic, in terms of materials, prices, the market, and everything that is happening, it is obvious that the market is changing. Serbia has also become much more flexible and entrepreneurs here find that efficiency and speed of reaction are quite good.

Furthermore, the country’s geographical position has central importance, because if you look at the Chinese, Asian and even the African market, they seem more distant today than before. What the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, is doing with the Open Balkans initiative is trying to create a mini Europe between Albania, North Macedonia and Serbia which will create even more opportunities. In the end, I hope this helps Serbia on its road to EU membership as joining the EU would simplify matters even more in terms of crossing borders and movement of goods, entrepreneurs and our associates. In my opinion, Serbia is changing for the better.

Confindustria Serbia is a strong organization, both in Italy and Serbia. What are the most important activities you have been working on?

It is important to continue to monitor the needs of industrialists who are operating here, in Serbia. The fact is that these companies need to be sustainable over time and it is important to solve the daily and current problems they might have. Of course, labour costs are also important, but we need to focus on the problems at the borders, we need to work on supporting entrepreneurs and cooperating with the Government and state institutions.

The goal is to move forward together and solve challenges that may arise at any time. Then there are the activities related to planning the future and important topics such as green energy and cybersecurity. Furthermore, we organize a lot of events, analyze the problems, monitor the work of our members and try to solve all the challenges they face.

During the COVID pandemic, and thanks to our female colleagues who were really efficient in their work, our Confindustia office remained active, worked 24/7, was available to members for all their problems with movement, transportation and border crossing issues. We were always available to all our members.

Could you rate the economic relations between Italy and Serbia, and in which areas should we cooperate on even more?

Relations between Italy and Serbia have been quite strong since the 1960s and 1970s. During the past few years, Italy has become one of the main partners for Serbia, and also one of the largest investors. We were the first to believe in Serbia and we continued to invest in this country. I would also like to use this opportunity to congratulate Serbia and wish you continuous stability because stability fuels the economy’s power and the results are quite visible.

I am also happy that I have invested in Serbia because it not only bears economic fruits but also it gives me pride because I was able to develop something. After all, business people always come here with a business plan and hope that we will be able to develop it. The same goes for me and we have managed to develop, because of the stability, strong cooperation and simplicity of bureaucracy. Let’s say that everyone should be credited for this – Italian entrepreneurs who believed and Serbs who managed to facilitate further cooperation.

Tourism is one of the sectors which should see better cooperation and cultural exchange between our countries. We should not only develop in economic terms but we should also work on cultural and tourism exchange because all of this solidifies the friendship between our countries.

Patrizio Dei Tos, President of Confindustria Serbia

You stated that Serbia is now more than ever becoming a platform for the development and internationalization of Italian companies. Could you clarify?

The pandemic has had an incredible impact on all people. People today have an incredible need for physical contact, a desire to see each other, to move around and so on. Today, Serbia is becoming very important because of its geographical proximity and its raw materials, the availability of the workforce, services, etc. Serbia’s platform is really extensive if we look at it from a 360-degree-angle. The East is getting really far away, to go to China now you have to be quarantined for 20 days, and on the other hand, there is a need for new suppliers and commercial partners on both sides – Italian and Serbian. Therefore, the Serbian platform for internationalization is valid today for both Italian and Serbian companies. Europe is becoming the centre of our economic and social life.

What is the economic situation in Italy like today and how much does it affect the business of Italian companies in Serbia?

We, in Italy, were completely closed off. As nobody had any insight into what the future brings, the business sector reacted all the same and focused on saving. We docked our boats, figuratively speaking and looked for ways to save. Maybe we all made a mistake because the world doesn’t stop, the world goes on. Even on such occasions, the world continues to consume. And that’s exactly what happened. As soon as everything started to open, and we’re still not at the end of this problem with COVID, the demand increased. In Italy, at the moment, there is a deficit of everything and I am not exaggerating when I say that – there is a great demand and an inadequate supply because we were not ready for how high the demand would become.

This, in turn, led to a significant price increase. We have great enthusiasm and the great economy that is moving forward. Let’s hope that next year we can confirm that everything is moving forward. We have a pressing need for suppliers and more serious cooperation as suppliers are sometimes more important than customers. The economic situation in Italy is accompanied by great enthusiasm, euphoria and the search for new suppliers. If they are not riding this wave of enthusiasm already, the Italian companies in Serbia will be doing so very soon. Companies will begin to change their business plans to focus on expansion as the world moves forward, with the same enthusiasm as before. What we realized during the pandemic is that life must be lived.

What will happen after the COVID-induced crisis subsidies and what will be the biggest challenge for businesses?

The growing demand is what will happen. Just think of how much electricity and heat production will grow. This is accompanied by a great demand for gas. In the post-COVID period, we will experience a sort of euphoria that will come as a surprise. I had a talk with the Italian ambassador to Serbia at the Embassy and I wished all our associates not to be fearful, start investing again and believe in their companies because the sun always shines after the rain.

If we accept the challenges in a positive and right way, we will have a future, not only for businesses but also for all those who cooperate with them.

Challenges are plentiful – how to invest, where to invest, how to invest correctly… I would say that good investments would be those in electricity production, green energy, IT management, databases and data safety. This is the future in which we need to invest and we need to encourage entrepreneurs. I see not only great problems but also great courage so that we can face a future that will change in the world. Let’s all bravely move forward!

From the perspective of an Italian who lives and works in Serbia, what do you like most about Belgrade and what connects you the most to Serbia?

I am an Italian who works in Serbia, but I also feel a bit like a Serb. I made a lot of friends in Serbia. I think that friendship is very important, friendship is trust, we believe in each other, we support each other and this is friendship in its truest sense. In addition to family relationships, everything else in our lives is based on friendship. I am not talking about external things but a really deep relationship that is brimming with trust and respect, where we share problems and solve them together. As an Italian here in Serbia, it is the friendships that I like the most.


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