Sanja Ivanić, Director General of the French-Serbian Chamber of Commerce (CCIFS): We are optimistic about 2022

The French-Serbian Chamber of Commerce has nurtured optimism about 2021, and we are entering next year in the same spirit

Despite periodic crises and oscillations in the number of people infected with the coronavirus but also the number of vaccinated citizens in Serbia and the world, it seems that the situation is improving. I sincerely believe that next year will bring us progress in every field, starting from health to economy and business.

Sanja Ivanić, Director General of the French-Serbian Chamber of Commerce

The Chamber worked hard and carried a large number of activities in 2021. Which ones would you single out as the most important?

The most important factor that made 2021 a success was the possibility to hold the events live in the second half of the year. Representatives of CCIFS member companies demonstrated how much they missed face-to-face meetings with their colleagues and business partners by showing up and later sharing their impressions.

In addition to the large number of events that we held this year, I would like to single out our traditional Gala Evening and Beaujolais Evening, which we organized again after a one-year break. These two central events took place just a month apart, and we managed to gather hundreds of members, diplomats, colleagues and friends to attend. Organizing events of such formats requires exceptional dedication and motivation, and the Chamber certainly did not lack that this year.

Judging by the impressions of the guests, I believe that these two events hold a special significance for our members as well. We hope that the Chamber will continue holding live events next year because we know that they mean a lot to our members, but we will also continue with webinars that have proven to be successful too.

SMEs make up a large percentage of your members. What are your projections regarding the development of the SME sector in 2022?

Large companies have easier access to the Serbian market because they have the required infrastructure to start a business, while SMEs are much more cautious. Serbia has achieved a certain degree of economic stability that facilitates companies’ operations, and French SMEs have noticed the opportunities found on the Serbian market.

The common position of all CCIFS members is that state assistance is extremely important for the SME sector, and we also advocate this position before our institutional partners. Therefore, at the very beginning of the pandemic, we launched an appeal to the Government to provide assistance to SMEs as soon as possible.

The SME sector can potentially play a key role in the growth of the Serbian economy, and the support of large corporations is important. Therefore, we strive to influence and encourage them to improve their cooperation with SMEs, as well as maintain SMEs’ liquidity by paying invoices on time.

We hope that in the future, small and medium-sized enterprises will continue to contribute more to the creation of more jobs, encourage innovative activities and affirmation of entrepreneurship.

Environmental protection is one of the most important issues that largely concerns the economy, so the French-Serbian Chamber of Commerce has decided to focus on that in 2022.

Was 2021 easier in the sense that you were able to offer members content that is not just in an online format?

Absolutely! Essentially, it is easier to organize an online event, but face-to-face contact is something that cannot be substituted, no matter how advanced the technology is. As the circumstances changed, we all started gradually to hold live events, which made everyone happy – both the organizers and the guests. This year, we held online events, and both attendance and interest were strong, which is an indicator that we chose good topics and even better panellists.

What is the Chamber’s cooperation with other bilateral chambers and business associations like?

We are proud of the good cooperation with all chambers in Serbia. I would like to underline the cooperation with the German-Serbian Chamber of Commerce and the Italian-Serbian Chamber of Commerce, thanks to which we have been jointly organizing Dialogue 3.0 for years, with our institutional partners.

Events that reflect good cooperation between all chambers are the Speed Business Meeting and the International Networking cocktail party. At the onset of the pandemic, six French chambers based in CEE countries launched an important initiative and we have organized a series of webinars, during which our members discussed current events in countries and networked. We also launched a series of webinars for French companies that produce outside Europe and introduced them to CEE as a more attractive destination for nearshoring and sourcing.

What are your plans for 2022 and what will be your main focus?

Environmental protection is one of the most important issues that largely concerns the economy, so the French-Serbian Chamber of Commerce has decided to focus on that in 2022.

In order to support the Serbian economy and help it become more resource-efficient and competitive, but also to harmonize the economy with the European Green Deal, CCIFS and its members will work towards supporting the transformation of the Serbian economy. This programme, called The Quest for Net Zero, which will be implemented under the auspices of our Sustainable Development Club, will be in our focus throughout 2022 and will include conferences, webinars and regular meetings which main topic will certainly be ecology and environmental protection.

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