We have asked the people we have intereviewed so far to give us their prognosis on whether Serbia will stagnate or progress in 2017 compared to 2016, and to tell us what changes in the business environment would be crucial for that happening. We have also asked them to tell us how much do magazines like Diplomacy&Commerce can contribute to exchange of opinions, points of view and facts about Serbia, and to providing better information about our country and its potential to interested parties.
- Do you think Serbia will stagnate or progress in 2017, relative to last year, and what changes to the business environment could play a crucial role in that?
- How much do magazines like Diplomacy & Commerce contribute to the exchange of opinions, stances and facts about Serbia, as well as informing all interested parties about our country and its potential?
H.E. Axel Dittmann, Ambassador of Germany to Serbia
Very successful German-Serbian cooperation
- Last year was, in the prism of German-Serbian cooperation, a very successful year, and I am confident that we can deepen and broaden this close relationship even further. Germany supports Serbia’s steps on its path towards EU membership. In 2016 Serbia and the EU managed to open crucial chapters in the EU accession process, namely those covering the rule of law. Together with the EU, Serbia has developed very detailed action plans in these areas. They are a real blueprint for reform and consist of legal amendments that need to be changed e.g. in order to ensure the independence, impartiality and efficiency of the Judiciary, and to prosecute cases of corruption more effectively. We hope that these changes will be implemented in 2017 and thereby substantially enhance living standards in Serbia. At the beginning of 2017, Serbia already opened two further Chapters, which shows that both Serbia and the EU wish to maintain the successful momentum of reforms and rapprochement.
- Diplomacy&Commerce magazine is an important news provider for all expats in Serbia, but also for Serbian decision-makers. With its intriguing stories, interesting interviews and elaborate reports, it is a substantial information tool, particularly to all of those who haven’t yet mastered the Serbian language. It brings Serbian culture closer to us diplomats and brings us closer to our Serbian friends. I am happy to cooperate with D&C and wish it a long lasting and further successful work.
H.E. Giuseppe Manzo, Ambassador of Italy to Serbia
Further consolidation and reforms
- 1. Growth is a priority, in Serbia like everywhere else in Europe. According to recent economic forecasts, Serbia should be looking towards the coming months with optimism: the EU Commission predicts that the country will grow at a rate of 3% in 2017 and 3.3% in 2018. There should also be a significant improvement in the unemployment rate, reflecting the impact of the economic reforms so far adopted. Further consolidation of a functioning market economy is fundamental – not only to pursuing the EU integration process, but – first and foremost – to raising the living standards of Serbian citizens. As the main economic partner of Serbia, with 600 of its companies having invested here, Italy has shown its concrete support and contribution. Now, in order to keep the number of Italian entrepreneurs in Serbia growing, it is crucial to continue on this path and improve the business environment by facilitating market entry procedures, continuing the privatisation of state-owned enterprises and implementing tax administration reform.
- For a diplomat in Belgrade who is representing the country which is Serbia’s largest trade partner, “Diplomacy&Commerce” are two inseparable words. Your magazine plays an important role in informing domestic public opinion, as well as expats, about opportunities and relevant news about Serbia. Your valuable insights on politics and the business community are very useful for a deeper and better understanding of Serbia, and they provide effective tools to comprehend its trends and developments.
Srećan Rođendan and wish you great success for your future!
H.E. Denis Keefe, Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Serbia
Reform programme is showing results
- We expect Serbia to make further progress in 2017. The economic reform programme is showing results. Since the programme’s inception, the Serbian Government has been successful in reducing the fiscal deficit and stimulating growth. Reform is underpinned by an IMF Stand-by Arrangement. We support the idea of the extension of the IMF programme after Serbia graduates from the current one. Due to progress in improving the business environment, Serbia has seen its ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business list increase. It was ranked 47th in 2016, as opposed to 91st in 2015. Despite the progress, there’s still considerable work to be done. Structural reforms are delayed, and public debt is still around 75%, so there is no room for back sliding. A lot remains to be done to reform the public administration and streamline state-owned enterprises. Progress on the rule of law is also central to business, in order to give legal certainty. We’re very glad that HMG is in a position to provide the Serbian Government with tangible support. We are using our Good Governance Fund to work in several key areas, such as supporting the Rule of Law, Public Administration Reform and the business environment and economy (such as the Doing Business working group).
- Anything that supports an informed debate about how best to help Serbia make progress is welcome. In particular, an exchange of opinions backed up by facts is crucial in helping decision makers take the right calls about Serbia’s future.
Pertti Ikonen, Ambassador of Finland to Serbia
Transparency in tendering processes
- According to the European Commission’s latest forecast, expected Serbian GDP growth will be around 3%, which is more than it was in 2016. At the same time, the unemployment rate in Serbia is expected to drop to 14.3%, from 16.1% in 2016. These expectations already provide a good signal of the further revival of the Serbian economy in 2017. My only concern is that this process might slow down following elections and bring some delays in making important decisions for Serbia. I would like to emphasise the importance to the EU accession process of Chapter 5, which relates to public procurement. Significant efforts are needed to further improve competition, transparency and efficiency in tendering processes. I am confident that improvements in this field would play a crucial role in having a better business environment in Serbia. At the same time, it would send a positive signal and encourage foreign companies that are considering doing business in Serbia.
- 2. Since its first edition in March last year, monthly magazine Diplomacy&Commerce has been highly devoted to the diplomatic and business community by covering topics related to the economy, trade, business, diplomacy, politics and culture. In that way, this magazine not only contributes significantly to the exchange of opinions and facts about Serbia, but also keeps potential foreign investors informed about Serbia’s economic and political landscapes, as well as its potential.
H.E. Alexander Chepurin, Russian Ambassador to Serbia
1.The country’s stability and its openness towards creation of new mechanisms for development of active relations with all countries that favour cooperation are the main ingredients for stronger economic growth, which is already obvious, in Serbia in 2017. From my point of view, I would say that it is important for Serbia to continue fostering dynamic development of relations with the regions which are today the centre of global development, namely with the regions that are recording economic growth.
2.As you well know, knowledge is power. Every piece of information is useful. It is important for this information to focus on relations between Serbia and both East and West. Information needs to be important and unbiased, it has to closely follow Serbian interests and opportunities, as well as talk about advantages for investors. It is this kind of approach to modern surroundings that is the stamp of quality for the media. Issuing a magazine in the Serbian language and in the language spoken by the main partner of a magazine would attract even more readers. These are the languages spoken by the main trade and economic partners of Serbia, including Russian, German and Italian.
H.E. Alona Fisher Kamm, Ambassador of Israel to Serbia
Positive outcomes of ongoing reforms
- In my opinion, Serbia will definitely move forward. Serbia enjoys a favourable location which has resulted in the concluding of many free trade agreements, which stimulate export and reduce the foreign trade deficit. The country made progress on the Doing Business list and especially under the Infrastructure criteria, in which the e-permitting system contributed to a dramatic jump in ranking. A reduced fiscal deficit with high fiscal discipline, inflation below the target band and a confirmed B+ credit rating are some of the positive outcomes of ongoing reforms. I’m in the process of discovering the wide spectrum of Serbia’s economy, but what I’ve seen so far is the huge potential of human resources in the tech area, which is to be developed and transformed into the leading revenue generator. In this regard, the Serbian government announced a Decade of Entrepreneurship, with many activities to be implemented. As the second largest start-up ecosystem in the world and a country that has based its economy on exporting knowhow, our Embassy already takes an active part in the Serbian start-up and tech community and will happily continue to support such initiatives. In addition, Israeli investors find Serbia very appealing: as a friendly country with a similar mentality and temperament and just three hours away, with good airline connections, among other advantages. Of course, not only to Israeli investors but to all of them, the issues of cutting red tape, creating and maintaining a stable legal and macroeconomic environment, with an efficient judiciary, rank highly as issues when it comes to considering investments in Serbia, or elsewhere.
- Our Embassy has very good cooperation with the magazine and publisher Color Press Group. We participate actively in various conferences and events that share our agenda. Also, we did a special “In focus Israel” supplement, with the support of Israeli companies in Serbia, which presented our economy, bilateral trade relations and tourism, and provided good insight into the potentials that we should work on in the future. So, the magazine and its special editions definitely provide useful information on bilateral relations, investments, trade and tourism, as well as opening a window of opportunities to be explored.
H.E. Arne Sannes Bjørnstad, Ambassador of Norway to Serbia
Good conditions for further progress
- I have great faith in Serbia and believe the conditions are good for further progress. The reforms undertaken and planned, as well as the prospects of EU membership, make Serbia more attractive to investors. Continued financial responsibility and further harmonisation of Serbian policy, legislation and procedures with the best achievers of the EU will boost progress. There are difficult choices that have to be made to consolidate the advances of the last few years, and despite the resistance to change you will find in Serbia, as everywhere else, I am convinced the right choices will be made.
- When Diplomacy&Commerce was launched a year ago, my first thought was — why are they starting a new magazine in the already crowded publishing sky of Serbia? But then every new issue of D&C would prove me wrong. With its thorough analysis and coverage of political, economic and business affairs in Serbia, it is a ‘must-read’ for all foreign residents and decision-makers in the country. Given its readership, D&C is also a good platform for “spreading the good word” about Norway, for which we are grateful. Personally, I have to admit that I am very fond of the In Focus supplements, which always make a good weekend read.
H.E. Henk van den Dool, Ambassador of The Netherlands to Serbia
Improving business climate
- The Government continued with the important reform agenda in 2016 and results should be more visible as of this year. I believe that the improved business climate will provide additional room for economic growth and attract additional investors, including those from The Netherlands. I commend the authorities for their hard work, especially the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure and the Ministry for Public Administration and Local Self-Government. The results achieved by these two ministries are both the most tangible and the most beneficial for businesses. Still, in order to provide a full-scale business-friendly framework, more needs to be done in strengthening the rule of law and transparency in public procurement.
- Magazines like Diplomacy&Commerce play an important role in the exchange of information among stakeholders and they contribute to the overall quality of what we can call public diplomacy. One’s work and results nowadays need to be promptly and constantly communicated in a relevant network, and in that respect this magazine is a helpful tool and an important channel.
H.E. Gordan Markotić, Croatian Ambassador to Serbia
Implementing as many reforms as possible
- Since the macroeconomic results for 2016 are really good, and the forecasts of economic analysts and the IMF mission for 2017 are also encouraging, we can expect this year to be very good economy-wise. Of course, we can only presume that there won’t be any major or unexpected turbulence on the global markets that could greatly affect national economies. Also, it is very important for Serbia to continue with its reforms, particularly with the further fiscal consolidation, GDP growth, new foreign investments, and privatization of public enterprises, as well as with the continuation of reforms in various fields pertaining to the accession negotiations between Serbia and the EU, including the progress in the EU accession talks. Hence, it is very important to implement as many reforms as possible, harmonize the legislative system with EU’s Acquis, implement European standards and values and continue the dialogue with Pristina.
- Magazines like Diplomacy&Commerce are mainly intended to foreigners who live, work and do business in Serbia including diplomatic and consular staff and representatives of business associations and companies. The magazine is an excellent vehicle for providing as much information as possible about the host country, and about business activities of the foreign countries which representatives live here with the view of further developing economic and other kinds of relations between their respective countries and Serbia. Good business cooperation, extensive trade, opening of new companies and creation of new jobs are important for any country, and it is magazines like this one that can contribute to the development of these relations by being informative and useful with its articles, analyses and interviews.
H.E. Leo D’aes, Belgian Ambassador to Serbia
Efforts to promote macro-economic stability
1. Whether Serbia will stagnate or progress will depend on Serbia itself, and on the wider macro-economic environment. Regarding Serbia, there is a very clear Economic Reform Programme (ERP) agreed with the European Commission, the main points of which broadly correspond with the recommendations of the IMF and the World Bank. In addition to that, I think Serbia should step up its efforts to encourage the many SMEs interested in Serbia to come and prospect, and above all reassure them in a credible way about the legal stability of the business environment, which is at least as important as other factors, like permits or credit conditions. Regarding the macro-economic environment, since around 70% of Serbia’s trade relations are with the EU, the economic health and dynamism of the EU is, of course, of key importance to the furthering of economic progress in Serbia. If you follow the EU decision-making in this field, you will have noticed considerable common efforts to promote macro-economic stability and thus the creation of employment.
- Magazines like Diplomacy&Commerce, through their regularity and attractive presentation and content, certainly contribute to helping focus on the essential contribution of private initiative to lasting economic prosperity. Interviews with dynamic businessmen and women, and with officials implementing economic policy, in close coordination with the EU and other international partner institutions, usefully enlighten us on how the way forward is perceived and/or implemented, building on Serbia’s potential.
H.E. Narinder Chauhan, Ambassador of India to Serbia
Great cooperation between our countries
- Serbia is emerging as a premier investment location in CEE. In the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report, Serbia has climbed to 47th position and the economy showed robust growth in 2016, at 2.8%, and is expected to grow at an average rate of 3.7% over the next few years.India-Serbia economic cooperation received a significant boost at the beginning of 2017, when PM Vučić visited India to participate in the Vibrant Gujarat Economic Summit and discussed cooperation with India’s Prime Minister in the fields of agriculture, pharmaceuticals, defence, health, films, tourism and IT. PM Vučić invited more Indian investment to Serbia. The visit is expected to provide real momentum to the overall bilateral relationship, to the mutual advantage of our two peoples.
- Diplomacy&Commerce has been kind to Indian’s efforts to raise awareness of the growing business opportunities with the friendly people and government of Serbia. Diplomacy & Commerce’s unbiased and incisive perspective plays a major role in shaping public opinion.
H E Vera Jovanovska-Tipko, Ambassador of the Republic of Macedonia in Belgrade
Foreign investments- the main priorities
- I want and I do believe that Serbia will accomplish a significant economic growth in 2017 because that is also important for the entire region, and especially for neighbouring countries. The World Bank’s forecast for Serbia in 2017 show a GDP growth that will be much higher than the one in Eurozone. Additionally, there is the expected macroeconomic stability, low budget deficit, and controlled inflation and foreign currency rate. Foreign investments will definitely be one of the main priorities of the Serbian government, and in order to attract these investments, it is necessary to have continuity in reforms like implementing e-governance with emphasis on issuance of building permits. Economic and social development is process that requires permanent dedication, implementation of higher standards, facilitation of innovation, removal of barriers and incentives for starting a business. At the same time, I think that the dynamic of implementation of the key recommendations from the European Commission will play an important part in further transformation of economic environment. I am confident that Serbia is fully capable of walking down the path of economic development.
- The role of the media has always been crucial for development of democracy in a society. Today this is truer than ever because we are living in the time of hyperproduction of information where unfortunately we come across information that is completely or partially untrue, as well as various speculations and spun news. Because of this, consumers have to be more critical, analytical and selective in order to get to the real truth.There are only a handful of media that still endorse the principle of proven truth; the media that facilitate exchange of opinions, incite to deep thinking and evoke readers’ trust. Diplomacy&Commerce magazine is one of them. The magazine’s role in the Serbian information space is important particularly in regard to relaying quality information about your country’s potential. I have no doubt that you will continue doing that in the future too.
H.E.Tomasz Niegodzisz, Ambassador of Poland to Serbia
Further dynamic development
- I believe in Serbia’s further economic progress and I wish for your country to have further dynamic development. The agenda of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić, as well as the commitment of the entire government, along with the goodwill of the international community, provide a good forecast for the current year. The Polish engagement, and the good relations we have with the Serbian authorities, gives hope for further growth of the trade exchange between our countries. The best indication of that is the fact that the trade exchange has been growing constantly for a number of years now.
- For the Polish Embassy, Diplomacy&Commerce is a source of information on a number of issues, including on the economic life of Serbia. We also share the information you provide with Polish recipients. We always point to you as our source of information, so that they themselves can access the online version of your magazine while in Poland.On the occasion of the first anniversary I would like to wish the editors, journalists and readers further accurate analysis, a further increase in circulation and many more anniversaries to come.
H.E. Jan Lundin, Ambassador of Sweden to Serbia
The inflow of foreign investment
- Serbia will progress in 2017 thanks to the inflow of foreign investment, for instance, from a Swedish point of view, the opening of Ikea in August, which will have positive long-term implications for the Serbian furniture industry.
- 2. Such magazines are truly a valuable source of information, especially for diplomats. Diplomacy&Commerce succeeds in presenting up-to-date, relevant and interesting information about current developments in Serbian society, which is very useful in our everyday work.