The countries of Central and Eastern Europe have become, even before entering the European family, a powerful base of German industry, for which strong political and economic motives also existed. The Western Balkan countries may not be so successful repeaters of the history as this region, although essential, is far less of a security and economic interest for Germany.
However, the fact that the Berlin Initiative primarily implies infrastructure linking in the Balkans and that Germany in various ways – primarily through the cooperation of GIZ, the German-Serbian Chamber of Commerce and the Serbian Chamber of Commerce – encourages this process by finding suppliers of large German industrial complexes in donmestic companies – this scenario to an extent represents a repeat of the story of CEE.
Progress in German-Serbian economic cooperation is visible, but that is precisely why the government should try even more to address the problems that constantly burden not only German companies, but rather the entire business community in Serbia
Reading the publication of the German- Serbian Chamber of Commerce “Manufacturing In Serbia: The Experience of German Investors” provides an interesting and informative overview of the motives of German companies for doing business in Serbia: for many of them, the geographical position of Serbia, its relatively closeness to Europe, the Near East and the Commonwealth of Independent States, are some of the most important reasons for locating production in Serbia. Another reason is access to a market of 55 million people that is easier for German products to cover from a single centre in the Balkans. The third important reason is a well-trained workforce – and its engagement in direct production and highly qualified personnel. German companies are investing substantial resources in order to further improve their performances.
Low income tax, competitive labour costs and the benefits that firms receive are also highly valued, and in many cases excellent cooperation stands out with the government and local governments, and specialised agencies to support foreign investments – the Development Agency of Serbia and the Fund for the Support of Investments in Vojvodina.
At first glance, reading the results of regular surveys conducted by the German-Serbian Chamber of Commerce (AHK) among its members gives equally strong reasons for optimism. The vast majority of companies that have invested here would again make such a decision, a significant number of them assess their future prospects as being favourable in comparison with the overall business environment, while an enviable number of companies have already invested, or intend to invest, money in the further expansion of their operations.
Yet at least two results support the idea that Serbia must do much more in order for it to be able to repeat the success of the CEE countries. First, the German company in every survey, including the latest one, point out that they do not see sufficient progress in the fight against corruption and crime, they say that they are frustrated by the inefficiency of public administration and concerned about the lack of legal certainty.
And secondly, according to the latest survey, conducted in 16 countries of Central and Eastern Europe, Serbia is ranked only 11th of 20 countries and has not made any progress in relation to the previous survey.