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Ana Grujović, Director of the Swiss-Serbian Chamber of Commerce

Advancing Potential for Cooperation

Although economic activity between Switzerland and Serbia is still below its potential, businesspeople in the two countries are increasingly finding new opportunities for cooperation. We spoke with Ana Grujović, Director of the SSCC, about the attractiveness of the Serbian market to Swiss companies today, as well as the range of information that the SSCC can provide to both them and its members who are already present on the market.

What does the number of enquiries from potential investors tell you about the sectors in Serbia that are the most attractive when it comes to enticing new investments?

– When considering a new market, foreign investors – including those from Switzerland – are looking for stable and predictable business The Swiss-Serbian Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to further strengthening economic ties between Switzerland and Serbia. The Chamber has been recognised for its contribution to the development of the dual education system in Serbia, and as the first choice for Swiss companies interested in the Serbian market environments.

Currently, Swiss companies are showing interest in the Serbian ICT sector, agri-tech, and tourism, among others. The SSCC’s report on the ICT sector in Serbia, published on the official website of our institutional partner Switzerland Global Enterprise S-GE, was among the most read “Global Opportunity Reports”, which shows that this is an interesting topic for Swiss companies.

Moreover, the fifth consecutive “SSCC Business Climate Survey in Serbia 2019” showed that most survey respondents assessed the current business climate in Serbia as being satisfactory. For example, in 2018, Nestle Adriatic invested in new equipment and expanded the capacity of its Surčin plant with two new production lines.

How do potential Swiss investors perceive the potentials and risks of investing in Serbia? What kind of questions do they ask you?

– Most of the questions we receive from Swiss companies are related to market access conditions, customs administration procedures and local legislation. The results of the aforementioned business climate survey also showed that the majority of surveyed companies expect changes in the following business environment areas: public institution efficiency and administrative procedures, the fight against corruption, and ensuring legal security and stability.

How many members does the SSCC have today and what is their structure? Which economic areas do new members of the Chamber come from?

– The Swiss-Serbian Chamber of Commerce numbers approximately 70 members. The membership structure is very diversified, both in terms of members’ company size and business activity. Most SSCC members are SMEs. Regarding our new members, I am happy to inform you that companies such as Gebruder Weiss (transport and logistics) and SF1 Group (exclusive distributor of Nespresso coffee) joined the SSCC this year.

We strive to provide an opportunity for companies to acquaint themselves with the perspectives of dual education and some good practise examples of dual education

Which of the Chamber’s services are the most sought-after among existing CCSS members?

– There are many services in which interest is shown by SSCC members. Firstly, networking events are very attractive to our members, as they provide new business opportunities. We this year organised the International Networking Cocktail Reception in cooperation with 12 other bilateral business associations! This event, held on May 2019, had approximately 300 participants! Also, the SSCC’s internal events, such as the Members’ Reunion, are also very popular, as they allow us to build a stronger and better connected SSCC business community.

In January 2019, we were honoured to attend the Swiss Cheese Fondue Soiree at the Swiss Ambassadorial Residence in Belgrade, which was hosted by H.E. Ambassador Guex, who is Switzerland’s ambassador to both the Republic of Serbia and to Montenegro.

Finally, the SSCC’s conferences are conceived as platforms for public-private dialogue, and they, therefore, enable our member companies to interact directly with public officials on topics of relevance to the further advancement of the local business climate.

You were last year focused on dual education. What would you single out as the CCSS’s biggest contribution in this area?

– The SSCC conference on dual education, held on October 2018, was attended by the following guests of honour: Minister Šarčević, Ambassador Guex, Dr Renold, CCIS President Marko Čadež and Dr Grujić. 

On this occasion, Dr Ursula Renold, Head of Division for Comparative Education System Research at the Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zurich, and the only international honorary member of the Serbian Government Commission for dual education, presented to the public the Swiss VET model, Swiss expertise and knowhow.

Furthermore, the SSCC has been recognised as one of the organisations contributing to the development of the dual education system in Serbia, and I would like to note that the SSCC’s contribution lies in stressing the role of private sector companies in the dual education system, and the need for stakeholders to be well-coordinated in order to improve the quality of the employability of young Serbian people and to match the needs of the private sector with labour market supply.

Which topic is in the focus of the SSCC for this year?

– Given the significant interest among SSCC members in the topic of dual education, the SSCC will continue to focus on the VET system this year as well. However, we will focus more on the private sector’s role in dual education: companies’ benefits from the system, operational aspects, administrative procedures etc. At the same time, companies are expected to support the development of new educational profiles in accordance with market needs. We strive to provide an opportunity for companies to acquaint themselves with the perspectives of dual education and some of the good practise examples of dual education.

For the first time since its formation, the Swiss-Serbian Chamber of Commerce has established cooperation with the regional chamber from neighbouring Bulgaria: the Bulgarian-Swiss Chamber of Commerce. What further plans do you have when it comes to developing regional cooperation?

– Yes, for the first time since its creation, the SSCC has established cooperation with a Swiss bilateral chamber of commerce from the region. We were very happy to welcome members of the Bulgarian-Swiss Chamber of Commerce in April 2019, in order to exchange practises and lessons learnt, but also to provide even more networking opportunities to our members.

Our guests, together with SSCC members, were invited to visit the Nestle Adriatic factory in Surčin. BSCC representatives shared with us their own experience of contributing to the development and implementation of the dual education system in Bulgaria, which was extremely valuable to the SSCC.

Additionally, in June 2019 we also organised a visit to the ABB factory Bulgaria – Sevlievo Branch, and all participants had an opportunity to acquaint themselves with production processes and the organisation of work on site. This cooperation will certainly continue, as many of our member companies are present not only the Serbian market but also on neighbouring markets.