The excellent bilateral and business relations between Slovenia and Serbia shed light on two things: first, provided they are not burdened by the past, former Yugoslav states can benefit from their interconnectedness; and, second, EU membership candidate countries can be successfully supported by their neighbours on their EU path, as Slovenia showed during its 2021 Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
It is often said that people in our region tend to be immersed in past grievances and unable to follow the path of, for example, European or Scandinavian countries, which underwent rough histories to end up as successful partners. Luckily, the recent history of Slovenia and Serbia show that tough times can be set aside, clearing the way for successful bilateral relations and a thriving economic exchange. Indeed, 2022 is expected to go down as one more successful year. In short, Slovenia and Serbia have excellent cooperation in the fields of politics, the economy and cultural cooperation, and no political changes in either country have so far disturbed these trends.
Indeed, Serbia’s progress on the economy – where conditions for doing business have been changing step-by-step in a positive direction, with infrastructure development, the digitalisation of state institutions and inflows of foreign investment also attracting Slovenian businesspeople. By following Slovenia’s path in joining international value chains, Serbia is developing its SMEs into suppliers of large foreign companies that are aligning their standards, pushing exports and creating high-quality jobs.
The value of Slovenian investments in Serbia, including NLB’s investment in Komercijalna Banka, exceeds 1.6 billion euros
The trade exchange between Serbia and Slovenia is gradually expanding to encompass new fields, such as the green economy, digitalisation and ecology. In short, there are many new directions strengthening business ties.
Slovenia is one of the largest investor countries in Serbia, with its companies employing more than 25,000 Serbian workers. There are currently around 1.5 billion euros worth of Slovenian investments in Serbia, and about 250 million euros worth of Serbian investment in Slovenia. Although a balance is clearly lacking, the situation is improving gradually. More than 4,400 companies from Serbia and Slovenia were active on both markets in 2019, not only through trade, but also through investment. The trend of increasing Serbian investments in the Republic of Slovenia has been prominent, especially in the field of tourism.
Of course, these relations can be raised to a new level with Serbia’s accession to the EU as soon as possible. As Slovenian Ambassador to Serbia H.E. Damjan Bergant put it: Serbia’s rapprochement with the EU and respect for European values is an excellent foundation to further upgrade the good relations between our two countries.
Both countries have naturally been hit by the global crisis and the war in Ukraine. And this is particularly worrisome in the case of the Western Balkan region, as the crisis in Ukraine could certainly have a negative impact on its stability.
Looking back to the 2021 Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, one has to note that Slovenia provided a significant contribution to the enlargement process. In the informal meeting of the European Council and Western Balkan partners held last October, an important signal was given that reinforced the prospects of EU membership for the countries of the Western Balkans. Furthermore, the Council also succeeded in adopting conclusions related to the enlargement and the Stabilisation and Association Process.