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Dragan Stokić, President Of The French-Serbian Chamber Of Commerce

We Respond To Challenges With Enthusiasm And Hard Work

Despite the crisis, we remain optimistic, and we believe we can continue to work on bringing french companies to Serbia. Despite the challenges, we expect continued economic growth if we continue to preserve business, value initiatives and reward entrepreneurship

All companies in Serbia, both domestic and foreign, face great challenges, and the effects of new threats coming from the global environment cannot yet be fully seen. This is the view of Dragan Stokić, President of the French-Serbian Chamber of Commerce (CCIFS).

He believes, however, that with a smart combination of measures, the commitment of the business community and good cooperation with the Serbian government, the consequences of the war in Ukraine, inflation and disturbances in global supply chains can be at least partially reduced, as the pandemic experience shows.

“The year behind us was a lot more stable in terms of state economic indicators and the Serbian economy’s performance. I believe that the main reason for that is the fact that economic entities in Serbia have fully accepted the ‘new normality’, and with the activeness of the business community and all the measures of the Serbian Government, the economy successfully overcame the challenges of 2021,” says our guest.

“Unfortunately, the new crisis in Ukraine follows on from the previous one, so the impact of the war in Ukraine is something that we have yet to measure in its impact on the business environment. As everywhere, French companies in Serbia have had to change the dynamics of business and adapt to new working conditions caused by current crises, pandemics, war, inflation, rising commodity prices and worsening problems in the supply chain, which certainly have a negative impact on the economic outlook, it is just still unclear to what extent.”

In the Covid-19 period, the Government of Serbia had a prominent role in supporting companies to overcome challenges. Is today a new time for state intervention, and which companies should be helped as a priority?

– With the hard work of entrepreneurs, managers and all employees, the help of the Serbian Government was indispensable to solve the problems caused by the pandemic, especially for small and medium enterprises which, besides corporations, make up a large percentage of our members. Small and medium enterprises are the backbone of the Serbian economy and it is extremely important for us to fight for support to those companies and help them overcome the difficult period they are going through and which still lies ahead.

An unavoidable issue in which the government plays a major role is to provide a better business environment and improve the conditions for economic growth. We believe that the government should also consider special incentives for export-oriented Serbian producers, especially these small and medium-sized domestic companies that have export potential but still do not export. To this end, we also act as a Chamber that facilitates the business of our member companies, through the many initiatives we have taken and which we will continue in the future.

The priority for our Chamber will be to intensify our activities on the French market, which means a greater presence of the Chamber at, for us, important business events in France, and especially direct meetings with companies

What are your members’ expectations of business results in 2022?

– Unfortunately, the war in Ukraine poses another negative risk to the economic projection. The war has caused an increase in the prices of almost all commodities around the world, because Russia and Ukraine are globally important exporters of fossil fuels, metals and food.

Despite the crisis, we remain optimistic, and we believe we can continue to work on bringing French companies to Serbia, and we to expect economic growth despite the challenges, if we continue to preserve business, value initiatives and reward entrepreneurship.

To what extent can measures to improve the business environment in the country reduce the consequences of external negative trends?

– Serbia has been working very clearly for a long time to improve the business environment and implement important reforms in various sectors, and the results are increasingly visible. In addition to infrastructure, energy and agribusiness, which are of interest to French companies by default, certain innovative sectors, with state support, offer very attractive perspectives, such as the digital and IT sectors.

Further movement of economic trends will depend on the consequences of the crisis, war and tensions between Russia and the West in the coming period. Certainly, Serbia and we continue to work to reduce the consequences of this war on the entire business environment, as much as we are able.

What are your priorities as president of the CCIFS?

– My priorities will be to actively continue to develop projects to support French companies, and to further promote Serbia in France as the economic centre of the Western Balkans region, and to further strengthen the voice of CCIFS in Serbia. This year, we also launched a project called The Quest for Net Zero, to focus on harmonizing the Serbian economy with the EU’s Green Agenda. Sustainable development should be a priority for every company and individual in Serbia.

Also, given the importance of the application of digital technologies as an imperative for the sustainability of successful business entities today and in the future, and the importance attached to this initiative by the Serbian Government, we will also continue to strengthen the Chamber’s activities and those of its member companies in that direction and work on their greater visibility. I invite all French and Serbian, but also international companies to join us and discover our ‘French touch’, a unique combination of efficiency and hedonism, and improve their business through interaction with one of the most dynamic business communities in Serbia.

I invite all French and Serbian, but also international companies to join us and discover our ‘French touch’, a unique combination of efficiency and hedonism, and improve their business through interaction with one of the most dynamic business communities in Serbia

What can CCIFS do to establish Serbia as the economic centre of the Western Balkan region in France?

– The priority of our chamber in the coming period will be to intensify our activities on the French market, which means a greater presence of the Chamber at, for us, important business events in France, and especially direct meetings with companies. In this way, we actually want to meet the needs of French companies and present the potential of the local market in a targeted way. In May, we represented Serbia and its business potential at one of the largest industrial fairs in Paris. On the other hand, we also want to improve the visibility of Serbian companies and make it easier for them to enter the French market – with concrete support in mergers with French partners, market research, organising B2B meetings. Our Chamber has the capacity to be active in both directions of trade cooperation, and we believe it is crucial to be present and wellnetworked with relevant business actors in both countries.

You recommended everyone discover the ‘French touch’, a unique blend of efficiency and hedonism. What exactly does this mean with regard to the philosophy of work brought by French companies?

– Today, the French-Serbian Chamber of Commerce is an active business institution, with more than 130 members, both French and Serbian companies. It is a business association that offers its members and partners more than 40 events a year, and which strives to provide members with true quality and useful events in various formats (training, conferences, round tables, networking events, business receptions, member meetings, exclusive events etc.), and which has the reputation of a dynamic and memberoriented chamber. I believe that we are among the most active and most innovative chambers in Serbia, one that really has a personal stamp and feeds our specific spirit, which is a combination of business and hedonism a la française, and that is what the members tell us every day. In that sense, listening to the wishes of the members, we organise events according to their needs, and we always try to enjoy our events, to be useful to their business, to make important contacts and to create an atmosphere for them to remember. According to a recent survey of members, it seems to us that we are succeeding in that.

What’s the goal of The Quest For Net Zero project and how does it align with the Green Deal?

– One of the challenges that needs special attention today is the protection of the environment and sustainable development, in which we in Serbia are lagging behind the European Union. For this reason, the French-Serbian Chamber of Commerce decided to launch a project called The Quest for Net Zero in order to support the Serbian economy and to contribute to making it more resource efficient and competitive. Under this programme, under the auspices of our club for sustainable development, the first business conference on the theme of ‘Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities’ was held. This conference, organised by the French-Serbian Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with the French Embassy in Serbia, is the first in a series of events of the The Quest for Net Zero project initiated by the CCIFS Club for Sustainable Development with the purpose of harmonising the Serbian economy with the EU Green Deal. This programme is, and will be, in focus throughout 2022 and will include conferences, webinars and regular meetings at which the main topic will certainly be ecology and environmental protection. We also plan to launch major CSR action with chamber members by the end of this year.

PROGRESS

Serbia has been working very clearly for a long time to improve the business environment and implement important reforms in various sectors, and the results are increasingly visible

ECOLOGY

Throughout 2022, CCIF will work on a project called The Quest for Net Zero, which aims to support the Serbian economy in becoming more resource efficient and competitive

NETWORKING

Our Chamber has the capacity to be active in both directions of trade cooperation, so our activities are aimed at relevant economic actors in France and Serbia