Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, and the supply chains difficulties it brought, we have been working actively to inform French companies that there is no need to go beyond Europe in search of high quality and competitive manufacturing
The French-Serbian Chamber of Commerce is here to make it easier for all companies interested in Serbia and the region to enter this market, says CCIFS General Director Sanja Ivanić.
Chambers of commerce have an important role in encouraging economic development, because they represent the voice of business and have the capacity and knowledge to turn its demands into concrete actions.
“Our Chamber is a reference partner for all French companies, not only in Serbia but throughout the region – we operate directly in countries where there is no French Chamber, or we cooperate with partners, clubs or French chambers in countries in the region and beyond. We are also the operational partner of Business France, the French national agency that serves the internationalisation of the French economy. In that sense, we have a certain ‘weight’ with institutional partners in Serbia and the region, and they are always willing to listen to us and help. This also enables our members greater visibility and access to ‘first hand’ information,” explains our interlocutor.
To what extent has CCIFS returned to its working mode from before the pandemic? What practices did the pandemic bring that you regard as a good experience worth keeping?
– The most important factor that made this year successful in the activities of the Chamber is that we have completely returned to our way of doing business, we have adapted to the changing circumstances, and step by step we began to return to live events, which delighted everyone – organisers and guests.
However, I would like to emphasise that this year we also held a series of online events, and attendance and interest was not lacking. This is an indication that we have chosen good topics and even better panelists, given the real oversaturation of online events. The good thing brought by working under pandemic conditions is that it enables the participation of speakers who are located in different parts of the world.
Which CCIFS activities would you highlight in the coming period? What’s new in this field?
– In the past, we have been very active, both with events for our member companies and supporting companies from France. Of the upcoming activities, we could single out a project that is in our special focus this year, The Quest For Net Zero and all its activities, in addition to webinars, meetings and a successfully-held first major conference.
In November we will complete the story and organise a final conference entitled The Green Transition, where we will finalise everything we have done on that issue so far, including a CSR action in which we plan to involve a large number of chamber members. French Week always remains attractive with all its events, and this year it opens with the evening of Beaujolais wine, held traditionally on the third Thursday in November. We are also continuing with the Bonjour Serbia event which is a tour of Serbia with our members.
What did the BONJOUR SERBIA event bring us, and in which cities can we expect it by the end of 2022?
– From the beginning of the year, we’ve visited Kragujevac, Kikinda and Niš, and by the end of the year we’ll visit Novi Sad and Zrenjanin. Bonjour Serbia first brought us great acquaintances, good contacts, new knowledge about the regions of Serbia and their potential; we got to know local institutions and projects and had a good time with members and partners.
Serbia is the most attractive country for French companies in the Western Balkans and many of them do business in the surrounding countries from Serbia
We also visited French factories operating in the regions we visited, Le Belier and Mecafor in Kikinda, and the giant Tigar Tires in Pirot. Until the end of the year, we will visit Novi Sad, the capital of culture, where we will get to know Vojvodina in greater detail, where French companies are very present and where France is the second largest investor, and we will leave Zrenjanin for the end of the tour.
Which of your activities attract new members the most? What makes CCIFS stand out in the very wide range of business associations?
– I think that our strength lies in the variety of services and events we offer. Of all the events we organise, I would like to single out our glamorous Gala Evening and Beaujolais Evening, for which ‘an additional ticket’ is always needed. Judging by the impressions of the guests, I believe that these two events have special significance for our members. They often mention that we are the bearers of joie de vivre, the French spirit that makes our events special. In short, we listen to what the members want and try to put those wishes into practise.
At one of the gatherings of Bonjour Serbia, we had the opportunity to hear that 80% of French companies in the region are concentrated in Serbia. Are French companies considering reallocating production capacity in the region?
– Serbia is the most attractive country for French companies in the Western Balkans, and many of them do business in the countries surrounding Serbia. Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, and the supply chains difficulties it brought, we have been working actively to inform French companies that there is no need to go beyond Europe in search of high quality and competitive manufacturing. We recently participated in Global Industry, one of the largest industrial fairs in the world, and Serbia was very successful as a destination. The Chamber is here to make it easier for all companies interested in Serbia and the region to come to this market, and we are successful in that, because we are contacted not only by French companies, but also other foreign companies, and we have worked with Koreans and Americans.
Our Chamber is a reference partner for all French companies, not only in Serbia but also in the region, and it operates directly in countries where there is no French Chamber
The partnership with Business France Carries us a certain ‘weight’ with institutional partners in Serbia and the region. They are always willing to listen to us and help
The Chamber will do its best to continue to support French companies interested in the Serbian market and to offer our growing network of members the chance to create new business opportunities