Iosif Vangelatos, General Manager, Inos Balkan

Greece Is Back

Inos Balkan is a 70-year-old company that sources secondary raw materials to service the national and regional metal industry. They consider this geographic area in terms of a home market for them, both for their products, as well as for the procurement of raw materials

Inos Balkan General Manager Iosif Vangelatos moved to Serbia with his family a decade ago. He is proud that his company has contributed to the development of the Serbian economy as a foreign investor and believes that Serbia has a secure journey towards European Union membership.

Serbia’s total FDI from Greece is estimated at approximately 1.5 billion euros, while direct and indirect investments made over the last 20 years exceed a value of 2.5 billion euros. Inos Balkan has also contributed to that total… Are you proud?

Lots of words have been said and written about the strong relations between Greece and Serbia. These are timeless bonds based on religion, history and common struggles. Nevertheless, it is more than that.

Greek companies immediately responded to Serbia’s need for foreign direct investments back in the early 2000s and supported the Serbian economy at that crucial time. Greek firms were among the first to invest in Serbia, proving their faith in the future of the Serbian economy in practise. Let’s not forget that the ten-year Greek fiscal crisis placed a severe burden on the expansion of Greek entrepreneurship. But Greece is back and ready to support Serbia’s journey towards European Union integration in political and technical terms, but also in financial and investment terms.

I moved to Serbia with my family back in 2013, when the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) between the EU and Serbia came into force, and I am proud that our organisation has also contributed to the development of the Serbian economy as a foreign investor. However, I am even more proud to witness the changes taking place in the Serbian economy and Serbian society; changes that will secure Serbia’s pathway to European Union integration and the prosperity of the Serbian people.

Back in the early 2000s, we were not able to boast of having a well-organised recycling sector, despite Inos Balkan – the company you took the helm of at that time – having spent decades dealing with the procurement of secondary raw materials. How did you recognise the potential?

The acquisition of Inos Balkan in the early 2000s was part of an integrated strategic plan of our group for expansion across the Balkan region. We consider this geographic area in terms of a home market for us, both for our products and for the procurement of raw materials. Our Steel segment – Sidenor Group – is the biggest recycler in the region and we are always trying to support our productive investments with efficient supply chain networks, while contributing to global efforts to create a low carbon economy and manage resources sustainably.

As part of our ESG roadmap, respecting the natural environment is one of our core business principles

It was a challenge to enter the recycling sector back in the early 2000s. The legal framework was not yet fully developed, while the state was trying to empower its auditing mechanisms. However, we had in our arsenal adequate expertise and available financial resources. Above all, we were confident that we could seize the opportunities created by Serbia harmonising its regulations with the European acquis.

Even though a lot has already been done, it remains essential to further simplify administrative procedures. Would that bring new investments, environmental protection and fair competition to our country’s recycling sector?

I have to agree with you that a lot of progress has been observed in terms of simplifying administrative procedures. Serbia has risen to 44th position on the Ease of Doing Business Index, according to the latest World Bank annual ratings, despite being ranked 93rd just a decade ago. Simplifying administrative procedures has great weight on that index.

However, a lot of essential issues could be further addressed. This is especially so when it comes to the environmental protection sector. The complex procedure for acquiring the necessary environmental permits for an investment is a severe delay factor. Small improvements, such as in communications between public services and the ex officio request of records and documents, as well as increased utilisation of digital tools, may further simplify administrative procedures while increasing transparency levels.

The policy of harmonising with the natural environment is one of your core business principles and forms part of your portfolio of corporate values, but not obligations. Is that precisely what sets you apart from the competition?

As part of our ESG roadmap, respecting the natural environment is one of our core business principles. We join forces with the rest of the world in the direction of creating a carbon neutral and circular business model. Thoroughly monitoring our activities enables us to measure our performance and deploy our policies with accuracy, in order to achieve our sustainability targets.

You have succeeded in tripling the amount of secondary raw materials you process in recent years, while you are striving to further increase the volume of your operations. How have your plans been impacted by country global crises, including the war in Ukraine?

The crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the corresponding fiscal measures that governments all over the globe adopted to safeguard against the upcoming recession, as well as the war in Ukraine, created unique turmoil for the world economy. After almost three decades, our economies again had to face runaway inflation, while scenarios for a severe global economic recession were again on the table. Uncertainty was the key element that had to be handled by policymakers all over the word.

Serbia has risen to 44th position on the Ease of Doing Business Index, according to the latest World Bank annual ratings, despite being ranked 93rd just a decade ago

We could not be the exception to this rule. We tried to secure our supply chains against any potential disruption and to mitigate all potential risks coming from price fluctuations in metal commodities and energy costs. We set preserving our cash liquidity as a major priority, as well as supporting our employees during this turbulent time.

Inos Balkan is a member of the Hellenic Business Association of Serbia, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary at the end of this year. Do you think this association has fulfilled its mission of strengthening economic relations between our countries?

The Hellenic Business Association was established during a difficult era for the Serbian economy. Some pioneers decided to blaze a trail for more investors to follow their lead. The Hellenic Business Association was, is, and will continue to be, a reference point for every Greek entrepreneur or executive who would like to establish business activities in Serbia. It is a well-established organisation that’s able to provide secure information and consultancy on many different aspects of business activities – from labour related legislation, to taxation issues and lobbying. Numerous activities carried out on an annual basis bring its members into contact with the core developments of the Serbian business environment, while promoting business opportunities in both countries.

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