Bilateral economic relations between Italy and Serbia are characterised by the large volume of exchanges, which reached a record value in 2022. Counting on the continuation of these trends, Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Serbia President Marko Čadež predicts that we are awaited by yet more record-breaking results
Despite the fact that Italy is already among Serbia’s most important trade partners, with a record-breaking €4.6 billion achieved in last year’s goods exchange, as well as more than 500 million euros in exchanged services, and that it is one of the top source countries for investments in Serbia, with total Italian investments in the country (initial and during operations) estimated at around four billion euros, Marko Čadež, president of the Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Serbia (CCIS), is convinced that we can take even greater advantage of the potential for cooperation. This means that Italian companies want to expand their existing operations on the markets of Serbia and the region, under the scope of the process of internationalising the Italian economy and the strategic plan to strengthen Italy’s presence in the Western Balkans, and that Serbia can thus receive new and even better Italian investments based on high and green technologies, innovations, and cooperation between science and business, which will increase the volume of trade and elevate it to a higher level of quality.
We regularly witness exchanges of opinion between representatives of the government and the business sector, while this time the joint discussion also included the academic community. What were your impressions of the Italy-Serbia Business and Science Forum and what opportunities exist for the Serbian academic community to monetise its research via cooperation with companies?
We opened a new chapter in our cooperation with this forum and are giving new quality to our economic relations, thanks to the interest of investors that’s expanding beyond traditional sectors of cooperation – the automotive, textile and footwear industries, and the mechanical engineering, electrical, metal processing, wood and food industries – into the fields of the green and energy transitions, agri-tech, e-mobility etc. We expect these sectors to entice a new wave of Italian investment. As important as it is for us to attract capital, it is just as precious to us to have transfers of business and financing models, high technologies, machinery and equipment; for us to connect our scientific communities and innovative companies and place them in the function of making the operations of our economy even more successful.
We opened a new chapter in our cooperation this March. And we were further convinced of this by the Italy-Serbia Business and Science Forum, at which we hosted the largest delegation of Italian companies to arrive in the last ten years
For example, Italian investments in new processing capacities in agriculture and the food industry, and the modernisation of existing ones, through applications of cutting-edge technologies, machinery and equipment, innovations and scientific achievements, in cooperation with our domestic IT sector and top faculties and institutes, will result in products with higher added value and mutual benefit: in terms of an improved export performance for Serbia, and higher profits for Italian investors, particularly on markets where Serbia enjoys duty-free trade.
Apart from agriculture, both energy and infrastructure were also in the forum’s focus as areas in which cooperation can be expanded. What specific opportunities exist in these sectors, considering the current economic context?
It is estimated that we should invest more than 15 billion euros in the energy sector alone by 2030, in priority projects for energy production, RES infrastructure and storage capacities, energy efficiency and regional connectivity projects. No less space exists for investments in projects for the treatment of all types of waste and wastewater.
That potential has already been recognised by Italian companies. For example, the joint venture of Italy’s Fintel Energia and Serbia’s MK Group [MK Energy] has already built three wind farms and is completing a fourth, while it is also planning investments worth more than a billion euros over the next five years, including an investment in the first agrosolar project in the Balkans.
The Italian construction industry also has undisguised interest in engaging in major infrastructure and transport projects that Serbia is implementing with EU support, such as the high-speed railways from Belgrade to Niš and from Niš to the border with North Macedonia. Serbia, as the centre of the region and the logistics hub of the Western Balkans, provides major opportunities for investment in industrial and logistics facilities, office space and residential buildings.
It is particularly significant that, apart from banks, the business forum also included the participation of insurance companies, investment funds and leasing companies that already operate in Serbia, as well as other major Italian financial institutions that are prepared to support future investments.
With a focus on cooperation in the area of new technologies, there is no waning of interest in traditional sectors of cooperation, while the importance of IT is also on the rise.
Mutual interest in the expansion of operations and additional investments continues to be present in the automotive, metal processing, textile, food, wood and furniture industries, testifying to which is the expansion of capacities and the modernisation of existing factories and plants, as well as investments in the construction of new ones, but also the fact that more than 130 new Italian businesses have been registered in Serbia since the start of last year.
IT, as Serbia’s fastestgrowing sector, represents a great pillar of support to high-tech companies from around the world, including Italian companies that will invest here. Apart from people who are top experts, the package of R&D investment incentives certainly also provides additional motivation for them to invest and for the Italian and Serbian IT sectors to cooperate on the creation of joint products.
Serbia, North Macedonia and Albania jointly presented the “Wine Vision by Open Balkan” regional wine fair at April’s Vinitaly wine fair in Verona. How much courage, knowledge and skill did that require? What are the most important conclusions to be drawn when it comes to the further promoting of our wines on demanding markets?
Our stand at Vinitaly was among the most prominent, positioned at the very centre of events, and that wasn’t only because the three leaders of the Open Balkan countries were in attendance, but also thanks to the support of Prime Minister Meloni and the importance it was afforded by the visits of Italian Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Antonio Tajani and Veneto Region President Luca Zaia. The Open Balkan, as a new wine destination, as well as the wines produced by wineries from the region that we presented, generated great interest among attendees, including members of the expert public and, first and foremost, professional buyers, which was our goal. Our intention is to entice to the fair in Belgrade the maximum possible number of the approximately one thousand so-called “super buyers”, importers and distributors who were present in Verona, and to thus secure business for our wineries. They are the ones who buy wine for the whole world, for the best restaurants and retailers, and who determine whether or not you will succeed on the world market.
At the same time, Vinitaly’s experience in organising the wine fair is invaluable to us, and we are expecting their delegation to arrive in Belgrade as early as June, with the aim of agreeing on further cooperation. We also participated in the fair in Düsseldorf as part of our promotion of this year’s wine fair, while we are also planning presentations in other wine capitals, such as Vienna and Paris, in the period ahead.
We expect a new wave of Italian investment in the fields of the green and energy transitions, agri-tech and e-mobility, as well as transfers of business and financing models, high technologies, machinery and equipment
Our intention is to entice to the fair in Belgrade the maximum possible number of the approximately one thousand so-called “super buyers”, importers and distributors who were present in Verona, and to thus secure business for our wineries
Italian investments in new processing capacities in agriculture and the food industry, and the modernisation of existing ones, will result in products with higher added value and mutual benefit: an improved export performance for Serbia, and higher profits for Italian investors