The period ahead represents an opportunity for Serbia and the Nordic countries to create new models of cooperation, upholding the principles of resilient and just economies and societies. The successful resumption of ties is full on, and we look forward to future possibilities
The pandemic certainly made a significant impact on the work of the Nordic Business Alliance. However, at the same time, it amplified the importance of solidarity, insists Nordic Business Alliance Executive Director Iva Petrović. “I am proud to say that Nordic embassies and businesses in Serbia were leading the charge. Significant donations and technical assistance were provided to Serbia during these turbulent times, which exemplify the strength of the ties between Serbia and Nordic countries.”
Today, when COVID-19 in becoming endemic around much of the world, all eyes are turned towards sustainable and inclusive growth. “This inclusive growth model reconciles dynamic growth with equality and social peace. It is designed to benefit all stakeholders (and the environment) and, as a result, improve living standards, reduce inequality, and narrow social divides,” says Petrovic.
What are the most important tools at the disposal of the NBA for fostering this kind of cooperation?
– The Nordic Business Alliance works closely with the four Nordic embassies in Serbia to build stronger business relations between the countries. We do this through joint projects, initiatives and a wide range of activities, including conferences, roundtables, networking events and public diplomacy. A horizontal and nimble organisational structure allows us to respond quickly to topical issues and keeps us relevant to our members and stakeholders. Our members are esteemed leaders in their respective industries and we aim, synergistically, thorough out network, to deliver best practices with the goal of improving the business climate in Serbia. To this end, we also collaborate with international development organisations to partner on projects in which Nordic experts and institutions can contribute with their valuable knowledge and experience.
We also see increased interest in regional connectivity. Serbia is becoming a regional hub from which many companies manage their businesses in neighbouring countries. New market entrants from Nordic countries often see the NBA as gateway to future regional growth. It is therefore no coincidence that, in March this year, we adopted a new Statutory act that now positions the Nordic Business Alliance as a regional association, opening doors to new members from Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and North Macedonia.
The circular economy, environmental protection and innovations are among the major parts of your new strategy. How well does this strategy resonate with the government’s current focus on innovation, biotechnology and green transition?
– We work closely with government stakeholders to further agendas for these important topics. Green transition is of paramount importance, and the government has shown great interest in partnering with Nordic countries in this process. One example is the project Nordic Green – Solutions for Serbia, which is funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers and represents a continuation of the Circular Economy Project launched in 2021, with the intention of achieving greater business and government cooperation in areas such as sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, waste separation & recycling, and greener business and industrial processes.
The hallmark of the Nordic Business Alliance is that it is only with joint, focused efforts, built around publicprivate partnerships, that we can achieve a meaningful and sustainable impact. The Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Serbia is a great example of this
When it comes to innovation, it is very exciting to witness the launch of the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Serbia (C4IR Serbia), which is a collaboration between the Government of Serbia and the World Economic Forum. The hallmark of the Nordic Business Alliance is that it is only with joint, focused efforts, built around public-private partnership, that we can achieve a meaningful and sustainable impact. C4IR Serbia is a great example of this – bringing together stakeholders from government, business and academia to accelerate the deployment of emerging technologies. And biotechnology and artificial intelligence for healthcare are two areas where Nordics can certainly help. We look forward to joint projects and initiatives in the coming years.
One of the areas in which Nordic companies have cooperated the most with the Serbian government and business institutions is the area of e-government. However, the 5G network that enables digital transformation and full digital inclusion, creating conditions to increase productivity, is not yet a reality in Serbia. How does this influence the prospects of further cooperation between Serbia and the Nordic countries and businesses?
– The pandemic has been an inflection point in the digital maturity of governments. While initial efforts to accelerate digital transformation have yielded dividends, governments will need to continue the momentum. This means that agencies should adopt a cohesive approach to modernising their digital capabilities, and connectivity is a prerequisite for that. Although significant progress has been made in Serbia, network challenges still exist, especially when it comes to rural areas, and particularly in southern parts of the country.
Whether you’re a country leader or a local official, your aim should be to bring increased satisfaction to your constituents – both businesses and citizens. Can 5G enable that? Yes, absolutely, 5G is needed for full digital inclusion. It helps preserve the way of life away from urban cities, increases productivity and sustainability, and is key to Industry 4.0.
However, aside from the connectivity and access that come with 5G, there are other priorities for the optimisation and digitisation of e-services. A digital mindset – moving away from “doing digital” to “becoming digital” – is among them. At the heart of this digital transformation is moving away from ad hoc applications of digital to designing and implementing digital technologies that are deeply embedded in an organisation’s DNA. COVID-19 propelled many governments, including the Government of Serbia, into this next stage of digital transformation with e-health services related to testing, vaccination and digital green certification, among others.
We look forward to continuing our active participation in the Serbian Government’s Coordination Body for Healthcare System Digitalisation. Great progress has been made, and we should build on this momentum to extend the scope of e-health services, including the unified electronic patient health card and telemedicine.
Apart from important business ties, the NBA places a focus on sharing specific values: social responsibility, solidarity, sustainability, transparency, inclusion, care for the environment and innovation. In the hectic world that we currently live in, is there enough space for these values to be nurtured?
– I think that, in the not-so-distant future, these values will be prerequisites for any business strategy. And, thankfully, businesses increasingly understand that they are no longer “nice-to-have” peripheral activities, but rather integral parts of their business models. Many years ago, we referred to them as “Nordic values”, but today they are universally accepted global principles for sustainable economic growth and just societies.
New market entrants from Nordic countries often see the Nordic Business Alliance as a gateway to future regional growth
Green transition is of paramount importance, and the Serbian government has shown great interest in partnering with Nordic countries in this process
We look forward to continuing our active participation in the Serbian Government’s Coordination Body for Healthcare System Digitalisation, where great progress has already been made