Very few countries in the world, including those in the European Union, could aspire to compare themselves to the Nordic states. Indeed, their citizens are among the happiest in the world and they enjoy the highest social standards, while their companies are among the most innovative and least corrupt.
However, it would not be unthinkable to compare the Western Balkans and the Nordic countries or, to be more precise, to look for reputable examples of regional cooperation and mutual support. One good example is certainly interconnectivity.
The Western Balkan countries are still in the initial phase of connecting with each other in terms of transportation, digitalisation or customs tariffs, and are a long way from institutionalising their cooperation through the establishment of a body similar to the Nordic Council of Ministers.
While the Nordics share a single labour market, our region’s workforce moves based on quotas in the case that there is a shortage of some skills, like in tourism. Nordic countries may play for the same team and be fierce competitors, as they have very similar business models and sectors in focus, while their Western Balkan counterparts often clash over agricultural products and close their borders to one another.
The Nordic Business Forum, which will bring together for the first time the largest Nordic trade and commerce delegation in Belgrade and their counterparts from the Western Balkans, will be an excellent opportunity to identify potential for mutual cooperation, but also an invaluable chance for companies from the region to get better acquainted and to deepen their cooperation.
It would not be unthinkable to compare the Western Balkans and the Nordic countries or, to be more precise, to look for reputable examples of regional cooperation and mutual support
It would be fair to say that Serbia was the first Western Balkan country to take some bold steps towards trying to invigorate cooperation with the Nordic countries. Although the level of investments and mutual trade is quite low, it seems that today Nordic companies are more likely to think about investment opportunities in this part of the world.
The numbers speak for themselves.
While still modest, trade relations between Danish and Serbian companies are growing at double-digit rates, mainly due to Danish export-orientated investments. And as a specific result of these investments more than 2,000 jobs have been created in Serbia. Furthermore, there is growing interest in the country among Danish companies, primarily owing to Serbia’s favourable geographic location and educated workforce.
Finland’s cooperation is even more modest, with only 11 registered Finnish companies in Serbia, albeit with positive experiences of doing business.
The establishment of IKEA in Serbia was obviously one of those important signals that things are advancing. Sweden’s annual export to Serbia is growing steadily at present, and several Swedish companies are considering entering the market in the mining industry, and energy, healthcare and agriculture sectors.
It would be good if more Nordic companies brought their know-how and values to Serbia.