Nordic cooperation, which is driven by shared values and encompasses various domains, strives to create the most integrated and sustainable region by 2030, which could serve as a model for successful collaboration between Serbia and other Western Balkan countries
We are currently facing significant security challenges and economic risks at the European and global scale. We thus decided to open our interview with Danish Ambassador to Serbia H.E. Susanne Shine by focusing on global challenges.
Given your expertise in both areas, what are your expectations when it comes to the evolution of these challenges in 2024; and how do you anticipate them impacting EU accession processes in both the European Union and the Western Balkans?
The lamentable challenges that plague us today will almost certainly persist into 2024 and continue to impact the security and economies of the EU, Serbia, and other countries. In response to conflicts, our countries can choose to help resist aggression and ease suffering. In choosing to do so, they can also choose to align with like-minded countries and form long-term partnerships that lead to stability and prosperity. In this regard, EU enlargement has gained new momentum. The EU is ready to welcome candidate countries that share EU values, such as the rule of law, human rights and media freedoms. EU enlargement presents a generational opportunity for Serbia. To help Serbia seize this opportunity, Denmark will continue to support Serbia’s efforts aimed at addressing requirements for EU membership.
What lessons or experiences from Danish and Nordic alliances do you believe could provide valuable insights into ways of navigating the turbulent times we are currently facing?
Nordic cooperation is based on the Nordic peoples’ shared values, as well as shared cultural, economic and political ties. The principal forums of Nordic cooperation are the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Nordic Council, which have the goal of making the Nordic region the world’s most integrated and sustainable region by 2030.
Our cooperation takes many forms. For example, we work together closely on defence and foreign policy, which has amplified our voice in international forums and boosted our ability to contribute to global security. Our cooperation on economic matters has led to the Common Nordic Labour Market, among many other successful outcomes, benefitting employees and employers alike and rendering our companies and countries more competitive globally. Working with like-minded partners through regional cooperation has made us stronger internally and more effective internationally. Our cooperation also makes us better prepared and more capable to manage the types of challenges that confront us today.
Serbia and the other Western Balkan countries have the potential for similarly successful cooperation. Many initiatives have already been taken to start developing that cooperation. For instance, the Berlin Process, which was set up in 2014 as a platform to enhance high-level cooperation between the Western Balkan countries, has just agreed on a joint growth plan and committed to advancing regional economic integration through the Western Balkans Common Regional Market. I believe strongly that, through partnership and cooperation, Serbia and its Western Balkan partners will become securer and more prosperous, and will have a stronger, more influential voice in global affairs. They will also become better prepared and capable of navigating difficult times like those we currently face.
At the outset of your residence in Serbia, you expressed your aim to attract additional Danish companies to the Serbian market, with a particular emphasis on the potential for relocating production operations from distant markets to Europe. How have these plans evolved?
As a small, open economy, Denmark has been a champion of free trade and Danish companies have benefited from the development of global supply chains, sometimes with production operations far from home. However, the Covid-19 pandemic showed that global supply chains can break down and that it matters where important goods are produced or assembled. With its close proximity to the EU, expanding infrastructure and highly skilled workforce, Serbia is an attractive market for Danish companies. Many Danish companies have recently opened offices or production facilities in Serbia. For example, Navi Partner in Belgrade and Better Collective in Niš are successful IT companies that employ a combined total of almost 400 highly skilled specialists; Kentaur in Vranje produces high-quality workwear and employs 80% of its staff from the Vranje area; Quickfire in Novi Sad manufactures a remarkable range of high-quality fire-starter products; and Grundfos in Inđija added around 17,000 new square metres to its existing facilities last year and now assembles its newest generation of pumps for the global market right here in Serbia. There are approximately 30 Danish companies present in Serbia today, contributing to both the Serbian and Danish economies.
To what extent have Serbian companies embraced your initiatives to promote environmental sustainability in the country, and could you highlight the most successful instances of these efforts?
In general, my embassy colleagues and I have focused on encouraging and supporting Danish companies operating in Serbia in their efforts to exemplify the Danish philosophy of doing business in an environmentally sustainable and responsible manner. Grundfos, for example, which produces high-end, sustainability-enabling pumps, has earned Gold LEED certification, in recognition of the fact that its production plant in Inđija has been designed, built and maintained in a way that’s consistent with sustainable best practices. Grundfos’s state-of-the-art plant features solar panels, a rainwater harvesting system, cooling and heating through a geothermal closed loop and a wastewater treatment facility. Grundfos and other Danish companies operating here in Serbia demonstrate that companies with high environmental standards can prosper and succeed in Serbia and internationally.
With its close proximity to the EU, expanding infrastructure and highly skilled workforce, Serbia is an attractive market for Danish companies
I believe strongly that Serbia and its Western Balkan neighbours will enhance their security, prosperity and global influence by fostering partnerships and cooperation
A growing number of Danish companies have established offices or production facilities in Serbia in recent times, with around 30 such companies now operating in the country