The Nordic countries understand that pollution doesn’t respect borders and that environmental cooperation among countries can benefit all. That’s why we are eager to exchange views and cooperate with countries like Serbia.
Serbia recently received a new donation of Danish humanitarian aid in the form of protective medical equipment that was provided via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, but this is only one example of the support that the Danish government provides to the Western Balkan countries, including Serbia.
We spoke with our interlocutor, H.E. Susanne Shine, Ambassador of Denmark to Serbia, about different areas of support, exchanges of knowledge and possible areas of cooperation related to foreign direct investments and the circular economy, where Denmark and other Nordic countries have superb knowhow and practises.
“Denmark has been keen to support Western Balkan countries in their efforts to medically combat COVID-19. For example, at the request of the Serbian authorities, Denmark recently donated FFP2 protective masks valued at more than €350,000 to Serbia and, similarly, medical equipment worth €1 million to North Macedonia. Additionally, Denmark has offered to donate a million vaccines to countries in the Western Balkans, such as Bosnia-Herzegovina, North Macedonia and others. While I’m proud of Denmark’s eagerness to help the Western Balkans, I particularly want to thank the Serbian authorities for their well-organised response to COVID-19 and the exemplary way in which they provided vaccinations to diplomatic staff in Serbia,” says Ambassador Shine.
Danish companies operate successfully in Serbia. Have their experiences helped convince other Danish investors to consider Serbia as a destination for their investments?
– As you point out, a number of Danish companies are already operating successfully in Serbia, and I believe there are many more opportunities for Danish companies. In my work to attract more Danish companies, I use the success of Danish companies that are already operating in Serbia to illustrate the opportunities that exist here. Serbia provides excellent support to foreign investors, along with a qualified workforce, and increased global freight costs have also made it more relevant for Danish companies to relocate their foreign production operations to Europe. Nearshoring and shorter supply chains have become important factors for companies worldwide.
The actions of Danish companies are the best indication of how they perceive Serbia. For example, Danish company Grundfos started production in Serbia a decade ago and today employs over 900 Serbian citizens and has become one of the country’s top 10 exporters. Grundfos has now started building a new production facility next to its existing factory. In July of this year, I was happy to join Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić and others in breaking the ground for this new building, which will be fully equipped with solar panels and a Bio-Booster for cleaning its wastewater. Other examples of booming Danish companies are Better Collective and Kentaur, which have both grown to almost 200 employees in less than five years.
We can offer expertise and technology, from both the public and private sectors, to solve different environmental issues. One potential area of cooperation is district heating, where Denmark is a global leader
Denmark has spent years investing in researching sustainability and green solutions, while you also conscientiously care for the environment. What advice would you give to Serbia and its citizens, who are increasingly gathering to fight to protect their rivers, forests and air quality?
– The green transition in Denmark began with the oil crisis back in the 1970s. Decades of development have progressively transformed the Danish economy into a green one and given Denmark an environmental position that it uses to share experiences and help other countries on their own green journeys. Hopefully, other countries can learn from our experiences and, thus, cut years off their journeys. Grassroots initiatives have also been integral to Denmark’s green transition, and we have also seen many public-private partnerships, such as State of Green (stateofgreen.com), which gather not just state institutions and companies, but also universities, municipalities and civil society.
Your predecessor once said that Denmark isn’t rich enough to discard anything. But what are your experiences when it comes to food recycling, which represents an important part of the circular economy?
– In recent years, Danes have become increasingly conscious of the economic and environmental costs of food loss and waste, and have become more focused on reuse and recycling.
There is no governmental regulation preventing people from wasting food in Denmark. However, as part of Denmark’s nationwide recycling programme, unused food is separated from other recycling and collected from households for use in biogas production. Danes have also supported a number of sustainable and innovative initiatives to reduce the amount of biowaste. For example, there is an app called “Too Good To Go (https://toogoodtogo. com)” which supermarkets, restaurants and bakeries use to offer perfectly fresh food in goodie-bags at the end of the day, at substantially reduced price. Check out similar websites, such as “Eatgrim (eat ugly) (https://eatgrim.com)” a subscription service for food that is perfectly good but does not comply with the standard size, shape etc., and https://foedevarebanken.dk/, which delivers surplus food to poor and vulnerable people in need.
The circular economy, of course, encompasses a very broad area. Which topics will the upcoming October conference focus on exploring?
– The first in a series of four Nordic conferences just took place in Novi Sad on 15th September. Danish and Norwegian experts spoke about Nordic solutions for the management of waste and bio-waste. It was a fascinating conference that included highly constructive discussions with Serbian stakeholders. Later in September, Sweden and Finland will facilitate similar conferences in Kragujevac and Niš. The final conference will be held in Belgrade on 12th October and will focus on policies and legislation related to the circular economy. This series of conferences has been organised jointly by the four Nordic Embassies in Belgrade, under the patronage of the Nordic Council of Ministers.
What kinds of opportunities exist for greater cooperation between Serbia and Nordic countries in this area?
– The Nordic countries are frontrunners in many areas, not least the environment. We can offer expertise and technology, from both the public and private sectors, to solve different environmental issues. One potential area of cooperation is district heating, where Denmark is a global leader. During our conference in Vrdnik in May, representatives of the Danish Board of District Heating discussed the advantages of connecting as many households as possible to district heating networks in order to reduce air pollution. They also discussed constructive ways of switching to greener sources of energy, such as biomass. The Nordic countries understand that pollution does not respect borders and that environmental cooperation among countries can benefit all. That’s why we frequently have regionally aligned policies and are eager to exchange views and cooperate with countries like Serbia.
Excellent support to foreign investors, along with a qualified workforce, have made Serbia attractive to Danish companies that are eager to relocate their foreign production operations to Europe
Denmark has been keen to support Western Balkan countries in their efforts to medically combat COVID-19
Danes have become increasingly conscious of the economic and environmental costs of food loss and waste, and have become more focused on reuse and recycling