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Danijela Fišakov, President Of The Slovenian Business Club

Clear Vision For A Prosperous Future

The Slovenian Business Club (SBC) will continue, as it has over the past 20 years, to promote investments and business opportunities, and to provide support to its members in their business. It is set to become an even stronger and more influential business actor in Serbia, Slovenia and the region over the next 10 years, with a strong network of contacts and partnerships

The Slovenian Business Club is this year commemorating its 20th anniversary, which is undoubtedly an impressive achievement for any organisation. Over these two decades, the SBC has demonstrated many qualities that have contributed to its longevity and vitality.

“The essence of business clubs lies in the building of strong networks and the forging of connections between members. Open communication, exchanges of experience and the establishing of business connections contribute to increasing the SBC’s worth and significance. The Slovenian Business Club has succeeded in building a strong network of members who cooperate actively, support one another and provide a significant contribution to its vitality,” says Slovenian Business Club President Danijela Fišakov.

Over the course of its existence to date, the SBC has managed to regularly organise numerous interesting and useful events. The Club’s work encompasses various activities, ranging from “one-to-one” work all the way to the organising of extremely well-attended business conferences, seminars, workshops, panel debates, social events and other initiatives.

Throughout these 20 years, the SBC has worked with devotion to retain its members’ support and ensure their participation in its work, constantly delivering value to its membership. These valued takeaways are varied and members find them through the obtaining of information and expert advice, the creating of business opportunities, access to resources or some other form of support.

“In order to remain relevant throughout all these years, the SBC didn’t only have to adapt its activities and programmes to changes in the economic and social environment, but also, I would emphasise, to the specific needs of its members. And the SBC proved very successful and innovative in making these adaptations,” adds our interlocutor.

This year will also mark 10 years since you took the helm of the SBC. What is your vision for the next 10 years? How should SBC develop further?

– I am a great advocate for cooperation and connection between businesspeople from Slovenia and Serbia, and further afield. One important priority is to further develop the network of contacts and connections between business leaders and business organisations from Slovenia and Serbia, in order to strengthen existing business relationships and create new ones. It is to this end that we organise gatherings and events that provide businesspeople with an opportunity to meet, exchange ideas and establish new business connections. The SBC will play an increasingly important role in promoting investment opportunities in the region.

One of the key factors in ensuring the longevity of the Slovenian Business Club is its operational continuity, and the constant engagement and support of its members. Membership activities haven’t ceased since the very establishment of the SBC. Times of crisis have not represented an insurmountable obstacle

Cooperation with other business clubs and associations around the region will also strengthen. The SBC will focus on creating partnerships with other business clubs in the region and on exchanges of experience and best practices, in order to advance the business climate in the region and create a platform for successful regional cooperation. The Slovenian Business Club will continue to promote investments and business opportunities, as well as supporting its members in their operations. The Club will become an even stronger and more influential player in Serbian, Slovenian and regional business over the next 10 years, with a strong network of contacts and partnerships.

To what extent does the structure of your members today reflect the changes that occurred in the structure of the Slovenian and Serbian economies?

– The Slovenian economy has transformed itself over recent decades, which has also been reflected in the structure of SBC members in Serbia. Slovenian companies have become increasingly present in sectors like information technology, energy, pharmaceuticals, high-tech manufacturing and other fields. Serbia is an attractive destination for foreign investors thanks to its geographic position, qualified workforce, stable macroeconomic climate and a series of other factors. However, the Serbian economy has also been undergoing a positive transformation at all levels over the last ten years.

It is strengthening and expanding considerably to other areas, including the Slovenian market, which is open to foreign investments. Today’s SBC membership structure reflects, to a great extent, the changes that have taken place in the structures of the Slovenian and Serbian economies.

The SBC membership today includes not only Slovenian companies that operate in Serbia, but significantly and increasingly Serbian companies that want to cooperate with Slovenian companies and also to invest in Slovenia.

How well prepared are we, as two countries, to build a knowledge-based economy; what can we learn about that from one another and in which areas can we cooperate better?

– Serbia and Slovenia are already building their economies on the basis of knowledge to a great extent, but there is plenty of room for significant improvement in this area. In terms of learning from one another, both countries have a rich tradition in the education and research fields, and there are tangible opportunities for cooperation.

Slovenian universities and institutes have vast research and development experience in various fields, and some Slovenian companies are leaders in their sectors. These companies could be mentors or partners to Serbian start-ups that are in the development or growth stage and could help them successfully position their products and services on the European market.

On the other hand, Serbia is a rich source of highly qualified workers, including experts in fields like information technology, engineering and other sciences. These experts could contribute to the operations of Slovenian companies.

In the area of exchanges of knowledge, both countries have significant potential at their disposal and can learn a lot from each other. There are great opportunities for joint R&D projects among Serbian and Slovenian institutions and companies. These kinds of projects will improve innovation and the competitiveness of both countries.

There’s no doubt that the needs of environmental protection, implementation of the European Green Deal and generally adapting to new business circumstances represent challenges for all economies, ours included. Where do you see room to improve cooperation on this front?

– The development of industry brought humankind not only progress, but also the essential need to protect the environment. Implementing the Green Deal and adapting to new business circumstances represent major challenges for all economies around the world, including those of Serbia and Slovenia. And, like all challenges, these ones are overcome more easily and successfully by working together. In this sense, there is lots of room in this area for better cooperation between the two countries.

First and foremost, there is room for cooperation between Slovenian and Serbian companies that produce and use sustainable materials, in the production of green energy, and in other areas that contribute to preserving the environment. These companies should exchange experiences and knowledge and join forces to develop new products and services. Slovenian and Serbian institutions in the research and development field have capacities to develop new technologies and, in particular, to make innovations that will contribute to better preserving the environment and implementing the Green Deal.

Given that Slovenia is an EU member state and that Serbia is well on its way to attaining EU standards, countless possibilities exist for cooperation on policy and strategy development, and on the implementation of environmental protection and sustainable development regulations. Finally, education and environmental awareness are key factors in the successful implementation of sustainable development. Both countries can work together to raise awareness of the importance of environmental protection, through educational programmes, public campaigns and other activities. Cooperation in this field could bring many benefits for both countries, while also contributing to the preservation of living environment for future generations.

From the standpoint of these new opportunities for cooperation, where do you see additional space to advance the business climate in Serbia?

– Improving the business climate in Serbia depends mostly on the state’s attitude to this matter and its focus on the creating of an environment favourable for investment. And room for improvement exists.

It is firstly necessary to reduce administrative obstacles that make it difficult to do business in Serbia, such as the still excessively long procedures for issuing various permits and many unclear laws and regulations. It is essential to strengthen the rule of law constantly and more intensively, i.e., to improve the judicial system and make it more independent, and to intensify the fight against corruption and organised crime, which would ensure a sense of security both personally and in business legal terms.

Despite the challenges we face, I believe many opportunities for growth and progress exist, and my long career in business has taught me that the key is to be optimistic and focused on identifying solutions

The continuation of investment in Serbian infrastructure – in roads, railways, waterways and airports – would increase the attractiveness of the country to investors. Small and medium-sized enterprises are considered the main drivers of economic development, but they are often confronted by a lack of capital, which restricts their growth and development. As such, it is important to provide more support to these enterprises in order to ease their access to finance, training and consulting services.

Last, but by no means least, is investing in education and research. Advancing expertise and the quality of the workforce depends on these activities. Developing innovative technologies attracts foreign investors and increases Serbia’s attractiveness as a destination for doing business.

Judging by the forecasts of the IMF, World Bank and many other institutions, it seems that we won’t see an end to the difficulties plaguing our economies, both locally and globally, even during 2023. As a veteran of the business world, what are you optimistic and pessimistic about when it comes to this year and next?

– My experience tells me that my view of the situation facing the global economy should be fairly cautious. The situation still seems very challenging, considering the numerous economic problems countries around the world are facing. However, on the other hand, there are also several factors that make me optimistic.

First, it seems that countries all around the world, including Serbia and Slovenia, implemented appropriate measures to address the challenges that were brought about by the pandemic. This includes increasing investments in healthcare and technology, but also supporting the economy through various fiscal and monetary measures.

Second, growth potential exists in some key sectors, such as advanced technologies, healthcare and renewables. These sectors have recorded exceptional growth and created new business opportunities over the last few years.

Third, huge potential for cooperation between Serbia and Slovenia exists, but also for other countries in the region. I think the countries of the region must connect and cooperate more in order to jointly overcome challenges and achieve better economic growth.

COOPERATION

SBC membership today includes not only Slovenian companies that operate in Serbia, but significantly and increasingly Serbian companies that want to cooperate with Slovenian companies and also to invest in Slovenia

IMPROVEMENT

Improving the business climate in Serbia depends mostly on the state’s attitude to this matter and its focus on the creating of an environment favourable for investment. And room for improvement exists

DEVELOPMENT

There are great opportunities for joint R&D projects among Serbian and Slovenian institutions and companies. These kinds of projects will improve innovation and the competitiveness of both countries