What testifies better to the success of cooperation between Switzerland and Serbia than the fact that the donor and receiving countries have become excellent business partners? The numbers speak for themselves: Switzerland ranked as the second largest foreign direct investor in Serbia in 2021, while at the same time becoming a top investment location for Serbian companies, mostly in the ICT sector
Back in 1991, Swiss humanitarian aid to Serbia was focused solely on helping the country endure difficult times. Since then, over the course of three decades, more than 400 million euros of official development assistance has been committed and spent to date, with an increasing focus on developmental assistance, targeting both vulnerable sections of the population and local communities eager to improve their services and participatory practises, as well as attracting new investments. These areas also constitute the foundation of the current Swiss engagement during the 2022-2025 period, which will place an emphasis on dual vocational education, the participation of local SMEs in the value chains of larger foreign direct investments and renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable urban planning.
Switzerland is additionally supporting Serbia in one of the country’s most important, but rather slowly progressing reforms: the oversight of public enterprises. Digitisation now has to help Serbian public enterprises save time on tasks like the physical preparation of documents, and to focus more on data analysis and decision-making due to much-needed transparency with regard to the operations of public enterprises.
Switzerland is supporting Serbia in its efforts to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth. This is the essence of the cooperation plan for the 2022-2025 period and the foundation of further prosperous bilateral relations
These areas are inextricably linked to Serbia’s path to growth, which includes investments in a better educated workforce and the ability to both attract foreign companies seeking nearshoring options and align with EU legislation and the EU Green Deal. Furthermore, all of these areas fortify the current advancement of bilateral relations between Switzerland and Serbia that can be observed in the areas of trade and investments.
Indeed, despite adverse global trends and negative forecasts of stagflation or even recession throughout the EU and the Western world, the dynamics of Swiss- Serbian economic relations have remained intact and continued to strengthen. One of the reasons is the strong link between Swiss and Serbian IT companies, which have proven to be resilient in the crisis caused by Covid-19 and the current crisis. This isn’t to say that IT is the only sector where successful cooperation is unfolding. Among recent Swiss investments in Serbia are the new production site of Regent Lighting in Svilajnac, the establishment of TX Services in Belgrade and the constructions of both the Barry-Callebaut chocolate factory in Novi Sad and Nestlé’s new factory in Surčin. Bilateral trade grew by 16% last year, and these new investments are yet to be added to this dynamic. These examples tell a remarkable story about the success of cooperation between the two countries and show how one win-win situation can be achieved over the course of time.