Switzerland supports the process of the Western Balkan states towards European integration, which has contributed to stability and prosperity in the region. I would like to recall that there is a sizeable diaspora from this region, including from Serbia, living in Switzerland, and this naturally reinforces Switzerland’s interests in and exchanges with the Western Balkans
To this end, Switzerland has developed an important cooperation programme in the region, which focuses on five main pillars:
1) Democratisation, decentralisation and local governance; 2) Economic development; 3) Vocational training and employment; 4) Water and energy supply; 5) Health.
In addition, Switzerland promotes regional integration and cooperation between the countries of the Western Balkans, notably by promoting research or by contributing to regional structures, such as the Regional Cooperation Council instituted under the Southeast European Cooperation Process.
As part of its peace policy in the Western Balkans, Switzerland also encourages reconciliation efforts, notably by promoting transitional justice and by supporting political dialogue, and remains present with the Kosovo Force (KFOR) in Kosovo.
Last but not least, Switzerland has concluded migration partnerships with several countries in the region, including Serbia, to help the authorities manage migration flows. This cooperation proved to be extremely useful during the migration crisis in 2015, allowing us to provide swift support to Serbia in accommodating stranded migrants.
Switzerland sees great opportunities in strengthening partnerships with countries in this region, particularly in terms of business cooperation, education, innovation and research
Switzerland sees great opportunities in strengthening partnerships with countries in this region, particularly in terms of business cooperation, education, innovation and research. My official visits to Singapore and South Korea in July provided an occasion to present and discuss Switzerland’s dual-track system of vocational and professional education with my counterparts, who showed great interest in further developing cooperation in that area. Incidentally, I also had the pleasure of discussing this topic with Prime Minister Vučić during my last visit to Belgrade in October 2015 and at our meeting in Bern in June of this year.
Stability is key for any country wishing to attract foreign investment, and Serbia is no exception. What also seems to have been key in Serbia’s case is its commitment to improving its macroeconomic figures, its efforts to undertake a series of structural reforms and adopt new laws that have improved its business climate, thereby attracting new foreign investors.
In terms of Swiss investment in Serbia, allow me to remind readers that in 2014 Switzerland was the single largest bilateral foreign investor in Serbia, which shows that Switzerland has the potential to become a leading investor in the country. Also, Swiss exports increased by 22 per cent in 2015.
The establishment, back in 2014, of the Swiss-Serbian Chamber of Commerce, comprising some 60 members, also contributes to our vibrant bilateral trade. That said, further measures to improve legal certainty and simplify the country’s tax system would be welcome and would certainly help to continue attracting foreign investment.