It is time to reflect on the past 30 years of the bilateral cooperation programme and seek new paths of collaboration. Switzerland’s longstanding commitment to supporting democracy and good governance, today via digitalisation, have an important role to play in harnessing bilateral relations in the years to come.
Digitalisation is becoming a tool that strongly supports many aspects of the Swiss bilateral cooperation with Serbia. In the period behind us, digitalisation proved to be of outmost importance in providing many important services at the national and local level, as well as opening new paths of collaboration between the Swiss and Serbian economies. On the other hand, this period also showed areas of future collaboration in turning digitalisation into an inclusive process for growth and prosperity.
If we talk about the importance of that support, three main paths are clearly visible.
One is related to the development of e-services at the national, and particularly local, level, serving both the advance of democracy, such as through e-parliament, and e-services to citizens and businesses. Those services showed strong potential in improving approaches to challenges like the COVID-19 Pandemic, starting from administrative services to the vaccination process.
Promoting good governance, a well-established priority of Switzerland’s cooperation with Serbia, is gaining a new shape via digitalisation
Well-known Swiss support to innovation processes in Serbia is not only visible in the success of Science and Technology Park Belgrade (NTP Beograd), but also in the creation of an NTP network around Serbia. In the words of Swiss Ambassador Urs Schmid, “the goal of this support is to increase the competitiveness of the Serbian high-tech industry, thus contributing to increased revenues, exports and job creation”.
Furthermore, Swiss support stands behind the new Raising Stars programme. Distributed via the state Innovation Fund, it is tasked with securing a route to market for as many as 100 start-up companies in Serbia. Many experts have noted the critical importance of this programme for strengthening the increasingly attractive Serbian start-up eco system, where start-up companies at an early stage of development need support in bringing initial business ideas to fruition, as well as further investment via venture capital.
However, in order to be embraced fully, digitalisation needs to be accessible to all, which has not been the case during the COVID-19 Pandemic, when many people who are not digitally literate or lack internet access have been deprived of the ability to exercise their rights to access personal documentation, process unemployment and social benefits and schooling. As such, Swiss support in the areas of personal data protection and continued access to information and services for groups without digital literacy is of the outmost importance to Serbia.