Economic ties between the Netherlands and Serbia give us enough reason to be optimistic. Our bilateral trade has been growing consistently, at about 20%, and shows no signs of slowing down, despite a complex global situation ~ Joost Reintjes
In this particularly difficult global situation, in which democratic values are under attack, it is important to seeks solutions jointly. The European Union imposed sanctions on Russia in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A country that aspires to EU membership, like Serbia, is expected to align its policies with the EU. Progressive alignment with the EU’s foreign policy is not a new condition and is part of the negotiation framework. When it comes to EU integration, economic relations play a very significant part. Economic ties between the Netherlands and Serbia give us enough reason to be optimistic. Our bilateral trade has been growing consistently, at about 20%, and shows no signs of slowing down, despite a complex global situation. In fact, provisional figures for 2022 indicate a 30% increase in bilateral trade, reaching almost a billion euros in the first ten months of the year. It is my expectation that the positive experiences of Dutch companies operating in Serbia will serve as a calling card for other companies to test out the market.
Furthermore, Dutch companies are very much ingrained in Serbia’s everyday life. With around 500 businesses employing almost 20,000 people in a variety of sectors, Dutch companies include household names that almost every Serbian knows and uses, including Ahold-Delhaize (Maxi/Tempo), KLM, Philips, Kupujem-Prodajem, Heineken, but also small vibrant businesses providing consultancy services, furniture manufacturing, urban greening and sustainable agriculture. These economic interactions between our two countries help to increase people-to-people contacts. However, it is not only through economic ties that our two countries are getting to know each other better. I meet many people that have studied or lived in the Netherlands for all kinds of reasons: a personal highlight for me was meeting Dušan Tadić, captain of your national football team and Amsterdam’s Ajax. Mutual understanding doesn’t come only through shared successes, but also through shared challenges. Serbia can do more to safeguard media freedom and the safety of journalists. A responsible and pluralistic media forms part of the necessary checks and balances in a democratic system. Also in 2023, the Netherlands embassy will be working with government and civil society to help implement the reforms needed to protect democratic values like freedom of expression and the rule of law.