Our strategic goal is to assist Serbia in fulfilling EU membership standards and advocate for EU enlargement, as we believe that the EU can provide a brighter future for Serbian citizens in terms of freedom, security and economic prosperity
We know that climate change can feel overwhelming and that it can be tempting to avoid addressing it, but the immense shift to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and mitigate the looming climate crisis requires everyone’s attention, says Swedish Ambassador to Serbia H.E. Annika Ben David.
Sweden was the world’s first country to pass a law on environmental protection, way back in 1967, and the country has remained at the forefront of the green transition ever since. “Sweden plans to be carbon neutral by 2045. Through a broad commitment — from government officials, major companies and Swedish citizens — we’re developing a wide range of solutions. From renewable energy to sustainable industries, we’re creating hope for the future. We know that we can pioneer the possible and put all the pieces of the green transition together,” says Ambassador Ben David.
Sweden has been a strong development cooperation partner to Serbia for over two decades.
“In the field of the environment, we are Serbia’s top bilateral donor. Together with the Serbian Government and the EU, as well as other development partners, we are engaged in the EU Green Agenda in Serbia,” says our interlocutor, adding: “among other things, we have created a platform for investments. Ever-more Serbian municipalities and companies have opportunities to lead by example through green investments. Over recent years, Serbia has started reforming environmental legislation and, in so doing, also establishing a framework for sustainable development. We have been happy to support this process.”
To what extent have Swedish companies in Serbia contributed to the green transition and more sustainable approaches to energy production and consumption?
Sweden is a strong actor in the global struggle to tackle the challenges posed by environmental degradation and climate change. It should thus come as no surprise that Swedish companies lead by example in their commitment to sustainable operations, environmental safeguards, transparency, accountability and citizen engagement. Swedish companies are generally keen for their efforts to have a positive impact on society, the environment and the economy, by providing solutions and products that protect both people and business processes.
Sweden and Serbia have strong and lasting cooperation on the environment, energy efficiency and the Green Agenda. A great number of Swedish businesses that maintain a presence in Serbia are in a position to demonstrate core values as part of their business culture, such as sustainability, innovation, clean energy, competitiveness and green transition.
Considering your advancements in biotechnology, how do you envisage the role of the BIO4 Campus in terms of deepening our economic and scientific relations?
Sweden is one of the world’s most prominent research and development nations. Our unique digital technology capabilities, high innovation capacity, world-leading universities and public- private collaborations combine to create an unrivalled environment for expansive innovation in the life sciences and biotechnology.
Sweden inspires, supports and accelerates the ambitions of Swedish life sciences companies to step up and make an impact on the global stage. That’s why we welcome Serbia’s plans to develop the BIO4 campus project, which will bring Serbian academia and companies operating in this area under one roof. A concrete example of future Swedish-Serbian cooperation is a recent visit by high-ranking AstraZeneca officials, who signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Serbian Prime Minister with regard to the BIO4 campus project.
We are hopeful that other Swedish companies in this area will develop similar partnerships as the BIO4 campus project develops further.
What are your strategic goals in supporting Serbia’s EU accession process, in light of the renewed enthusiasm for enlargement of the Union?
Our strategic goal remains the same: to help Serbia achieve the standards required for EU membership and to push for EU enlargement. Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson stated recently that EU enlargement will be Sweden’s number one foreign policy priority in the coming years.
Of course, this raises a number of questions and challenges. How do we prepare for an EU with many more member states? There is a lot of consideration going on right now, in EU capitals and in Brussels, about what enlargement could mean for the EU and for candidate countries. We have been, and remain, staunch supporters of Serbia and the region’s EU membership, and we are one of the few countries that also provides direct bilateral support to this end.
The difference now is that there are three new countries that want to join the EU, and that the EU faces a new geopolitical context. The main reason, of course, is Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, which threatens us all. The enlargement process, in our view, must remain meritocratic, but new thoughts are emerging as to how to gradually integrate candidate countries into the EU. Our commitment to enlargement remains firm, and we expect and urge candidate countries to seize the opportunity that has presented itself.
Before assuming your role in Serbia, you served as the Ambassador at Large for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law – all topics that have always been particularly pertinent in Serbia and the region. What is the current status of these issues?
Human rights, democracy and the rule of law are cornerstones of Swedish foreign policy and have been for decades. We firmly believe in a rules-based international order and multilateral cooperation, not a world where the mighty rule by sheer force.
These fundamental Swedish and EU values are now threatened by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. It is essential for us, for our freedom and security, that Ukraine wins the war. These fundamentals are also sine qua non for EU accession. We believe strongly that the EU can offer a better agenda for the future of the citizens of Serbia, in terms of freedom, security and economic prosperity. The EU is today already Serbia’s biggest investor, trading partner and donor.
Sweden is a strong actor in the global struggle to tackle the challenges posed by environmental degradation and climate change
Many Swedish businesses in Serbia can showcase core values in their business culture, including sustainability, innovation, clean energy, competitiveness and the green transition
The enlargement process, in our view, must remain meritocratic, but new ideas are emerging on how to gradually integrate candidate countries into the EU