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In this CorD Magazine interview, we discuss with Italian-Serbian Chamber of Commerce (ISCC) President Annino De Venezia how Serbia can leverage Italy’s industrial expertise through the concept of specialised industrial districts. According to Mr De Venezia’s proposal, these districts aim to streamline training, waste management and regulatory compliance, while simultaneously nurturing entrepreneurial opportunities within Serbia and thus presenting promising prospects for the country’s industrial advancement and economic growth.

“I believe it’s crucial to create specific areas, specialised in certain types of manufacturing. In other words, from my perspective, it would be suitable to establish so-called “monothematic industrial districts”. Why? For instance, because specialised schools and training institutions can be established near companies. Secondly, when it comes to managing industrial waste, it could be treated in areas located not far from the district, thus providing easily understood benefits like reduced waste transit on roads and highways, and therefore also a reduced risk of accidents and easier compliance verification of environmental and safety regulations by regulatory bodies, suggests our interlocutor. “We shouldn’t overlook the possibility for specialists within these districts to subsequently decide to start their own enterprises. And much more.”

How do CDP (Cassa Depositi e Prestiti), Simest, and SACE support Serbia’s growth prospects?

— SACE opened an office in CCIS in 2023 and we are happy to host them. This allows our members to talk directly to SACE’s managers, if needed.

SACE is the Italian insurance-financial group that’s directly controlled by the Ministry of Economy and Finance and specialises in supporting companies and the Italian national economic network.

SACE comprises: SACE FCT, which operates in factoring; SACE BT, which is active in the fields of credit, deposits and other damages to property; and SACE SRV, which is specialised in data collection and information asset management.

The Council of European Business Associations and Chambers in Serbia is crucial for fostering partnerships between Italy (and other countries) and Serbia

As I noted, SACE expanded to the Balkans in 2023 and today stands ready to assist our members and others.

CDP is a Joint-Stock Company with public control, while its main shareholder is the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance. Minority shareholders are foundations with banking origins.

CDP supports the development of the Italian entrepreneurial network both at home and abroad. And this is the reason CDP arrived in Serbia. Through a range of financial, equity and advisory services, CDP helps with the growth of productive sectors and the acceleration of digitalisation.

It became the Italian National Promotional Institution in 2015.

SIMEST is the society of the CDOP group that supports Italian enterprises through the internationalisation of their activities. Its shareholders include CDP, as well as some Italian banks and entrepreneurial Associations.

I must highlight the fact that SIMEST supports companies throughout the entire expansion cycle abroad, while also contributing to the firms’ capital. I also have to note that SIMEST is a member of EDFI – European Development Financial Institutions, and is a partner of the main global financial institutions.

How do you perceive the opportunities presented by Expo 2027 in Belgrade?

— Thanks to the considerable interest among companies that are planning to take advantage of the opportunities that EXPO will offer, CCIS has recently registered quite an interest from some Italian firms wanting to explore what EXPO has in store. I am very confident and assured that Italians and Serbs will work together towards this historic event with great enthusiasm. We are also working to provide maximum support to Italian firms that decide to internationalise through Fondiexport, a digital platform created by the Italian Chambers of Commerce abroad that centralises tenders for internationalisation financed by Italian institutions, Italian Chambers of Commerce and regions. CCIS is ready to offer its full knowledge of Serbia.

How do your member companies evaluate the current economic trends, and what are their expectations regarding their operations in Serbia?

— As CCIS, we are recording a certain weariness and mistrust among companies and freelancers. This is primarily as a result of what history is giving us, i.e. the changed strategic and energetic equilibrium. These two factors give rise to problems linked to increasing industrial costs and so on. Only after returning to “normal” will it be possible to restore citizens’ trust in consumption and the future.

We listen, evaluate and always give concrete answers to our members and those timidly approaching Serbia in order to gauge its potential

A memorandum was signed last 14th May that established the Council of European Business Associations and Chambers in Serbia. This Council isn’t only crucial to the partnership between Italy (and other Countries) and Serbia, but also aims to ensure that foreign companies operating in Serbia do so successfully.

What possibilities does your association offer member companies? In which areas do they seek your assistance the most?

— We don’t have a set area of specialisation at CCIS. We are thus able to interact with existing and future members from every industrial and consulting sector. We are well-connected with our Assocameraestero system, which includes 83 Chambers spread across 63 countries worldwide, with more than 20,000 members. This implies that we have a prompt response for every member, who can also leverage our network.

The needs of Italian firms range from a simple contact to distribute Made in Italy products to the need to find a good location to establish potential industrial production. We listen, evaluate and always provide concrete answers to our members and those timidly approaching Serbia in order to gauge its potential.