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Goran Pekez, BOD Chairman of the Japanese Business Alliance in Serbia

Comprehensive Green Transition Support

Collaboration between Serbian and Japanese companies can offer not only technological solutions, but also transfers of knowledge, workforce training and capacity building for the local industry in the field of the green economy

The Japanese Business Alliance in Serbia (JBAS) last year dedicated much of its efforts to furthering the green transition, which should come as no surprise given that many JBAS member companies are interested in providing innovative solutions for Serbia’s green economic transition. We spoke with JBAS Board of Directors Chairman Goran Pekez to discuss what Japanese companies can offer specifically in this domain.

“Japanese companies can provide a significant contribution to Serbia’s green economic transition through their innovative technologies, sustainable energy expertise and experience in the efficient management of resources,” explains our interlocutor. “JBAS members are leaders in renewable energy sources like solar, wind and hydroelectric power plants. Their technological solutions can help Serbia reduce its dependency on fossil fuels and contribute to a cleaner energy sector.”

Pekez also notes that Japanese expertise in optimising energy systems and smart energy consumption solutions can assist Serbia in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing its energy efficiency. Furthermore, Japanese companies are known for their high-quality infrastructure and can offer sustainable solutions for the construction and management of green infrastructure, including smart cities, sustainable transportation systems and environmentally friendly urbanisation.

Japan also has successful recycling and waste management programmes. And, as Pekez explains, “sharing this knowledge with Serbia can help reduce the environmental impact and promote sustainable waste management practices. Collaboration with Japanese companies can provide not only technological solutions, but also transfers of knowledge, workforce training and capacity building for the local industry in the field of the green economy. Establishing partnerships and exchanging experiences is crucial to achieving sustainable economic growth that has a minimal impact on the environment and respects all other ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) pillars that are integral to doing business.”

From the JBAS perspective, is the institutional framework for Serbia’s green transition well-established, and what would you advise as good solutions based on Japanese experience?

— From the perspective of Japanese experience, several key aspects could prove useful when developing an institutional framework for the green transition.

Having a stable and clear regulatory framework is crucial to attracting investments in renewable energy and other environmentally sustainable projects. Transparency and predictability encourage long-term planning and investments.

Encouraging the transition to renewable energy through various subsidies, tax incentives, or feed-in tariffs can serve to accelerate the green transition process.

Public-private partnerships play a crucial role in the successful implementation of the green transition. Collaboration between the government, private companies and research institutions can contribute to achieving sustainable development goals efficiently.

Prerequisites for the greater diversification of Japanese investments across other parts of Serbia include improving infrastructure and supporting education and the development of a skilled workforce

Investing in education and raising awareness of sustainability is important to support behavioural change and create a supportive atmosphere for sustainable practices among the population and the business sector.

Promoting innovation in the green energy and sustainability sector can be achieved through support for research and development and technological incubators, but also incentives for startups in these areas.

Sharing experiences with other countries, including Japan, can provide valuable information and support in crafting effective green transition policies. These guidelines can serve as a foundation for building a strong institutional framework in Serbia, taking into account the specificities of the market and the needs of the local economy. In order to achieve sustainable economic growth, it is essential to strike a balance between stimulating investment and preserving ecosystems.

How would you assess the performance of your association’s members in 2023, and what are JBAS’s plans for 2024?

— We are pleased with the achievements of our members in 2023. Persistence and dedication have led to significant accomplishments in various sectors. There is a noticeable continuing focus on innovation, sustainable business practices and social responsibility.

Despite the challenges brought by the global economic situation, our association’s member companies have shown a high level of adaptability and flexibility. Many of them have recognised the need for an accelerated transition to sustainable business practices, leading to the implementation of numerous innovative solutions.

Our association’s focus in 2024 will continue to strengthen sustainable business practices and support our members in achieving their sustainability goals, in line with the latest sustainability standards. We plan to intensify initiatives that support our members in reducing their environmental footprint, promoting social responsibility and enhancing innovation.

Additionally, JBAS will continue to work on strengthening the existing ties between our members, by creating platforms for knowledge exchanges and supporting joint projects. We also plan to organise a series of events, conferences and educational programmes to enhance the knowledge and skills of our members.

We believe that 2024 will be a crucial year for the further development of our association and contributing to the sustainable economic growth of our members.

Can we expect new Japanese investments and, if so, in which sectors?

— Yes, we are pleased to announce that there is significant interest in investing in Serbia among Japanese companies. Japanese companies have recognised the potential and opportunities offered by the Serbian market, especially in the context of the green transition and sustainable development.

The latest Japanese investments focus primarily on sectors like renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable infrastructure and technologies that support environmentally friendly practices. Furthermore, we see interest in innovation, agriculture and industry sectors, where Japanese companies bring a high level of technological knowledge and experience.

These investments not only contribute to Serbia’s economic development, but also strengthen bilateral cooperation and knowledge transfers.

Why are numerous Japanese investments based in Vojvodina; and what are the prerequisites for the greater diversification of investments to encompass other parts of Serbia?

— A significant portion of Japanese investments is directed towards Vojvodina for several key reasons, with one of the main factors being this province’s exceptionally favourable logistical position and robust infrastructure support.

Vojvodina is situated at the crossroads of critical transportation routes, offering an exceptionally advantageous geographical location. It is a region that has good access to key roads, railway lines and river transport routes, thus facilitating the transportation of goods and raw materials.

It is relatively close to central European markets, which is appealing to Japanese companies that are aiming to efficiently distribute their products across the continent.

Additionally, Vojvodina has excellent infrastructure support, including modern roads, railways and ports, thus providing a stable foundation for the transport and distribution of goods. This, in turn, enables the efficient flow of materials and finished products, which is essential to the operations of Japanese companies.

Moreover, Vojvodina hosts well-developed industrial clusters, especially in the agriculture, food industry and automotive sectors. These clusters provide opportunities for companies to synergise and collaborate, which is another attractive aspect for Japanese investors.

Prerequisites for the greater diversification of Japanese investments across other parts of Serbia include improving infrastructure and supporting education and the development of a skilled workforce, providing specific incentives for different regions, promoting local advantages and creating a stable environment conducive to doing business.

Which JBAS activities would you single out as being the most important when it comes to strengthening friendly bilateral relations between Japan and Serbia?

JBAS plays a pivotal role in fostering bilateral relations between Serbia and Japan. Some of the key activities that it has been the only business association to conduct since its inception relate to strengthening business cooperation between the two countries and empowering economic links between Japanese and domestic entrepreneurs at the national level. JBAS is an association that enables dialogue between Japanese and Serbian companies, creates business opportunities and facilitates exchanges of experience. By creating opportunities for direct contact between Japanese investors and Serbian enterprises, we contribute to a better understanding of the market and business mentality, establishing a stable framework for business.

Additionally, by organising cultural events and raising awareness of the Japanese business culture and way of life in Serbia – either through JBAS or individually as companies – we contribute to strengthening interpersonal relationships and fostering better understanding between Japanese and Serbian society.

I believe that, together with the Embassy of Japan in Serbia and organisations like JETRO and JICA, we will continue to strengthen the friendship between our two countries and serve as a bridge connecting the two nations. We all eagerly anticipate Expo 2025, which will be held in Japan and will provide us with an opportunity to expand the boundaries of Japan-Serbia bilateral cooperation and open new horizons for joint achievements.

BALANCE

In order to achieve sustainable economic growth, it is important to strike a balance between stimulating investments and preserving ecosystems

COLLABORATION

I believe that, together with the Embassy of Japan in Serbia and organisations like JETRO and JICA, we will continue strengthening the friendship between our two countries and serve as a bridge connecting the two nations

INVESTMENTS

The latest Japanese investments in Serbia focus primarily on sectors like renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable infrastructure and technologies that support environmentally friendly practices