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Martin Knapp, Director Of The German-Serbian Chamber Of Commerce

Better Business Climate Brings More Investors

At the moment, German companies see Serbia primarily as a procurement market and as an interesting location for investment. This happens certainly because of the improvement of the investment climate, but also due to various international factors.Martin Knapp

The founding of a bilateral chamber of commerce instead of a Representative Office of the German Chamber Association, DIHK, shows that Germans recognise Serbia as having become a normal trading partner, no longer considered a transition country.

In which ways can the Chamber contribute to the further deepening of German-Serbian economic relations and the strengthening of ties between the two countries?

We use many ways to promote German-Serbian economic relations. This includes the classic match-making service for Serbian and German companies, but also investor consulting, training of export managers, together with the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, and vocational education in general, where we support German development agency GIZ in the training of mid-level professionals, which are urgently needed by the investor community.

How much did the previous experiences of German companies in Serbia contribute to the decision to establish the Chamber and what do the results of your regular surveys say about that?

Even 15 years ago, when we first came to Belgrade, it was clear that the goal was the establishment of a bilateral Chamber of Commerce. In order to realise that goal, a certain number of factors had to come together – such as a critical mass of companies with German capital participation; a corresponding chamber law and, on the German side, sufficient interest in the country concerned.

Even 15 years ago, when we first came to Belgrade, it was clear that the goal was the establishment of a bilateral Chamber of Commerce. In order to realise that goal, a certain number of factors had to come together – such as a critical mass of companies with German capital participation; a corresponding chamber law and, on the German side, sufficient interest in the country concerned

How optimistic are German companies already doing business in Serbia when it comes to their operations?

Like every year, in this year’s survey our member companies again assessed the economic situation of their own companies as being much better than the general economic situation. In addition, almost all companies declare that they would choose Serbia again if they had to select a location for their investment. What else could we want?

What are the chances that companies from Serbia and the other countries of the Western Balkans could become suppliers of German companies and form a German industrial base, as is the case with Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and other new EU member states?

We carried out the so-called “Buyers Initiative for the Western Balkans” for the second time this summer, where we brought together German companies with selected suppliers from the region. As in 2015, the success was again impressive, and there will be many more collaborations between Serbian and German companies, especially in the metals sector.

Given that there are already some existing examples of cooperation between German and Serbian companies, where does the greatest potential for stronger industry linkages lie from the standpoint of German companies?

So far, most partnerships are taking place in the metal sector, but there is also cooperation in other fields, such as plastic, wood, textiles, foodstuffs and IT.

We carried out the so-called “Buyers Initiative for the Western Balkans” for the second time this summer, where we brought together German companies with selected suppliers from the region. As in 2015, the success was again impressive, and there will be many more collaborations between Serbian and German companies, especially in the metals sector

Where are the potential bottlenecks in this cooperation, and in which areas should Serbian companies that aspire to become suppliers of German companies primarily improve their operations?

The purchasing initiative has shown that there are fewer obstacles than we had originally expected. Of course, the manufacturers must possess all the necessary certificates, since today nothing goes in international trade without certificates and labels.

What kind of impact will the migrant crisis have on future economic movements in Germany, and in which segments could that be reflected in economic cooperation with the countries of the Western Balkans?

I am not a prophet. Concerning the refugee crisis, everything depends on how long the crisis will last and what proportions it assumes during the upcoming years and even decades.