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Sanja Ivanić, Director General of the French- Serbian Chamber of Commerce, Secretary General of the Council of European Business Associations and Chambers in Serbia

Trustworthy Partner

More than 200 French companies from the most diverse sectors have placed their trust in us when it comes to assessing the launching of business operations in Serbia

The Council of European Business Associations and Chambers of Commerce (CEBAC) was recently established in Serbia. Bringing together 13 organisations and over 2,000 companies with European capital, its establishment also coincided with the start of the implementation of the EU’s Growth Plan for the Western Balkans.

Our interviewee for this special edition, CCIFS Director General Sanja Ivanić, was recently appointed Secretary General of the Council of European Business Associations and Chambers in Serbia. We began by asking her how CEBAC should function in practical terms and what its main areas of activity will be in the period ahead.

“I am greatly honoured to have been selected to become secretary general of the Council of European Business Associations and Chambers of Commerce in Serbia. This election represents a great responsibility that I accept with pride, in order to effectively represent our members’ interests and promote their common goals.

“As secretary general, it will be my responsibility to coordinate the activities of the Council, promote our stances and interests among relevant institutions, and support the implementation of measures that will advance both the business environment and trade relations. I believe that, together, we can contribute significantly to strengthening economic cooperation between Serbia and other European countries, resulting in lasting benefits for all market participants. We will also pursue the goal of improving the business environment in Serbia in such a way that favourable conditions are created for all companies, regardless of their capital status.”

Which topics will the CCIFS be addressing within the scope of that joint work?

— The main focus of our work in the coming period will be on the establishment of three key committees: ESG, Transport and HR, which will enable members to actively discuss relevant topics and form common stances.

Our priorities include the integrating of sustainable practices through ESG (Environment, Social, and Governance) initiatives and the improving of infrastructure and logistics through transport projects, but also support in the development of human resources through exchanges of best practice in the management of HR processes. Our goal is to use these activities to create a supportive environment that will enable our members to operate successfully in Serbia, contributing to their long-term growth and development.

The France-Western Balkans Business Forum, held on 13th and 14th June, proved extremely important because it focused not only on Expo 2027, but also the question of how to turn the Western Balkans into a production and logistics base for Europe. What kinds of expectations and recommendations did attending French companies have prior to this gathering?

— This was the first edition of the France-Western Balkans Forum, and it was organised in Belgrade with the aim of facilitating a dialogue between French and Western Balkan companies, as well as strengthening regional cooperation.

The forum was held in Belgrade on 13th and 14th June and six panel discussions were held over the course of the event, each with over 20 panellists, from both prominent French companies and Western Balkan institutions and companies, while more than 100 B2B meetings were also realised. The forum brought together over 150 companies from France and the countries of the Western Balkans. Considering the success of this year’s forum and the strong interest among the attending companies, it demonstrated the existence of a great desire to further strengthen economic cooperation between France and the countries of the Western Balkans.

We expect this to result in concrete projects and initiatives that will contribute to advancing regional economic integration and long-term development. We are announcing the new edition of the France-Western Balkans Forum to be held as early as next year, which we are certain will attract even more participants and deepen the dialogue between French companies and local businesses when it comes to considerations of joint initiatives. French companies want to utilise the opportunity to develop a better understanding of the regulatory environment and business opportunities in the region, especially in the context of ESG practices.

Companies are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of including sustainability factors in their business strategies. Which of your members would you cite as role models in respecting these principles?

— French companies that operate in Serbia increasingly recognise the importance of including sustainability factors in their business strategies, and a number of them stand out as role models in respecting these principles. For example, Schneider Electric is dedicated to advancing energy efficiency and sustainability through its products and services, implementing advanced technologies for reducing energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. Veolia distinguishes itself for its approach to managing water resources and waste, promoting a circular economy and reducing its environmental footprint.

CCIFS priorities include the integrating of sustainable practices through ESG initiatives and the improving of infrastructure and logistics through transport projects, but also support in the development of human resources

L’Oréal is also an example of good practice, with a focus on sustainably sourcing raw materials, reducing waste and improving energy efficiency in its production processes. Their commitment to ESG principles is also reflected through various corporate social responsibility initiatives and projects in the local community. These and other French companies don’t only integrate sustainability into their operations, but also contribute actively to the development of local communities and environmental awareness across Serbia.

The recent visit of the President of Serbia to France iincluded the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding enabling long-term dialogue and cooperation between the two countries in the economic sphere. How is the Chamber included in the operationalisation of this MoU?

— The French-Serbian Chamber of Commerce & Industry has, for more than 10 years already, been an operational partner of Business France, the French state agency for the promotion of exports, and a member of Team France Export. And it has been working continuously to provide support to French companies wanting to develop their business activities in Serbia. We help companies from France in testing the potential of the market, identifying clients and partners, opening branches and in their general operations on the Serbian market. More than 200 French companies from the most diverse sectors (from industrial to service) have placed their trust in us when it comes to assessing the launching of business operations in Serbia. We likewise provide support to companies operating in the countries of the region, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and North Macedonia.

COOPERATION

I believe that, together, we can contribute significantly to strengthening economic cooperation between Serbia and other European countries, resulting in lasting benefits for all market participants

CONTRIBUTION

French companies don’t only integrate sustainability into their operations, but also contribute actively to the development of local communities and environmental awareness across Serbia

INTEREST

The first France- Western Balkans Business Forum clearly demonstrated the existence of a great desire to further strengthen economic cooperation between France and the Western Balkans