Italian companies support the Serbian economic sector and Italian-Serbian relations, says Giorgio Marchegiani, President of the Italian-Serbian Chamber of Commerce.
How much do Italian companies contribute to the growth of Serbia’s GDP and export levels?
– The number of foreign investments in Serbia increases each year, and Italy is one of the country’s most important economic partners. Italy is one of the most important investors in Serbia, with Italian companies having invested about three billion euros since the year 2000.
According to the level of investments in Serbia, Italian companies have invested mostly in the financial and insurance sectors, as well as the textiles, automotive, furniture and wood processing industries.
Italy and its companies will support Serbia in introducing digitalisation and new technologies, and will work jointly to accomplish this effort
I expect major developments in agri-food, technological innovations and materials and services connected with renewable energy and the energy efficiency industry
All parts of “Sistema Italia” are working to improve the economic exchange between Serbia and Italy
Official statistics show that in 2018, trade between the two countries exceeded 4.0 billion euros. The trend is very positive, with continuous growth in both imports and exports. During the same period, exports to Italy represented 12.1% of the total trade volume, while imports of goods to Serbia from Italy amounted 9.5%.
Furthermore, all of the most important products in foreign trade between Italy and Serbia are the same for both countries, due to significant Italian investments in Serbia. The most important goods in the foreign trade exchange between Serbia and Italy are vehicles and spare parts, machinery, food products and textiles products.
Fiat is still the biggest exporter from Serbia, with the value of its exports in the first ten months of 2018 totalling 699.7 million euros. Apart from FIAT (FCA Serbia d.o.o), there are Valy d.o.o (Golden Lady), Technic Development d.o.o (Geox), Fiorano d.o.o (Calzedonia) and Olimpias SRB d.o.o (Benetton) that are also on the list of the biggest exporters from Serbia, according to the Customs office report. Our expectation for 2019 is to continue improving the current pace above 4 billion euros in commercial exchange.
Our Chamber has contributed to the creation of a favourable business climate for Italian investors in Serbia, and to local companies finding appropriate business partners in Italy
Which Italian-supported industries are among the leaders in that respect?
– It is reasonable to consider that trade in vehicles, fashion goods, footwear and machinery will continue to grow. However, I think it is more interesting to focus on the sectors that show the most potential in the medium term. I expect major developments in agri-food and its subcategory of organic products, in technological innovation and in materials and services connected with renewable energy and the energy efficiency industry.
The Italian-Serbian Chamber of Commerce is the biggest and the most influential association of Italian businesspeople in Serbia. What trends are you observing among the membership?
– The Italian-Serbian Chamber of Commerce, which is recognised by the Italian Government, is part of a network of 79 Italian Chambers of Commerce around the world. Among its members are numerous Italian and Serbian companies, as well as companies with mixed capital.
Over the last 16 years, through numerous projects, services offered, and cooperation implemented with local and national institutions, the Chamber has contributed to the creation of a favourable business climate for Italian investors in Serbia and local companies finding appropriate business partners in Italy.
The Chamber has nearly 200 members – companies, professionals and individuals operating in different areas, from the automotive industry, via the banking and insurance sectors, the wood and textiles industries, the ICT sector, prestigious law and consulting offices, hotels and restaurants, transport and logistics, travel and other different services.
Our member base is very diverse, covering from the “cornerstone” of Fiat, to small restaurants: this reflects the wide spectrum of excellence among Italian companies around the world.
As the Italian economy transforms in Italy, following the “Industry 4.0 model” and going digital, its investments abroad also follow this trend
To what extent do Italian companies support the digital transformation of Serbian society and in the country’s business sector?
– As the Italian economy transforms in Italy, following the “Industry 4.0 model” and going digital, its investments abroad also follow this trend. It can be observed in different industries: in manufacturing the first wave of investment was often based on low labour costs, but expert investors know that, as the country grows, more automation and digitalisation of processes is introduced.
This is a “digitalisation path” that will continue for a long time. An example is the case of textiles companies. Another example is financial services: banks and insurance companies, being part of larger groups that are undertaking a transformational effort and are also gradually going digital in Serbia.
In certain areas, like mobile payments, digitalisation is supported by the regulation – and Serbia here is very well developed, while in other areas, like insurance distribution, it is more limited. Moreover, among traditional industries, there is a solid presence of Italian capital in ICT companies in Serbia. These companies are not only looking for skilled labour for which Serbia is famous but are also developing locally innovative technologies.
To what extent can links forged between the two counties via commercial relations contribute to improving overall Italian-Serbian relations?
– Clearly, economic cooperation stimulates mutual understanding and reinforces all other elements of bilateral cooperation: agreements supporting the mobility of labour and capital in the perspective of EU accession, cultural and language-based relations, support in reinforcing the institutional system – e.g. in combatting organised crime and encouraging the development of tourism. All parts of “Sistema Italia” – the Embassy of Italy, the Italian–Serbian Chamber of commerce, the Italian Trade Agency and the Italian Cultural Institute – are working to improve economic exchanges between Serbia and Italy. Even better results are expected during this year.
What role do Italian companies and institutions play in contributing to art and culture in Serbia?
– Italy is one of Serbia’s priority partners when it comes to cooperation in the field of culture and arts. Culture and art are among the hubs of excellent relations between our two countries, and activities in this area have been very intense in recent years.
A good example of institution-building and the exchange of good practices is the cooperation between Matica Srpska Gallery and the Institute for Conservation and Restoration from Florence.
Over recent years, insurance company DDOR – part of the Unipol Group – along with the Embassy of Italy and other sponsors, has supported the Belgrade Dance Festival, which is one of the most renowned modern dance initiatives in Europe.
Last but not least, the Italian “Slow Food” association is also present in Serbia, representing an attempt to develop the heritage of local Serbian food as has been done successfully in Italy.