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Commemorating Two Decades Of The Work Of The Foreign Investors Council

We’re Continuing To Grow!

The Foreign Investors Council is one of the “oldest” business associations that focuses exclusively on the continued development of a predictable, competitive and sustainable business environment, alongside the permanent improvement of the climate for doing business and investing. The FIC has spent 20 years promoting Serbia as an excellent place to invest

It was two decades ago, in July 2002, that 14 foreign companies – with the support of the OECD – established the Foreign Investors Council (FIC) with the idea of this association serving to promote the development of a business environment favourable for investments and solid business ethics.

The FIC today has around 120 member companies, with expertise in various sectors and industries, that have invested in excess of 36 billion euros and created 100,000 jobs in the country. Compared to the 150 million euros of investments and 3,160 jobs of all FIC members in 2003, this undoubtedly represents respectable success, but primarily demonstrates that FIC member companies have come to Serbia with long-term interests and a desire to help the Serbian economy achieve economic growth and increase its competitiveness.

The Foreign Investors Council is one of the “oldest” business associations that focuses exclusively on the continued development of a predictable, competitive and sustainable business environment, alongside the permanent improvement of the climate for doing business and investing. The FIC has spent 20 years promoting Serbia as an excellent place to invest.

PRINCIPLES AND VALUES

The FIC has been guided by a set of principles since its very establishment, the most important of which are independence, or the promotion of the common stances of members as opposed to individual interests, financial independence – given that the association is financed through membership fees, promoting the values and standards of the European Union, advocating for predictability, a level playing field for doing business, transparency and legal certainty, but also equal opportunities for all and promoting healthy business ethics, i.e. sound management practices, both directly, through the operations of the Council, and indirectly, through the operations of member companies.

The strong European context of FIC action is also evident in the fact that it is the only business association in Serbia with permanent, institutional management board members that include the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

Transparency and independence of action, i.e., the representation of the interests of members and the business community as a whole, is recognised as a key value by FIC strategic partner the European Delegation in Serbia and the European Commission in Brussels. Specifically, FIC independence and transparency, but also its results achieved to date, impacted on the Council’s key project – the White Book, with its recommendations for advancing the business and investment climate in the Republic of Serbia that are written by members themselves – becoming a key factor in the economic aspect of the European Commission’s annual report on Serbia’s progress towards European integration.

The FIC has developed a unique methodology for gauging results and progress achieved in implementing the recommendations contained in each year’s edition of the White Book. Namely, the White Book Index compares and ranks progress achieved in all areas included in the focus of the White Book on the basis of the implementation of recommendations from previous years’ editions. An additional criterion is the time that has elapsed between the first publishing of a White Book recommendation and its adoption, i.e., how long adoption has taken. The pace of improvement of the business climate is thereby also measured, apart from the implementation criteria, which often has a decisive influence on decisions related to investments in Serbia.

The main aim of Foreign Investors Council is to contribute to the creation of a predictable, competitive and sustainable business environment through open discourse with state representatives and other partners

The FIC is simultaneously a place for businesses that have the aim of promoting economic growth to gather. The FIC is also the only business association that brings together bilateral chambers of commerce and can thus be said to represent the interests of the wider business community in the Republic of Serbia, which has the common and unique goal of making Serbia an even better place to do business and invest to the benefit of all citizens. In other words, the FIC has enabled the voice of the economy to be heard directly, which has had a decisive impact on the FIC and its members being recognised as relevant and reliable partners on the path to improving the Republic of Serbia’s business and investment environment.

In this context, the institutional framework of the FIC is of particular importance. That’s because the FIC is the only business association in the country that has an institutional framework for cooperation with the Government of the Republic of Serbia, through the Working Group for the Implementation of the Recommendations of the FIC White Book, which is chaired by the Prime Minister.

SUCCESSES AND NEW PLANS

In its activities to date, the FIC has based its recommendations on specific but common proposals of members aimed at identifying the best and most efficient solutions to overcome tangible open issues encountered in business practice. Since its establishment, the FIC has utilised the expertise of its members to provide an important contribution in almost all areas of relevance to the business and investment environment, the standout areas among which include: regulations related to the liberalisation of the customs law in accordance with WTO rules, the simplification of the registering of new of businesses and numerous other improvements to the Law on Companies, as well as ordinances governing foreign trade, real estate, securities, tax regulations (with a special focus on the transparency of procedures) and regulations on inspection oversight.

FIC members are continuously focused on the improvement of the legislative framework in the fields of construction, telecommunications, food safety, energy and foreign exchange operations, but also the harmonising of Serbia’s legislative framework with EU acquis in the fields of trade, competition protection, ecology, health and safety at work, the employment of foreigners, bankruptcy and performance, but also the set of regulations that have contributed to combating the grey economy. One of the key roles in the process of overcoming the numerous challenges confronting the Serbian economy and society as a whole, while at the same time striving to achieve much-needed economic growth, is played by the accelerating of the digitalisation of society and the digital transformation of business, which FIC members advocated for during the years that preceded the Covid-19 pandemic.

Furthermore, we shouldn’t overlook the fact that the FIC and its members provided a significant contribution to ensuring the most effective implementation of the package of measures adopted by the Government of Serbia during the pandemic, with the aim of mitigating its negative impact on the Serbian economy. One of the most significant examples is certainly FIC support for the establishment and functioning of so-called green corridors.

The Foreign Investors Council has supported Serbia’s transition to a market economy by providing the Government with concrete proposals based on the shared wealth of international experience of its member companies. Judging by feedback received from members and partners, the FIC has been one of the key reference points in the creating of an improved business environment. The Council’s own barometer of success – the White Book – indicates the path traversed by the FIC since its establishment by monitoring the development of the Serbian economy: from the initial four recommendations given in 2003 to the 346 recommendations of 2021. Circumstances in the Serbian and world economies have changed significantly over the course of the past 20 years, and the FIC has changed with them, improving its expertise to be able to respond as effectively as possible to the challenges confronting the economy.

The presenting of the annual White Book has represented the largest economic and political event in the country over the last 20 years, which is attended each year by the highest representatives of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, the business community and society, as well as representatives of the diplomatic corps

Alongside significant financial potential, foreign companies in Serbia, particularly those that have a global presence, also have at their disposal significant human and organisational resources, advanced technological solutions and a corporate culture that they “transfer” to their subsidiaries, insisting on the implementation of that culture with the aim of achieving maximum productivity and operational efficiency. New issues arise in this continuous process, under the scope of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and new responses and solutions are required if the Serbian economy wants to align with developed market economies in its European integration process. Moreover, under the scope of the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans – as part of the new development strategy from the European Green Deal – climate change, environmental protection, the circular economy, but also the bolstering of capacities and faster integration of young people into economic flows, represent challenges to which FIC members are ready to respond and provide their expert contributions. As such, both the old and new mission of the FIC is to continue growing and representing a unified voice of investors for the creation of better business and investment conditions, while simultaneously promoting Serbia as an attractive investment destination.

The FIC remains consistent in its quest to find new opportunities, but also in actively contributing by making all its capacities available, especially in the area of implementing structural reforms of the Serbian economy, advocating for the corporatisation of public companies, concluding the privatisation process, but first and foremost accelerating Serbia’s European integration process. The FIC remains dedicated to its mission, nurturing the values for which it has stood for 20 years, and remains a reliable partner for the growth of companies, but also the state and society as a whole.

The FIC bodies are:
The FIC Assembly, which brings together all members of the association. Assembly sessions, which are convened at least once a year, are utilised to make decisions on issues of strategic importance and to determine the concept of future FIC action.
The FIC Board of Directors, which guides and manages the work of the association, proposing long-term plans and programmes.
Specialised working committees, which represent the core of the association and provide recommendations, based on expertise, for improving the business and investment climate through the permanent improving and innovating of the regulatory framework.

Select FIC projects:
– The annual White Book is the FIC’s key product, with which the Council provides recommendations aimed at supporting economic growth and enabling an improved standard of living for Serbian citizens.
– The Dialogue for Change project is a high-level event that can have a larger or smaller scope and is dedicated to specific regulatory areas that are important to the reforming of society as a whole.
– FIC Insight represents a platform for exchanging knowledge and experience via which FIC members share their expert knowhow.

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