The Serbian government will strongly support the process of issuing Business Friendly Certificate South East Europe (BFC SEE) in municipalities and towns, and will be very active in bringing this regional platform to life, Prime Minister, Ana Brnabic has said at the NALED’s conference.
“I call on regional PMs that we make a step forward together and work together on removing obstacles to the economy to the benefit of all our citizens,” Brnabic added.
The initiative for the institutionalization of cooperation of the countries of South East Europe (BFC SEE – Business Friendly Environment South East Europe) on the harmonization and improvement of the business environment was presented at the meeting.
Brnabic said that that was yet another proof that Serbia was very committed to the Berlin Process and the adoption of European values, and that economic cooperation in the region could be crucial for its faster progress as a whole.
“Without a strong economy there is neither a strong nor a secure region, and the EU wants to have a stable partner in the region,” Brnabic said.
Brnabic also invited USAID, GIZ, the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to support the region in this important mission.
The Prime Minister of Serbia also pointed out that the goal was to improve the business environment that enabled us all to grow faster.
Brnabic cited the good examples of regional cooperation between the Baltic, Nordic and Benelux countries and how much can harmonization of regulations and joint promotion contribute to their development.
She underlined that it was NALED which started the implementation of BFC which was something that she personally worked on while being at NALED’s helm.
The PM also said that Serbia made a big step forward with the implementation of electronic building permits, as well as e-cadastre.
A favourable economic environment for Serbia has brought about an increase in foreign direct investments. In 2017, investments amounted to 2.6 billion EUR.
“In 2018, we have managed to surpass the results from 2017 which were, back then, considered as record-breaking. January and February showed an increase in foreign direct investments of as much as 22 percent, which is 80 percent more than in January and February 2017 , the prime minister said.
German Ambassador to Serbia, Axel Dittmann said that the German development cooperation supported the development of the BFC SEE programme, which, he says, has achieved great success and helped almost 100 local governments from the five SEE countries.
Dittmann also said that Germany has been helping Serbia with curbing shadow economy and has recently participated in the project of registering undocumented seasonal workers, which there were more than 3,000 in Serbia.
“Regional cooperation is just one of the initiatives we have implementing, like the Berlin Process, in which the Serbian Government is extremely active. This is a very important initiative and we are trying to achieve regional cooperation in the region’s common market”, the German ambassador added.
“The countries of the region can learn from each other and are inspired by the reforms that are being implemented in other countries. The regional aspect and regional cooperation is just one of the initiatives that we are implementing and in which we are involved,” Dittmann noted.
The ministers from regional stated have presented a total of 17 certificates to their local self-governments which had successfully adopted the reform plans and guidelines for creating a good business climate in the past year. Eleven of them are from Bosnia and Herzegovina, four from Serbia (Novi Sad, Leskovac, Sombor and Ruma), one from Macedonia and one from Croatia.
At the 12th annual NALED Assembly, that took place before the meeting, it was outlined that NALED had close to 300 members (businesses, local self-governments and civil society organizations)which participated in the drafting of more than 20 laws.
“We have presented NALED’s Strategic Plan for the period 2018-2021, and the members of our organization have determined that the two key objectives will be to improve the regulatory framework for business operations and build the capacities and responsibilities of public administration”, said head of NALED, Aleksandar Ruzevic.
The Business Friendly Certificate South East Europe (BFC SEE) programme is implemented in five countries – Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia – and is initiated by NALED. The programme has yielded significant results in the past few years – Ruzevic added.
As an illustration for this, Ruzevic said that the conditions for doing business in these areas were improved by 76 percent.
“Forty percent of certified cities and municipalities from the region have made it to the Financial Times list of the best investment destinations in Europe,” Ruzevic reminded.
“In the first five years, since the launch of the programme, we certified more than 30 local governments. More than three million citizens and 150,000 companies in certified cities and municipalities today use efficient local government services,” Ruzevic noted.
He reminded that, by coordinating the implementation of the National Programme, NALED has helped reduce the shadow economy in Serbia from 21.1 to 15.4 percent of GDP.
The BFC SEE programme has been implemented since 2012 and so far, the process of certification included almost 100 towns and municipalities from five countries, out of which 44 have met the criteria for obtaining certificates.
EU and EIB support Serbia it is European bid
“Serbia’s exports to the EU countries have tripled in recent years and reached a figure of 10 billion EUR, while Serbia has become the leader of the region and a country that we strongly support on its European path”, said the head of the European Union Delegation to Serbia, Sem Fabrizi.
At the meeting, Fabrizi also said that Serbia has done a lot on implementing the reforms, adding that it is necessary to improve other areas such as fighting corruption and improving the efficiency of the judiciary. “We will encourage Serbia to deal more with these issues”, he added.
“Total investments in Serbia have reached 11 billion EUR, and we are ready to support Serbia through various grants with 3 billion EUR”, Fabrizi announced.
“About 65 percent of Serbian exports end up in the EU member states, and over the past 15 years, 2.3 billion EUR came from the European Union to Serbia”, the head of the EU Delegation added.
“The regional perspective is very important, it is in our DNA. The European Union is ready to help the region achieve all its goals,” Fabrizi also said.
Director of the European Investment Bank (EIB) for the Adriatic region, Miguel Morgado, said that the goal of that institution was to support the region’s strategic projects in terms of financing in the segment of regional and local infrastructure, as well as projects in the education sector.
“Infrastructure is the basic pillar of the economy in any country as it plays a key role in the development of the economy and bolstering competitiveness. Our support to the private sector is mainly focused on small and medium enterprises, which are important drivers of growth and development of countries. Over 50% of EU employees work in such companies,” said Morgado.
Since 2009, the EIB has secured 2.5 billion EUR for small and medium enterprises and has saved about a million jobs, while 400 million EUR has been provided for regional initiatives, Morgado added.
“The EIB is committed to strengthening its operations in Serbia and the Western Balkans in order to achieve all the goals in the region’s development”, Morgado concluded in his address to the participants of the “Together for the More Competitive Region” conference.
Photo credits: Tanjug / Zoran Zestic