Croatian-Serbian Economic Forum Held in Zagreb

By 13 February 2018

ZAGREB, February 13, 2018 - Serbia is a significant economic partner to Croatia as evidenced by the fact that more than 200 Croatian companies do business on the Serbian market, and the areas where cooperation can be strengthened are energy, agriculture, tourism, construction and transport, it was said at a Croatian-Serbian economic forum on Monday .

The forum was held at the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) as part of an official visit by Serbia's President Aleksandar Vučić, who together with his host, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, opened the forum.

The forum attracted representatives of about 40 companies from both countries, and areas identified as those that could contribute to advancing economic relations included energy, chemical and metal manufacturing industries, transport and oil derivatives, the production of locomotives and wagons, agriculture, tourism, construction and IT.

President Grabar-Kitarović underscored the common interest of both countries in exploring new business opportunities and strengthening relations. "I want to clearly confirm Croatia's commitment to building constructive relations. Those political relations are important and can help businesses," she said, adding that advancement in political relations was important for strengthening economies. Highlighting industry, construction, energy, agriculture, tourism and transport as potential areas of cooperation, Grabar-Kitarović underscored cooperation on revitalising the Zagreb-Vinkovci-Tovarnik-Sid-Belgrade railway route.

She announced that the first meeting of a joint committee for the promotion of economic cooperation was expected to be held in Zagreb in March and that property-rights issues and property restitution would be discussed. This, she said, equally burdens businesses on both sides of the border and should be considered the top priority in the two countries' economic cooperation. The President said she hoped that Serbia would continue to be open for Croatian investments and expressed a wish for the promotion of mutual investments.

She invited Serbian business people to invest more in Croatia. "Croatia welcomes all Serbian companies that wish to invest in Croatia and do business with Croatian companies. I believe that in that regard, Croatia offers them many benefits, such as entry to the large EU market," she said.

Serbia's President Aleksandar Vučić said he was grateful for the invitation to Serbian companies to invest in Croatia, which, he said, had not been the case in the past. It is important that Croatian investors that do business in Serbia can always turn to Serbian state institutions and I hope that it will be the same for Serbian investors in Croatia, he said.

Vučić underscored that trade between the two countries was greater than ever and that in the past five years, it had increased by 62%. "That shows how oriented we are to each other and I think that we have a huge potential for future development," he said.

The Serbian president told Croatian business people that they were welcome in Serbia which was planning numerous infrastructure projects for which it did not have sufficient capacity, and that this was an opportunity for Croatian companies.

Vučić, too, underlined the importance of cooperation in revitalising the Zagreb-Belgrade railway line and of the removal of administrative and border barriers for stronger economic cooperation.

"Despite the burden of the past, Croatia and Serbia have and will share lasting economic interests," HGK President Luka Burilović said.

Serbia is a significant economic partner to Croatia as evidenced by the fact that more than 200 Croatian companies do business on the Serbian market. This has resulted in direct Croatian investment in Serbia of more than 749.3 million euro and Serbia has become the 4th most significant country for Croatian investments, Burilović added.

He said that the HGK was opening an office in Belgrade next month and that it would provide office space for Serbia's Chamber of Commerce in Zagreb so that economic relations could be promoted even more.

The president of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, Marko Čadež, said that the 40 companies attending the forum employed 40,000 people and exported a billion euro worth of products, and that they were interested in better cooperation. "The aim is to raise our business to a higher level and consolidate our companies as that is a matter of survival, because without that, we cannot be competitive," he said and added that the choice was simple - "to be small and uncompetitive or to associate and export."

According to the State Bureau of Statistics, the Jan-Nov goods exchange between the two countries amounted to a little more than 1.1 billion euro, with Croatian exports to Serbia amounting to 616 million euro, an annual growth of 30.3%, while imports from Serbia increased by 18.6% to 532.4 million euro.