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Foreign Investors Council
47, Gospodar Jevremova Street, IV Floor, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia
Phone: +381 11 3281 958, 3281 965
e-mail: office@fic.org.rs

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Recent Activities

19. November 2019.

White Book Launch: High Goal Set for 2020

White Book Launch on November 13 attracted 500 guests and was marked by optimism in the context of the increased rate of implementation of FIC recommendations and overall reforms. Both FIC and the Government said that joint efforts are needed for improving the economy and highlighted the importance of the White Book Task Force. It was concluded that implementation of the 50% of FIC recommendations is the right goal to aim for.

For the second time this year, WB wasn’t distributed in print to the audience, who got the “White Book Essentials” brochure instead and were invited to access WB edition via QR codes and links. This shows FIC commitment to both environmental issues and digitalization trends. New White Book edition can be accessed at the dedicated page on FIC website (click here  to download), “White Book Essentials” (click here to download), video from the event here  and press release here.

FIC President Yana Mikhailova praised the increase of the implementation rate of FIC recommendations by 7 percentage points compared to last year. “This year the progress is 41% and this is the highest score so far since the creation of the score card in 2011”, she said. FIC President reminded that the average rate in previous years was between 30% and 35%. As she said, White Book Task Force has role in such achievement. “Dialogue between FIC and the Government is becoming more efficient, more result oriented and we can be satisfied by that”, Yana Mikhailova said. FIC Index shows that out of the 4 top performing areas two are the same as last year - transport and tobacco, while the “newcomers” include oil and gas industry and notaries. Mikhailova outlined that further progress is very much needed, saying that not all the priorities of the White Book Task Force are marking the same progress. Digitalization, anti-illicit trade and bankruptcy mark certain progress, while progress is lacking in labour, forex and food safety. FIC will continue to provide strong support to the EU accession process of Serbia she said, explaining it is an efficient mechanism to improve Serbian legislation. FIC is well placed to be the focal point for business in that process as 75% of members come from the EU and are fully committed to providing such support, she said. “What we can do as FIC members? We will continue to be the driving force of Serbian economy, giving jobs, bringing investments, employing people, giving know-how and inviting and involving Serbian SME-s and suppliers into the business process”, she said.

 

Miroljub Labus presented rigorous methodology of White Book ranking and presented the hard work that is behind the project. There are very serious explanations for score cards for each of the 60 sectors, thanks to the 11 FIC committees and 45 member representatives who invested hard work in the WB, he said. WB Editor in Chief thanked FIC Board and Executive Office for hard work and cooperation. He assessed this year as a good one, as FIC index improved from 1.38 last year to 1.47. The numbers are small because the scale is from 1 to 3, but the progress is significant, he said. Miroljub Labus cited top 10 performing areas, with Law on Notaries and Oil and Gas sector at the top of the list. They are followed by 8 sectors “doing quite well”: tobacco industry, transport, taxes (parafiscal charges), protection of users of financial services, consumer protection, prevention of money laundering, labour legislation (Staff Leasing), and Central Registry of Real Owners. In ranking of the areas with similar improvement, waiting time for reforms also has an impact, he explained. Labus presented a separate list of 10 best improvers, headed by Staff Leasing and Law on Notaries.

 

Head of the EU Delegation in Serbia Sem Fabrizi recognized the importance of the White Book Launch saying that it is the moment in the year when “we take the temperature of business sentiment”. It is useful for the EU in order to better understand the developments from the business perspective. Sem Fabrizi said that while the success in the EU accession can be measured in closing chapters this is a technicality, while the reforms are what really counts. “The reforms are important, they have to be implemented and produce results”, he said. Recommendations of White Book and EU Commission Progress Report are converging in number of issues, including transparent law process, reduction of parafiscal charges, reduction of red tape, finalizing property conversion process and improving cadastral processing, further liberalization of labor and forex. He outlined the importance of the rule of law, namely independent tribunals, independent media and strong anti-corruption policy. Sem Fabrizi reaffirmed the EU perspective of Serbia and other countries in the region, saying that recent negative decisions on enlargement of some countries that came as “shockwaves” in the region were in fact due to lack of consensus and not negative opinions on enlargement. Serbian economy is clearly linked to the EU, with 65% of Serbian exports going to the EU and 70% of the cumulative FDIs in Serbia coming from the EU.

Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic clearly stated that good results of the Government wouldn’t be possible without the dialogue with business associations such as FIC. She said that the implementation rate of the 41% of recommendations can be satisfying but is not enough, and added that she hopes for achieving the rate of 50% next year. Brnabic presented some of the achievements of the economic policy of the Government, including the unemployment expected to fall under 10% this year, FDIs of 2.44 billion Euros in the first 8 months of this year, which is 35% more than in the same period of 2018, and steady economic growth. She recognized the need to work on competitiveness in order to keep activity despite the sluggish growth or even recession in some of its key markets in the EU. The plan is to base economic growth on knowledge and innovations instead of the labour intensive investments. In this respect, steps were undertaken to change legislative and tax framework to increase competitiveness for start-ups, innovations and education. From January 1st, this year Serbia is the most competitive country in Europe for research projects, start-ups and intellectual property, she said. At the same time, exports of ICT services are strongly growing, and in the first 8 months this year exceeded the exports of agriculture. “I wish to invite you to relocate to Serbia your research centres and patent offices, and by this, support us in transformation of the country and society”, she said.

 

Short and well-organized panel moderated by journalist Aleksandar Milladinovic enabled to address some of the priority issues including construction, labour and regional cooperation. Deputy Prime Minister and Construction Minister Zorana Mihajlovic said that this year’s score card results don’t make her “satisfied or happy”. There is much progress that is not reflected in the White Book, she said, recognizing also that there is a lot to be done in each one of the addressed issues. Head of the EU Delegation Sem Fabrizi said that the EU encourages and supports all the regional initiatives that are “inclusive, based on the EU Law and built on what was already done”. He called the so called “mini Schengen” idea for barrier free transit zone among several countries in the region “misleading”.

Labour Minister Zoran Djordjevic said that the Staff Leasing Law, for which FIC strongly advocated, will soon enter parliamentary procedure. The goal is to create same conditions for all the workers in terms of salaries and leaves, and to prevent unfair competition. As important activity he outlined the decision of the Government to prepare a strategy for preventing the economic migration, together with GIZ, Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts SANU and Belgrade University Professors. Labour inspections are to be strengthened, Minister Djordjevic announced, inviting companies to report all the activities that are not compliant with the law. He said that the state will work on reducing red tape, but also invited companies to do the same, especially pointing out to the numerous documents required in banking sector.

Event was closed by FIC President Yana Mikhailova who confirmed commitment to reach implementation rate of 50% next year. “We need to continue to use WB Task Force as a very good institutional setting, result oriented,'' she said. As a conclusion, FIC President outlined some of the key areas in which the reforms are needed: labour area, forex, predictability and law enforcement.

 

 

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WB Essentials

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We present you “The White Book Essentials” – an executive summary of the White Book edition for 2019.

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Published yearly since 2003, goal of the White Book is to enable removing unneeded barriers and make doing business in Serbia easier, thus enabling better inflow of investments. It is promoted every year in the fourth quarter at the prestigious high-level event.

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