On November 21, 2023, the Foreign Investors Council presented the “White Book 2023” to the highest Government officials and stakeholder community. The White Book, written by FIC members, is the major product by which, for more than two decades, FIC gives recommendations to support economic growth and better living standards of Serbian citizens. The event was opened with an introductory address by FIC President and Yettel CEO Mike Michel, followed by insight into the “White Book” and FIC Index 2023 by the FIC Executive Director Aleksandar Ljubić, as well as addresses by Head of EU Delegation in Serbia Emanuele Giaufret and Minister of Mining and Energy in the Government of the Republic of Serbia Dubravka Đedović Handanović.
In his introductory speech, FIC President and Yettel CEO Mike Michel noted that 2023 has not been a steady-going year and that the FIC is fully aware of Serbia’s challenges due to economic and geopolitical conditions. However, there are things that can be done, regardless of the circumstances. “122 foreign companies from all over the world, which invest 44 billion euros and employ more than 115 thousand people, have prepared specific recommendations on how to improve the business and investment climate. The White Book 2023 edition consists of 58 articles with 397 recommendations prepared by 59 authors, while the biggest progress was made in the Energy sector,” – emphasized Michel, adding that the Foreign Investment Council remains a reliable partner to the Government of the Republic of Serbia. “We are ready to make a full contribution through our joint working body – the Working Group for the Implementation of the White Book Recommendations,” concluded Michel.
Having in mind all the current circumstances, the general FIC recommendations contained in the White Book 2023 refer to the biggest challenges for investments: Serbia’s the EU integration process, keeping inflation at the same time as interest rates rise, the increase in the tax burden and the sustainability of the public debt. In this sense, the intensification of negotiations with the EU on Serbia’s membership status remains a key priority in order to harmonize domestic regulations with European standards and reduce geopolitical risk for investments and foreign trade. Besides, it is necessary to bring inflation back within the target corridor, optimize the fiscal burden to encourage investments and economic growth, reduce public expenditures, and complete the restructuring of infrastructure companies, especially in the energy field, to sustain adequate level of fiscal deficit and public debt level.
This year’s “White Book” includes an analysis of the main recommendations in the areas that the FIC members see as a priority: taxes, labor regulations, digitalization and e-commerce, real estate, illicit trade prevention, inspection oversight, enviromental protection, foreign exchange regulations, pharmaceuticals and tourism and hospitality. According to the “FIC Index” published in the latest edition of the White Book, in the period from November 2022 to October 2023, the area with the best performance is energy sector. Particularly strong progress achieved the following sectors: Consumer protection, Illicit trade prevention, Protection of users of financial services, Employment of foreigners, and Customs regulation. On the other hand, the food and agriculture sector did not register any progress in the past year.
In an active panel discussion on how to improve the business and investment environment in Serbia, opinions were exchanged between Dubravka Đedović Handanović, Minister of Mining and Energy, Jelena Begović, Minister of Science, Technological Development and Innovation and Mihailo Jovanović, Minister of Information and Telecommunications.
To fully embrace the era of digitalization, but also to be environment-friendly, FIC again opted against printing the White Book publication which is available for free download on the FIC website (www.fic.org.rs).
About FIC: From an independent business association created by 14 companies, we stayed faithful to our principles and grew to gather more than 120 companies from all around the globe who have invested over EUR 44 billion and directly employ more than 115,000 people in Serbia compared to EUR 150 million of investments and 3.160 employees in 2003! FIC main goal is to influence the improvement of business climate in Serbia by making concrete reform proposals and building a business portal for communication with the authorities in Serbia. FIC is also focusing on promoting solid business ethics and high corporate governance principles within the organization and towards local companies, the Government, and other external stakeholders. Through support and active engagement of membership, FIC has proven to be a strict guardian of the business community interests and at the same time a reliable partner to the Government of Serbia and other relevant stakeholders.