Draft speech by Thomas Östros, Minister of Industry and trade at the Swedish-Serbian Business Workshop, March, 28th

Pressmeddelande   •   Mar 29, 2006 09:00 CEST

28 mars 2006

Your Excellency,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be able to attend to this workshop today at a time that holds so much promise for Swedish-Serbian business cooperation.

This is truly an exciting time. Our business relations today are extensive and growing as we speak. During the last few years we have developed intensive business contacts as well as numerous contacts and visits on the official level. We feel that we are in a position today, in our common business sphere, where our relations are felt and perceived, by all involved actors, as better than they have been in many years.

Swedish companies are aware of the importance of strategic positioning on the Serbian market today. They are aware of the deep and far-reaching impact an SA-agreement and EU integration will have on Serbian society and business in the near future. This is not an opportunity Sweden intends to miss. And the best way to attract Swedish investments and Foreign Direct Investments in general, is to align Serbia with the EU legislation and implement it as quickly as possible.

Sweden and Serbia complements each other very well in a number of important areas. This is another encouraging sign for the continued future development. This positive tendency of complimentarily has also been clearly manifested in a number of ways in which we cooperate, in letters of intent, in memorandums of understanding and in formal agreements that we have signed.

Notable examples are our agreement on energy and mining, and the joint initiative to develop similar types of cooperation in the areas of environment and infrastructure - that is roads, railroads, and telecom.

My State Secretary Mr. Lars-Olof Lindgren, visited Belgrade twice last year in conjunction with events and activities promoting this kind of cooperation. Your Minister for Energy and Mining, Dr. Naumov, as well as your Minister for Capital Investments also visited us here in Sweden last year.

These visits and meetings have already proven very fruitful. They have paved the way for business and investment opportunities on a large scale. Above all, the companies and other actors on the market have contributed through their active contacts and networking, in creating a very creative and positive ambiance. These factors are extremely important for the continued development of our common business interests and close cooperation.

Former Yugoslavia was for Sweden one of the most important markets in Central/Eastern Europe before the wars in the 1990s. A number of large and influential Swedish companies have been present in Serbia since the beginning of the last century. They have remained, through the years of difficulties, and actively assisted Serbia in recovering. Our companies have a long-term commitment, as does Sweden in general.

Bilaterally, Sweden, through its International Development Agency, SIDA, has also taken active part in the recovery and reconstruction efforts - in infrastructure, capacity building and many other areas that make up a important parts of the continued industrial commercial cooperation between our countries. It is inspiring to see that recovery is going rapidly in Serbia. We are privileged and very happy to be an active part in this development.

Furthermore, Sweden has a large group of Swedish Serbian (and former Yugoslav) businessmen and women. Many of them came to Sweden already in the 1960s and 70s, and they are well acclimatized and engaged in very successful activities. I think it will be interesting to see how Serbian companies, as well as Swedish ones, will make use of the opportunities that this group in the Serbian diaspora in Sweden inherently carries with them.

It is obvious that we have well-established traditions for cooperating between our countries and companies, as well as an array of new initiatives to build on in the area of Swedish-Serbian business.

I am confident that you all will make the best use of these opportunities, today in the workshop. It is my sincere wish that today's discussions will be a source of inspiration to new Serbian-Swedish initiatives in the years to come.

Thank you.