Serbia's entry into the EU is getting closer: the country could become a member of the European Union by 2025. This is what EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn announced in February 2018 when presenting his new strategy for the Western Balkans. In his address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Hahn said that, given swift progress on reforms in Serbia, this date is regarded as feasible, if ambitious. At the same time, he reaffirmed that accession criteria will not be relaxed: getting things right is more important than getting them done quickly. Observers see in this statement a clear message: the mistakes of previous accession rounds are not going to be repeated. But in Serbia, the risk of this seems minor anyway, as the Western Balkan state is regarded as something of a "model pupil" among accession candidates.
EU companies are already the largest investors in the Western Balkans, with the European Commission estimating the volume of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the region at more than € 10 billion over the past five years1 According to a report by the European Parliament2, almost 85% of FDI in Serbia in the first half of 2017 came from the EU.
Major leap forward in the World Bank league table
The fact that the opportunities for entering markets and doing business in Serbia have been improving steadily for years is reflected in the World Bank's "Ease of Doing Business" report: Within five years, Serbia has moved up 50 places in the international league table3 and is currently ranked 434 - ahead of countries like Hungary, Bulgaria and Croatia.
Aliquantum Energy also sees great potential
Business expert Erik Schäfer has established businesses in a variety of countries. For him, the figures underpin the favourable investment climate in Serbia. With Aliquantum Energy, he has recognized the region's great potential. As a Balkan expert, his advice to investors is to make use of what are currently favourable return-on-investment opportunities: "As soon as Serbia joins the EU, the country will lose its ROI differentiator."
Aliquantum Energy's run-of-the-river hydropower plants in Serbia offer attractive opportunities, he says: "Around 60 per cent of the economically viable hydropower potential in the region is ready and waiting for investors - project opportunities as promising as these are very rare in Europe."
Picture credit: Aliquantum
Sonja Strahl is a freelance copywriter for journalism and PR. She runs "Strahl Copywriters" together with her husband, Gordon K. Strahl. Sonja previously worked for many years as an editor at a leading international foreign trade publishing house where she was responsible, among other things, for country reports on import formalities in non-EU countries featured in the European Commission's Market Access Database. www.strahl-texte.de
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1European Commission, A credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the western balkans
2European Parliament, Serbia's cooperation with China, the European Union, Russia and the United States of America, 2017
3Trading Ecnomics, Ease of doing business in Serbia
4Doing Business, Serbia