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BUSINESS – Infrastructure, energy, tourism: large-scale projects in Serbia and Montenegro

Infrastructure, energy, tourism are the main economic development aspects currently concerning Serbia and Monenegro, two nations geographically and traditionally linked with Italy and that are also EU candidate countries. These three sectors, and investment opportunities in the Balkans in general, were the central focus of a business mission organised in recent weeks by Confindustria in collaboration with ANIE, ANCE and Confindustria Serbia with the support of the Embassies of Italy in Serbia and Montenegro and the ICE Agency. The mission delegation was made up of representatives from over 70 Italian firms: 40 in the energy sector and 30 in construction.

Italy among Serbia’s strategic partners

The many initiatives held in Serbia’s principal cities included institutional encounters with strategic partners, thematic workshops and on-site visits. At the international construction fair at the Sava-Danubio centre in Belgrade the delegation was welcomed by Serbian Minister for the Economy Mladjan Dinkic and President of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce Zeljco Sertic. The many important topics on the table had a common premise: Italy is among Serbia’s top investors, has a structured business presence in that country and is considered a strategic partner by the Belgrade government. All elements that, on the strength of some major programmes undertaken by the Serbian government, today offer major potential for expansion.

Energy and infrastructure, lagre-scale projects in Belgrade

Indeed, European funding priorities include major infrastructure projects such as the completion of the Belgrade ring-road and the so-called EU “Corridor 10” (the North-South motorway connecting Salzburg with Thessaloniki passing through Serbia. While in the energy sector the Serbian government decided over recent months to invest 3 billion euro in the construction of new thermo-electrical plants and 1.4 billion in hydro-electrical plants. The government also recently decided to open the energy sector up to private investment, outlining a tariff framework structured to encourage the development of renewable resources.

Montenegro, strategic hydro-electrical resources

Strong economic development, low labour costs, easy access to the European market, excellent universities and major tourism and hydro-electrical energy potential combine to make Montenegro one of the most interesting frontiers for the internationalisation of Italian firms. The country is in the process of refurbishing its transport system, the pride of which is its portion of the Ionian Motorway connecting Trieste with Greece and for which investments of 1.1 billion euro are expected. If the pearl of the national port system is the Port Montenegro Tourist Port, it is on the city of Bar that the country is placing its most strategic aspirations: what’s more, the port will also serve the Kragujevac FIAT plant. And, precisely in the infrastructure sector, the capital Podgorica has indicated that by the end of September a call for tenders would be announced for the first waste water treatment system.

On the energy front, it is estimated that only 17% of Montenegro’s hydro-electrical capacity is currently being tapped: the country could produce 10,000 GW annually with new plants built along the major rivers, while it is now producing 1000 GW thanks to the mini-plants already operating along secondary rivers. The city of Niksic, the country’s third largest, offers concrete opportunities for investment in the wind and solar energy sectors, the construction of a small scale hydro-electric power plant and a waste-treatment facility.

Foreign tourism in Montenegro spikes

In addition to all this, with the allure of its celebrated coastlines, the country has incredible tourism potential. Over the past decade, the number of foreign visitors has spiked from less that 150,000 to 1.5 million annually, and the country is seeking to better equip itself for making its artistic and natural patrimony more accessible. In particular, its agency for foreign investments promotion has formulated a list of projects to be developed over the coming years and that are intended to involve foreign firms, with a special focus on the north of the country, rich in lakes, forests and rivers and as yet largely untouched.

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