On Saturday 26.11.2022. “Investment and Business Conference for Diaspora” was held in the Marriott Hotel in Zurich. 150 participants from the diaspora in Switzerland and Serbia attended the event. The conference gathered small diaspora entrepreneurs who want to start a certain business in their hometown, companies looking for partners in Serbia, and entrepreneurs interested in introducing innovative businesses and projects on the Serbian market.
The conference was attended by many who have been trying hard to bring the diaspora together for years, but with a lack of adequate support or a conference concept. Project Link Up! Serbia II supported the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia to organize, in cooperation with the diaspora, a new conference format focused on concrete projects, investment opportunities, as well as support programs for entrepreneurs.
The conference was marked by the largest delegation of officials in the business sector that ever addressed the diaspora at a meeting with specific business topics, consisting of six managers, directors and advisors of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia, six representatives of regional development agencies and three representatives of Ćuprija local self-government and the Parliament of Serbia. All participants from Serbia were supported by the Link Up! Serbia II project team, as well as by experts with extensive experience in working with the diaspora. Diaspora gathered from Basel, Bern, Baden, Zurich, St. Gallen, Gossau, Switzerland and other cities in Switzerland.
The conference was opened with introductory speeches by the project manager of the Link Up! Serbia II project, Mr. Marko Pavlović, Ambassador of the Republic of Serbia in Bern, His Excellency Goran Bradić, Advisor to the President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia, Mr. Miroslav Lutovac, President of the Swiss Chamber for Central and Eastern Europe, Mr. Oliver Berchinger, Member of Parliament of Serbia, Mr. Ninoslav Erić, and the Program Advisor of “Point of Return”, Mr. Uroš Živković. The rise of economic cooperation between Serbia and Switzerland was emphasized, but there was also a great opportunity to increase it through different business models that diaspora brings as a broker or entrepreneur. Ambassador Bradić also cited concrete examples in which he helped diaspora to invest in Serbia. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia, emphasized the business interest of diaspora, while the Point of Return showed that the Republic of Serbia also understands the emotional moment of diaspora in their desire to return, and presented the support it provides to diaspora for such initiatives. Mr. Erić pointed out why now is the right time to invest in Serbia.
During the second part of the conference, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia held a session on the presentation of investment opportunities in Serbia, moderated by Mr. Đorđe Andrić (head of the Centre for Investment Support in CCIS), a panel on female entrepreneurship and cooperation with entrepreneurs in the diaspora, moderated by Mrs. Branislava Šimanić (director of the sector for women’s entrepreneurship in CCIS), as well as the presentation of the business cooperation of related companies from Serbia and Switzerland by experts from the Link Up! Serbia II project. Mr. Aleksandar Bogunović gave a presentation related to the support offered by the IPARD program in Serbia. For the first time at conferences in diaspora, the topic of medical tourism and the possible cooperation of representatives of health sector and insurance companies from Switzerland with rehabilitation centres in Serbia was introduced. This topic of great importance for diaspora in Switzerland, as well as for possible business success of rehabilitation centres in Serbia, was moderated by the doyen of Serbian diplomacy, retired ambassador, Mr. Zoran Jeremic.
In the third part of the conference, the “Business Diaspora Day of the Municipality of Ćuprija” was held. Representatives of Link Up! Serbia II project emphasized that this is the best Business Diaspora Day ever held between hometown and diaspora entrepreneurs from diaspora. The gathering was opened by the most successful businessman in Ćuprija, owner of the company “Daccomet AG” in Zurich and “Standard Furniture Serbia d.o.o.” in Serbia, Mr. Edin Dacić. Mr. Dacić invited 15 participants of Diaspora Day with concrete business initiatives and projects towards Ćuprija to think exclusively business-wise in their decisions, and not with their hearts, but on the other hand he also praised the work of the local self-government which earned their trust. The assistant to the president of the local self-government of Ćuprija, Mr. Branko Milojević, while moderating the meeting, directed the participants, depending on the specific business, to mentoring by the regional development agency REDASP, or to the further development of business initiatives in cooperation with the local self-government and the Link Up! Serbia II project. In the last few years, an increasing number of people in diaspora are interested in investing in renewable energy sources in Serbia, especially in solar energy. A special group from diaspora from Ćuprija municipality showed interest in commercial types of investment in this sector, both as individuals but also with joint forces. The Deputy President of the Municipality of Ćuprija, Mr. Vladimir Vasiljević presented the framework for investment in this area in Serbia with a specific reference to the context of the Municipality of Ćuprija. Former president of the municipality of Ćuprija and member of the Serbian Parliament, Mr. Erić, after presenting the industrial zone in Ćuprija in the first session of the conference, advised his fellow countrymen in diaspora how to approach this topic in cooperation with the municipality. Mr. Bogunović from CCIS pointed out all the advantages and opportunities that investment in fruit growing and energy production could bring. The new way of cooperating with diaspora has brought a very constructive debate and a positive atmosphere in diaspora, which will be an excellent foundation for further implementation of diaspora’s business initiatives towards its home country.
“This business conference is an extremely successful step in the synergy of the Link Up! Serbia II project!, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia, relevant ministries and regional development agencies of Serbia with our people abroad, whom they approach in a completely new way and present new business opportunities or investments in attractive sectors giving them the opportunity to invest the funds they have in some new business. It is particularly useful that, perhaps for the first time in such a scale, representatives of various chamber groups, ministries, and local authorities came among our people to discuss concrete projects and opportunities for cooperation and provide assistance in solving problems that inevitably arise in such cooperation. I am very satisfied with the positive reaction of diaspora that was present and the willingness to accept new models of cooperation based on e.g. mentorship and healthy economic interest, profit above all. It is particularly significant that the Link Up! Serbia II project also focuses on new topics, e.g. the development of female entrepreneurship in the diaspora or the development of health, primarily spa tourism in Serbia aimed at establishing cooperation with the health and insurance systems of Switzerland. Spas from Serbia and their investment and development capacity were presented at the meeting in a special panel. This approach to diaspora and the strengthening of its economic presence in the mother country, as well as here encourages us to continue with this in other German – speaking countries where our diaspora lives. I have the impression that we are on the trail of a new path that will open the way for greater or better economic cooperation between our diaspora and the motherland,” said retired ambassador, Mr. Zoran Jeremić.