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Serbia has made steady progress on key reforms geared towards integration into the European Union. The Stabilization and Association Agreement between Serbia and EU entered into force on 1 September 2013. As decided by the European Council on 28 June 2013 and confirmed by the December 2013 Council, the EU accession negotiations formally opened on 21 January 2014.
The Serbian economy has struggled considerably in recent years. The legacy of the global economic crisis includes large macroeconomic imbalances, high levels of unemployment, especially among the youth, and significant regional income disparities. In 2012, GDP contracted by 1.5 per cent, on the back of declining domestic private consumption, weak exports and a bad agricultural season, although some improvement occurred in 2013, with an estimated growth rate of around 2.4 per cent, driven by strong export growth and a good agricultural season.
The banking sector has coped reasonably well with the crisis but its stability remains a concern as the levels of NPLs are high. Although Serbia has made progress in cultivating a more favourable business climate, further structural reforms are needed to foster private sector-led development and investment. These include the continuation of the privatization process, finalizing restructuring of the stat owned companies, addressing regional income disparities and accelerating public sector reforms.
The short-term outlook for Serbia, as for other countries in the region, is uncertain given the current global turmoil and weak recovery prospects for the Eurozone. Serbia’s current economic difficulties are compounded by a large fiscal deficit and a high level of public debt, both of which need to be reduced to more sustainable levels. The downside risks are significant as Serbia is a relatively small economy and is still grappling with the legacy of the crisis, including high unemployment and restricted credit.
Last updated 15 April 2014