Competitiveness boost for SMEs in Serbia

By Bojana Vlajcic

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Competitiveness boost for SMEs in Serbia

BioSpajz, a beneficiary of previous EBRD advisory programmes

  • Around 130 small businesses to benefit from EU-EBRD support
  • Companies to increase competitiveness on regional and EU markets
  • 900 Serbian SMEs to date received support from EBRD advisory services

Serbian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will have a chance to improve their competitiveness thanks to the newly launched “EU for Serbia – EBRD SME advisory support” programme launched in Belgrade today.

The programme will help boost competitiveness and build the capacity of Serbian SMEs with tailored advisory support and coaching by local consultants and international advisors. It is supported by the European Union (EU) with €2 million from the national Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance in cooperation with the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Serbia.

Enterprises will have an opportunity to receive a wide range of advisory services, including in quality standards implementation, marketing strategy, financial analysis, business plan development and management information system introduction. This will enable SMEs to improve competitiveness, efficiency and improve their export performance. The EU funds will partly cover the cost firms incur for these advisory services.

The launch event in Belgrade was attended by Serbia’s State Secretary, Ministry of Economy, Milun Trivunac, EU Ambassador Sem Fabrizi as well as EBRD’s Regional Director for the Western Balkans Zsuzsanna Hargitai. They agreed to step up their support for Serbian SMEs, as they represent 99 per cent of registered enterprises and generate some 67 per cent of employment in the country.

State Secretary, Milun Trivunac, expressed his gratitude to the EU for accepting the Ministry of Economy initiative and providing €2.2 million from the IPA funds for advisory assistance to SMEs, for a minimum of 130 enterprises.

“This program presents the continuation of a very successful and longstanding cooperation with the EBRD on the capacity building of Serbian SMEs. Our small businesses are provided with a knowledge transfer from industrial experts from the EBRD data base who possess enormous practical experience”, Trivunac said.

Sem Fabrizi, Ambassador of the EU to Serbia, said: "Following success of the previous cycles of the Support for SME Development programme, the European Union has allocated an additional €2.2 million for the continuation of the programme. Our support to this programme amounts so far to €14 million. This project will enable Serbian companies to access skills needed to become more innovative, attract financing, gain relevant expertise and become business leaders, increasing the competitiveness and productivity of the private sector in Serbia. In addition, it will also provide training opportunities for local consultants with the aim of improving its corporate advisory services. The project will be complementary to other types of EU funded support available for small and medium-sized enterprises in Serbia."

Zsuzsanna Hargitai, EBRD Regional Director for the Western Balkans and Head of Serbia, said “Since 2001, the EBRD has supported over 900 SMEs in Serbia through advisory programmes. After receiving assistance, SMEs have increased their turnover and grown their workforce, which helped attract more external funding.”

The EBRD is a leading institutional investor in Serbia. The Bank has invested more than €5 billion across 230 projects in the country to date. The Bank is supporting private sector development and the transformation towards a green economy, and investing in infrastructure to boost connectivity in the Western Balkans region.

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