By Lee Kyung-sik
Publisher, The Korea Post media
Ambassador Zaran Kazazovic of Serbia in Seoul stated that this year Serbia plans to have visits of the Speaker of the Serbian Parliament and important representatives of the government in charge of the economic cooperation and other fields as well. Speaking at a recent interview with The Korea Post media on the occasion of the National Day (Statehood Day) of Servia on Feb. 15, 2017, Ambassador Kazazovic said, “We are expecting the first visit of delegation of the city of Belgrade to Seoul to establish close bilateral cooperation.” Excerpts from the interview follow:
Question: What are the important developments scheduled between Korea and your country, including the possible visit of your Head of Government to Korea?
Answer: Serbia and Korea have longstanding good and friendly relations. Korea is one of our most important partners in Asia and Pacific region. Our good political relations are solid base for developing bilateral economic cooperation, including increasing overall trade volume, as well as attracting more Korean investors and tourists to Serbia.
This year we are planning to have visits of our highest officials and dignitaries to the Republic of Korea - speaker of the Serbian Parliament, as well as the representatives of the government in charge of the economic cooperation and other fields as well. We are expecting the first visit of delegation of the city of Belgrade to Seoul, with the aim to establish close cooperation between our two capitals.
Serbia and Korea are developing and strengthening partnership in many areas, including e-government, police cooperation, cyber security, education, urban planning and development, etc.
Q: What is the current volume of bilateral trade, its outlook in the next 12 months?
A: Overall bilateral trade value between Serbia and Korea was 200 Million USD in 2016. Serbia imported from Korea goods valued 73 Million USD (Automobiles, Electronics and Computers). Serbian export to Korea reached 127 Million USD (animal food, agricultural products, car parts). Also, Korean investments in Serbia amount 60 million USD.
Our bilateral trade volume has been on steady rise in recent years, but there are still a lot of possibilities (room) to make it more diverse and valuable. This year, Serbian companies will be much more present in Korea, participating in fairs and other events in order to present their products for Korean market.
Last year, we signed two important bilateral agreements - the Agreement on avoidance of double taxation and the Agreement on Air Transport. The Agreement of mutual protection of investment is in the process of negotiation. When this third agreement is signed, we will have completed juridical framework of economic cooperation, which we expect to further stimulate trade, investment and tourist exchange between our two countries.
Q: What are your competitive fields of industry and products attractive to Korea and what are Korean products and services that your country might wish to import?
A: First and foremost, Serbia has for Korea a highly-attractive agriculture sector. Serbia boasts ideal natural conditions for growing crops, fruit and vegetables. The soil is still one of the cleanest in Europe, while most of the fruit is grown in perfect conditions; it is hand-picked, carefully stored, and packaged in order to attain the highest possible quality and a unique flavor. Thanks to excellent raw materials and conditions Serbia is producing high-quality, healthy food. Moreover, Serbian law prohibits the production and import of any genetically modified (GMO) foods and seeds. For example, Serbia is a global leader in the export of frozen raspberries and was world No.1 producer of raspberries in 2015. Korean products such as cars, TV sets and cell-phones are already popular in Serbia because of their reliability and affordable price.
Q: Who are the Korean companies (other than Chaebol business groups) actively engaged in the promotion of economic cooperation between Korea and your esteemed country?
A: A few Korean companies are operating in Serbia. One of them, Yura Company (car electric parts producer, ranked among 500 biggest Korean companies) is a real success story. Yura Company has opened four factories in Serbia so far, and employs 5,400 people.
Samsung Electronics Company has its branch office in Belgrade. KOTRA opened its branch office in December 2015, which will be a strong boost for expanding bilateral economic cooperation.
Q: What are the areas in your country where you want Korean companies to invest and what are the areas where you wish your businessmen to invest in Korea?
A: Serbia now represents a real hotspot for foreign investors, and it is the right time for Korean companies to come to Serbia, as there are numerous comparative advantages for them in our country. Most attractive sectors in Serbia for Korean investors could be Energy, Infrastructure, Agriculture, Automotive, Textile and Forest based Industries. Also there is a solid potential in tourism.
Besides the EU, Serbia has FTAs with the Russian Federation (Serbia is the only country outside of CIS to have FTA with Russia), Turkey, Kazakhstan and Belarus, as well as a customs-free access to CEFTA and EFTA countries, which would enable Korean investors access to these markets as well.
Serbia's government is determinate to promote Serbian market and its favorable business environment through various activities, which include organizing business and investments seminars abroad and domestically.
Q: Please introduce in detail the National Day of your esteemed country.
A: February 15 is known as “Statehood day” – the National Day of the Republic of Serbia and it is a very special day in the Serbian history. Two major historic events happened on this date, which represent cornerstones of the modern Serbian state.
First, in the year 1804, the first Serbian uprising against Ottoman occupation took place and, after a long struggle, Serbia regained freedom and independence which lost to Ottoman Empire in late 15th century (medieval Serbian state was created in 12th century, around the same period when Goreyo Kingdom was created in Korea).
Second, in the year 1835, Serbia adopted its first Constitution. It was one of the most progressive and liberal constitutions in the 19th century in Europe, and it set up foundations of democracy and rule of law. The Constitution was the expression of needs of Serbian society at that time: national emancipation, breaking the feudal institutions and autocratic rule. This Constitution is known as “Candlemas Constitution”, by religious holiday which is celebrated on February 15.
Q: Please introduce your Head of Government in detail, including major achievements.
A: Serbia is politically and socially stable country. Since May 2014, Serbia has a strong Government, headed by Aleksandar Vucic, leader of the “Serbian Progressive arty”.
The Government's major achievements are in its economic agenda. Implementing wider economic and strict austerity measures, Serbia completely stabilized its macroeconomic system, creating budget surplus. In 2016, the growth was 2,8 % of GDP and on year to year level, inflation was 1,1 %. The value of FDI was around 2 billion Euros last year, and unemployment rate was significantly reduced to 13,8 %. The new labor law made the labor market more flexible. The reform of bureaucratic procedures for construction permits and bankruptcy legislation was implemented. It was introduced e-filing for tax returns and development of infrastructure was accelerated. As a result of these reforms, in 2016 Serbia took 47th position on the Doing Business rankings.
Last year, we opened four new negotiation chapters with the European Union and we showed a sincere commitment to our most important foreign policy goal - full membership in the EU. With reason, we expect that the process of Serbia's EU accession will be intensified in 2017, with opening much more chapters.
Particular attention was paid to maintaining regional stability and mitigating the effects of the migrant crisis. This was done through a dialogue with all relevant partners and in multilateral level. Preservation of regional stability and dealing with migrant crisis will remain our priority for this year.
Regarding the pending issue of the Kosovo and Metohija province, we will remain dedicated to the dialogue with Pristina provisional institutions, and committed to implement the Brussels Agreement made under the auspices of the EU. An equal commitment and readiness we are expecting from the other side. Dialogue and implementation of Brussels Agreement is the way to reach stable, comprehensive and long-lasting solution.
Q: What are the attractive tourist destinations of your country?
A: Serbia is located on the Balkan Peninsula in the Southeast Europe, at the crossroads of the main routes linking Europe and Asia, and is famous for its eventful and turbulent history. It abounds with tourist hotspots. This time, we would like to present most valuable archeological sites such as:
Lepenski Vir, the archaeological site is located in the Đerdap Gorge, on the banks of the Danube, second longest river in Europe. It was the centre of one of the most important prehistoric cultures. At the Lepenski Vir site, the remains of religious architecture dating from 6500 to 5500 BC have been found.
Viminacium is one of the most important Roman towns and military encampments from the period from the 1st to the 6th century. The exceptional findings made in the necropolis around the town (more than 14,000 graves have been found so far) confirm the belief that its citizens were very wealthy, and frescoes found in the crypts represent the peak of late classical period art. In and around the town there have been discoveries of an amphitheatre, monumental buildings, lavish thermae (baths) and the remains of a highly-developed infrastructure, first and foremost streets, aqueducts and a sewage system.
Gamzigrad, native town of Roman emperor Galerius. Felix Romuliana was an imperial palace built on the orders of Galerius Maximianus on the spacious plateau of Gamzigrad, near the city of Zaječar. Galerius, who was born in this area (17 Roman emperors from late Roman Empire period were born on the territory of Serbia), raised the palace in the 3rd and 4th centuries in honour of himself and his mother Romula, after whom he named it. It belongs to a special category of Roman court architecture associated only with the period of the Tetrarchy and is the best-preserved example of this style. Since 2007, the archeological site Felix Romuliana has been listed on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List.
Q: Please add whatever other details that we might have left out from our questionnaire.
A: Serbia is proud of its achievements in the Art (Cinema industry and Music), as well as in Sports.
Serbian cinema is one of the most dynamic smaller European cinematographies.
The most famous Serbian filmmaker is Emir Kusturica who two Golden Palms for Best Feature Film at the Cannes Film Festival, for When Father Was Away on Business in 1985 and then again for Underground in 1995. Other renowned directors include Goran Paskaljević, Dušan Makavejev and Goran Marković among others.
Serbia and Korea cooperate in the field of cinema as well. There`s a growing interest for Korean drama and other Korean series in Serbia, and Korean film The Tenor - Lirico Spinto, was shot mainly in Serbia.
Serbian music is characterized by its diversity, due to various influences and also by some unique, original genres.
Most popular music festival are Guča Trumpet Festival with over 300,000 annual visitors and international rock festival EXIT in Novi Sad. Exit was officially proclaimed as the “Best Major European festival” at the EU Festival awards 2014. More than 2.5 million people from over 60 countries around the world visited this festival so far. Other festivals include Nišville Jazz Festival in Niš and Gitarijada rock festival in Zaječar. Former rock musician, and nowadays author of music for films and big global concert attraction is Goran Bregovic, with his current band Orchestra for Weddings and Funerals. His music is used in some Korean films.
The success of Serbian tennis players has led to an immense popularization of tennis in Serbia. Novak Đoković, twelve-times Grand Slam champion, Ana Ivanović (French Open champion) and Jelena Janković were both ranked No. 1 in the world. Serbia has two Olympic Games medalists in taekwondo. Milica Mandic won a gold medal in 2012 in London and Tijana Bogdanovic won silver in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro).
Although small in terms of territory and population, Serbia is a “superpower" in collective sports - it`s one of the leading volleyball, basketball and water polo countries in the world, having won many World, Olympic and European Championship titles.