Thursday 3 February 2005
Belgrade Calls Athens to Invest.
The Prince of Serbia talks about business opportunities in light of the Partnership Conference between the two countries.
by Costis Papadimitriou
Almost half of the Serbia and Montenegro government will be coming to Athens next week to attend a Conference and Exhibition on the economic co-operation between the countries. The existing co-operation is important but there are still many opportunities for development. Approximately 200 Greek businesses of all sizes are active in Serbia and Montenegro - Alpha Bank and Piraeus Bank have recently bought Serbian banks through privatization, while Eurobank continues with fiscal development and the presence of National Bank of Greece is already important. Delta controls approximately two thirds of the Serbian ice-cream market.
However, Serbia is thirsty for foreign investments and would like to see a higher Greek presence. The Conference, which will take place at the Athens Hilton Hotel on 8-10 February, under the auspices of the relevant Ministries of both countries, will be officially opened by the President of Serbia, Mr. Boris Tadic, and the Speaker of the House of the Greek Parliament, Mrs. Anna Psarouda-Benaki. During the Conference there will be presentations on subjects concerning investment opportunities in Serbia and Montenegro, funding programmes, as well as exchange of business experiences. There will also be an Exhibition offering business executives the opportunity to make contacts. On 10 February specialised workshops will cover the fields of energy and mining, banking, agribusiness, real estate, information technology and telecommunications, public works and construction, as well as tourism and transportation.
The Conference is organised by Lifeline Hellas Humanitarian Organisation Tel. +30 210-3634570, www.partnershipinitiative.gr, www.lifelineaid.info, which is under the auspices of Princess Katherine, the wife of Prince Alexander Karadjordjevic, son of the last King of Yugoslavia. Prince Alexander stated that “the main aim of the Conference is to develop the economic co-operation with Greece and to create more employment positions in Serbia” and added that “we have a very well-trained work force, very low taxation on profits, only 10%, we lay the foundations for investment and also have an excellent relationship with Greece, I would even say is fraternal”. Prince Alexander pointed out that “there are many opportunities for privatisation in the near future”, but also general investment opportunities in agricultural businesses, especially in the fertile region of Vojvodina, as well as in the Pharmaceutical Industry, Information Technology, Finance and other sectors.
Greece ranks fourth with respect to investments in Serbia, following the U.S.A., Germany and Italy. The geographical proximity of the two countries strengthens investment advantages. However, Prince Alexander highlights the importance of completing Highway Χ (10), the road network which connect the Southern Balkans with Central Europe. This project is of great interest to Greece as it connects it to the rest of Europe.
Prince Alexander underlined that “there are major deficiencies in the area of health care and we also have a big refugee problem 650.000 people”. He mentioned the help of Lifeline Organisation which offers ambulances, incubators, food, clothing, educational equipment etc to Serbia. He also mentioned that “Greeks have offered help, amounting to a few million Euros, through Lifeline”. Serbia lost a crucial decade because of the Yugoslavian war, which resulted in a lengthy embargo and was followed by the bombing in 1999. However, it has recovered an important part of its lost ground and is in a much healthier position than people may imagine.
“Many things must still be done” replied Prince Alexander as he added that “it is a difficult project and I do not envy the politicians.” We asked the son of the last King of Yugoslavia if he is trying to bring back monarchy to his country. He answered sincerely, as he wants to stay away from politics, “I would not want emphasize that at this moment. After many years of dictatorships and personalities who have ruled the country, we have reached a new beginning. Now the power belongs to the citizens. And this is the way it should be, putting the people first.”
Comments under photo of Prince Alexander Karadjordjevic, son of the last King of Yugoslavia considers the relationship between Greeks and Serbians to be fraternal and encourages the Greeks to make investments in his country.
Copyright © 1998 NJ.K.V. Prestolonaslednik Aleksandar II
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