Serbia is a priority country of Switzerland’s transition cooperation with Eastern Europe. Building on the close political, economic, scientific and cultural ties that have developed over the years, including a sizeable diaspora living in Switzerland, Serbia is supported in its transition process and reforms in line with European values and standards. Within this framework, SECO contributes jointly with its Serbian partners, amongst others, to the improvement of the macroeconomic and business environment, the fostering of a competitive private sector, sustainable urban development and the mitigation of climate change.
Cooperation with Serbia started in 1991. Until 2020, Serbia benefited from stable GDP growth rates, a balanced budget, declining public debt and regular access to international capital markets. This helped limit the recession during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economy to recover strongly. Despite the improved quality of public financial management at the national level, Serbia faces multifaceted challenges. Its economy is expected to return to its previous growth path, depending on international developments (including the control of COVID-19 and Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine). Switzerland's commitment is to support its stability and prosperous development in line with European values and standards.
Challenges remain in the economic development and environmental fields
The challenges to develop the financial sector and more efficient public investment management, and raising total factor productivity remain. Serbian businesses are in a weak competitive position and unemployment rates – especially among young people - remain high. In spite of the recent positive momentum in the fields of climate change mitigation and decarbonisation with the adoption of a whole series of new relevant laws and strategies, Serbia is still ranked as the most polluted country in Europe in 2020.
What are SECO’s objectives?
SECO and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) jointly define and implement the Swiss cooperation programme 2022-2025 in Serbia, which covers the following domains of intervention: democratic governance and civil society, economic development and employment, and sustainable energy and resilient cities. Furthermore, Switzerland will continue its migration partnership with Serbia. SECO’s focus is on:
- Effective Public Financial Management and improved business environment
SECO supports Serbia’s efforts to implement reforms and capacity building of relevant national and local administrations and macro-economic institutions to enable them to manage public finances effectively and to shape a more enabling business environment.
- Increased competitiveness and employment
SECO supports measures to strengthen the innovation ecosystems, increase investment and develop the private sector. Another goal is to support the intermediation between the economy and education system to improve inclusive labour force participation, productivity and wages.
- Climate change and sustainable urban development
SECO’s activities aim at strengthening the municipal capacities to manage climate-resilient and inclusive urban development. Another goal is to increase energy efficiency and decarbonisation of the energy sector.
From 2022 to 2025 , a total of some CHF 96.5 million is foreseen for Swiss transition cooperation with Serbia, of which around CHF 42 million is from SECO.