Serbia: Doing business and staying in touch
Doing Business in Serbia
Things can go slowly on account of the cumbersome bureaucracy but most Serbian entrepreneurs are very keen to forge business links with Western Europe. Communication is not a major problem as English is popular as a second language.
When on official business, men may wear a smart suit along with shirt and tie, whilst women may wear formal trousers or skirts. Greeting people for the first time with a handshake; a single kiss (or three if between men) is a less formal greeting for someone you already know. It is customary for guests to bring a modest gift for the host, such as wine or flowers. When making a toast, be sure to make eye contact as it is considered rude to look at the glass or elsewhere.
In 2008, the Government of Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. Serbia has rejected Kosovo's declaration of independence as illegal, but the UK government, and most EU members, have granted recognition. Many Serbs feel strongly about Kosovo, with many opposed to its declared independence. You should be wary about entering into sensitive political discussions with people you do not know well.
Serbia was the largest constituent republic of the former Yugoslavia. Between 1990 and the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, civil war and the 1999 NATO bombing, followed by economic sanctions, reduced its economy to less than half its previous output. Much of its infrastructure and industrial capacity was destroyed.
Since 2000, the economic outlook has been brighter and the lifting of sanctions has restored access to international markets and capital. GDP growth for 2007 was estimated at 7.5% but growth has stalled since the start of the financial crisis. Serbia continues to suffer from high unemployment (26% in 2012) but the country has adopted trade agreements with the neighbouring EU, Turkey and Russia. Pending a resolution to the thorny issue of Kosovo’s independence, Serbia has expressed a desire to follow in the footsteps of Croatia and join the European Union, with accession talks set to take place in early 2014.
US$37.4 billion (2012).
Iron and steel, clothes, rubber, wheat, fruit and vegetables.
Oil, natural gas, fuels and lubricants, electrical machines, chemicals.
Main trading partners
Italy, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Germany and Russia.
Keeping in Touch in Serbia
There are public payphones in Serbia which accept telephone cards rather than cash. These can be bought at any newsagent or post office. Pre-paid Halo telephone cards costing 200-300 dinars allow both local and international calls, whilst a Halo Plus card allows only international calls at a cheaper rate.
Roaming agreements exist with most international mobile phone companies. Double-check with your phone company as to whether Serbia is included as part of Europe for data purposes, as some companies classify it outside of the European zone and will charge higher roaming rates. Coverage is good in the north and in Belgrade, but can be patchier in the south.
Internet cafés can be found in the main urban centres. Most hotels and self-catering apartments will have Wi-Fi but it may not be wholly reliable. In Belgrade, free Wi-Fi hotspots can be found within proximity of most Nestle ice-cream stands. You do not have to buy an ice-cream to use their Wi-Fi.
The Serbian media is reasonably free and offers differing perspectives that vary from sensationalist to serious along with a spectrum of political stances that range from liberal to nationalist. The main daily newspapers are Vecernje Novosti, Glas Javnosti and Kurir.
The Serbian postal service is reasonably good, with yellow post boxes found in most areas. Post to Western Europe takes from 3-4 days for delivery. Post to the USA and Australia is estimated to take from 5-9 days.Post Office hours
Mon-Fri 0800-1900, Sat 0800-1300.