Balkan countries offer numerous business opportunities for Finnish companies. Good geographical location and European business culture are basic advantages of this region. The Balkan countries to be introduced at this seminar include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. Combined, these countries represent a market of around 20 million people.
Excluding Croatia, already an EU member state, the countries share the goal of becoming EU members in the near future and have the EU accession very high on their agendas. Balkan countries have become an increasingly interesting market for EU goods and services and the whole market is gradually becoming part of EU value chains. All (non-EU) Balkan countries have a free trade agreement with the European Union, which makes the level of economic integration with the EU already very high and which creates pre-conditions for successful trade with Finnish companies.
Leaving the turbulent past behind, the Balkan countries have gone through a tremendous economic transformation, demonstrating great potential and opportunities for growth. In 2017, the GDP growth rates exceeded EU average, and they are expected to increase in the following years, driven by private consumption and increasing investment and exports.
Most of the business opportunities in the Balkan countries are related to the environment (including waste management, wastewater treatment and air pollution), energy, agribusiness and food processing sectors, in addition to the health and services sector, especially tourism industry. The new EU Strategy for the Western Balkans (announced in February) directs more focus on this region. The EU targets are, for instance, transport and energy connectivity and digital agenda. Concrete actions are foreseen between 2018 and 2020. Finnish education system, cleantech, innovations and IT industry are promoted intensively among local stakeholders, thus making the market entry of Finnish companies operating in these sectors easier.
There is a steady inflow of foreign direct investments to the Balkan countries, based on the skilled and price competitive labor force, competitive operating costs and friendly business environment. Companies from the EU are utilizing numerous outsourcing opportunities mainly within IT, metal processing, automotive and textile industries.
Many Finnish companies have not found their way to the Balkans, yet. This seminar is a great opportunity to get a closer look at the business and investment opportunities in the Balkan region, as well as to learn about financial support and services that Team Finland network offers to Finnish companies interested to do business in this region.
Save the date: Explore the Balkans – Business Opportunities Seminar in Helsinki on 27 March, 2018.
Written by Igor Madzarevic, Economic Advisor, Embassy of Finland in Belgrade