“This was an election year for Serbia, and as a result we had a technical government for a very long time,” says Djordje Novcic, Partner at Jankovic Popovic Mitic in Belgrade, referring to the four-month-long period of deliberation before the new government was finally formed on October 28.
There has not been much legislative activity otherwise, Novcic reports, which he attributes to the slowness of the political process. Still, he says, draft laws reorganizing the judiciary and the administrative sector are expected to be voted on by the end of the year.
In addition to its effects on the legislature, the systematic sluggishness also affected the economy. “Foreign investors have become more cautious about investing in the country,” Novcic says, though he notes that the government is trying to make amends in that department. To that effect, he says, “Serbia signed the Washington Agreement at the end of October, as a result of which the US International Development Finance Corporation opened its office in Belgrade.” The arrival of a new investor was welcome, Novcic reports, adding that the IDFC is expected to invest millions of dollars in the years to come.
The pandemic and the elections notwithstanding, the economic outlook for Serbia is not grim, in Novcic’s opinion. “Our economy did not take a huge hit, and we can see large infrastructure projects are still under way,” he says, pointing to the construction of the Belgrade-Sarajevo highway and the Turkish Stream gas pipeline. “It is also very clear that the pandemic gave rise to the IT, pharmaceuticals, and online retail sectors,” he says.
Another area on the rise in Serbia is arbitration, Novic reports. “There has been a growing interest of business entities to resolve disputes through arbitration,” he says, due in part to the “adaptability of arbitration tribunals, which were able to continue their proceedings via the implementation of new technologies even during the state of emergency.”
Novcic sounds optimistic even about the industry which suffered the most at the hands of the pandemic – tourism — and says that he believes it will reemerge with help from the government. Ultimately, though, Novcic says that “the full effect of the pandemic remains to be seen in the coming years.”