More about Serbia


Service-based upper middle income economy

The economy of Serbia is a service-based upper middle income economy with the tertiary sector accounting for two-thirds of total gross domestic product (GDP) and functions on the principles of the free market. Nominal GDP in 2017 amounted $39.366 billion, which is $5,599 per capita, while the GDP based on purchasing power parity (PPP) stood at $106.6022 billion, which is $15,163 per capita.

The strongest sectors in the economy are energy, automotive industry, machinery, mining, and agriculture. Primary industrial exports are automobiles, iron and steel, rubber, clothes, wheat, fruit and vegetables, nonferrous metals, electric appliances, metal products, weapons and ammunition. Trade plays a major role in Serbian economic output. The main trading partners are Germany, Italy, Russia, China, and neighboring Balkan countries.

Belgrade is the capital and economic heart of Serbia and home to most major Serbian and international companies operating in the country, as well as the National Bank of Serbia and the Belgrade Stock Exchange. Novi Sad is the second largest city and the most important economic hub after Belgrade.

Historical preview

In the late 1980s, at the beginning of the process of economic transition from a planned economy to a market economy, Serbia’s economy had a favorable position in compare to the most of the Eastern Bloc countries, but it was gravely impacted by the Yugoslav Wars and UN sanctions and trade embargo during the 1990s. At the same time, country has experienced a serious “brain drain”. After the overthrow of Slobodan Milošević in 2000, Serbia went through a process of transition to a market-based economy and experienced fast economic growth. During that period Serbian economy grew at 4-5% annually, average wages quadrupled, and economic and social opportunities dramatically improved. During the Great Recession, Serbia marked a decline in its economy of 3.1% in 2009, and following years of economic stagnation pre-crisis level of GDP was reached only in 2016.

Since 2014, country is in the process of accession negotiations to join the European Union.

External trade

Serbia has a wide-range free trade agreements with foreign countries and trading blocs.

Serbia signed free trade agreement with the European Union in 2008 enabling exports of all products originating from Serbia without customs and other fees. For a limited number of products (baby beef, sugar, and wine), annual import quotas remain in effect. As of 2016, the EU countries were the largest trading partners of Serbia with 64.4% of country’s total foreign trade.

Serbia signed the CEFTA enabling exports of all products originating from Serbia without customs and other fees to the neighbouring countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro and Kosovo. In 2016, the CEFTA countries were the second largest trading partners of Serbia.

Serbia signed a free-trade agreement with EFTA members (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland) in 2009.

Serbia free-trade agreement with Russia was implemented since 2000; for a limited number of products, annual import quotas remain in effect. Free-trade agreement with Turkey has been implemented since 2010. Trade with the United States is pursued under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) with a preferential duty-free entry for approximately 4,650 products.

Foreign direct investments

Attracting foreign direct investments is set as a priority for the government of Serbia, which provides both financial and tax incentives to companies willing to invest. Leading investor nations in Serbia include: Italy, United States, Austria, Norway, Greece and Germany. Majority of FDI went into automotive industry, food and beverage industry, machinery, textile and clothing.

Blue-chip corporations making investments in manufacturing sector include: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Bosch, Michelin, Siemens, Panasonic, Continental, Schneider Electric, Philip Morris, LafargeHolcim, Pepsico, Coca-Cola, Carlsberg and others. In the energy sector, Russian energy giants, Lukoil and Gazprom have made large investments. The financial sector has attracted investments from Italian banks such as Intesa Sanpaolo and UniCredit, Crédit Agricole and Société Générale from France, Erste Bank and Raiffeisen from Austria, among others. ICT and telecommunications saw investments from likes such as Microsoft, Telenor, Telekom Austria, and NCR. In retail sector, biggest foreign investors are Dutch Ahold Delhaize, German Metro AG and Schwarz Gruppe, Greek Veropoulos, and Croatian Agrokor.

Economy Sectors

The industry is the economy sector which was hardest hit by the UN sanctions and trade embargo and NATO bombing during the 1990s and transition to market economy during the 2000s. The industrial output saw dramatic downsizing: in 2013 it was expected to be only a half of that of 1989. Main industrial sectors include: automotive, mining, non-ferrous metals, food-processing, electronics, pharmaceuticals, clothes.

Automotive industry (with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles as a forebearer) is dominated by cluster located in Kragujevac and its vicinity, and contributes to export with about $2 billion. Serbia’s mining industry is comparatively strong: Serbia is the 18th largest producer of coal (7th in the Europe) extracted from large deposits in Kolubara and Kostolac basins; it is also world’s 23rd largest (3rd in Europe) producer of copper which is extracted by RTB Bor, a large domestic copper mining company; significant gold extraction is developed around Majdanpek. Serbia notably manufactures intel smartphones named Tesla smartphones.

Food industry is well known both regionally and internationally and is one of the strong points of the economy. Some of the international brand-names established production in Serbia: PepsiCo and Nestlé in food-processing sector; Coca-Cola (Belgrade), Heineken (Novi Sad) and Carlsberg (Bačka Palanka) in beverage industry; Nordzucker in sugar industry. Serbia’s electronics industry had its peak in the 1980s and the industry today is only a third of what it was back then, but has witnessed a something of revival in last decade with investments of companies such as Siemens (wind turbines) in Subotica, Panasonic (lighting devices) in Svilajnac, and Gorenje (electrical home appliances) in Valjevo. The pharmaceutical industry in Serbia comprises a dozen manufacturers of generic drugs, of which Hemofarm in Vršac and Galenika in Belgrade, account for 80% of production volume. Domestic production meets over 60% of the local demand.

The energy sector is one of the largest and most important sectors to the country’s economy. Serbia is a net exporter of electricity and importer of key fuels (such as oil and gas).

Serbia has an abundance of coal, and significant reserves of oil and gas. Serbia’s proven reserves of 5.5 billion tons of coal lignite are the 5th largest in the world (second in Europe, after Germany). Coal is found in two large deposits: Kolubara (4 billion tons of reserves) and Kostolac (1.5 billion tons). Despite being small on a world scale, Serbia’s oil and gas resources (77.4 million tons of oil equivalent and 48.1 billion cubic meters, respectively) have a certain regional importance since they are largest in the region of former Yugoslavia as well as the Balkans (excluding Romania). Almost 90% of the discovered oil and gas are to be found in Banat and those oil and gas fields are by size among the largest in the Pannonian basin but are average on a European scale.

The production of electricity in 2015 in Serbia was 36.5 billion kilowatt-hours (KWh), while the final electricity consumption amounted to 35.5 billion kilowatt-hours (KWh). Most of the electricity produced comes from thermal-power plants (72.7% of all electricity) and to a lesser degree from hydroelectric-power plants (27.3%). There are 6 lignite-operated thermal-power plants with an installed power of 3,936 MW; largest of which are 1,502 MW-Nikola Tesla 1 and 1,160 MW-Nikola Tesla 2, both in Obrenovac. Total installed power of 9 hydroelectric-power plants is 2,831 MW, largest of which is Đerdap 1 with capacity of 1,026 MW. In addition to this, there are mazute and gas-operated thermal-power plants with an installed power of 353 MW. The entire production of electricity is concentrated in Elektroprivreda Srbije (EPS), public electric-utility power company.

The current oil production in Serbia amounts to over 1.1 million tons of oil equivalent and satisfies some 43% of country’s needs while the rest is imported. National petrol company, Naftna Industrija Srbije (NIS), was acquired in 2008 by Gazprom Neft. The company has completed $700 million modernisation of oil-refinery in Pančevo (capacity of 4.8 million tons) and is currently in the midst of converting oil refinery in Novi Sad into lubricants-only refinery. It also operates network of 334 filling stations in Serbia (74% of domestic market) and additional 36 stations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 31 in Bulgaria, and 28 in Romania. There are 155 kilometers of crude oil pipelines connecting Pančevo and Novi Sad refineries as a part of trans-national Adria oil pipeline.

Serbia is heavily dependent on foreign sources of natural gas, with only 17% coming from domestic production (totalling 491 million cubic meters in 2012) and the rest is imported, mainly from Russia (via gas pipelines that run through Ukraine and Hungary). Srbijagas, public gas company, operates the natural gas transportation system which comprise 3,177 kilometers of trunk and regional natural gas pipelines and a 450 million cubic meter underground gas storage facility at Banatski Dvor.

Serbia has very favourable natural conditions (land and climate) for varied agricultural production. It has 5,056,000 ha of agricultural land (0.7 ha per capita), out of which 3,294,000 ha is arable land (0.45 ha per capita). In 2016, Serbia exported agricultural and food products worth $3.2 billion, and the export-import ratio was 178%. Agricultural exports constitute more than one-fifth of all Serbia’s sales on the world market. Serbia is one of the largest provider of frozen fruit to the EU (largest to the French market, and 2nd largest to the German market). Agricultural production is most prominent in Vojvodina on the fertile Pannonian Plain. Other agricultural regions include Mačva, Pomoravlje, Tamnava, Rasina, and Jablanica. In the structure of the agricultural production 70% is from the crop field production, and 30% is from the livestock production. Serbia is world’s second largest producer of plums (582,485 tons; second to China), second largest of raspberries (89,602 tons, second to Poland), it is also significant producer of maize (6.48 million tons, ranked 32nd in the world) and wheat (2.07 million tons, ranked 35th in the world). Other important agricultural products are: sunflower, sugar beet, soybean, potato, apple, pork meat, beef, poultry and dairy.

There are 56,000 ha of vineyards in Serbia, producing about 230 million litres of wine annually. Most famous viticulture regions are located in Vojvodina and Šumadija.

Serbia has a strategic transportation location since the country’s backbone, Morava Valley, represents by far the easiest route of land travel from continental Europe to Asia Minor and the Near East.

Serbian road network carries the bulk of traffic in the country. Total length of roads is 45,419 km of which 782 km are “class-Ia state roads” (i.e. motorways); 4,481 km are “class-Ib state roads” (national roads); 10,941 km are “class-II state roads” (regional roads) and 23,780 km are “municipal roads”. The road network, except for the most of class-Ia roads, are of comparatively lower quality to the Western European standards because of lack of financial resources for their maintenance in the last 20 years.

There are currently 124 kilometers of highways under construction: two sections 34 km-long of the A1 motorway (from south of Leskovac to Bujanovac), 67 km-long segment of A2 (between Belgrade and Ljig), and 23 kilometers on the A4 (east of Niš to the Bulgarian border). Coach transport is very extensive: almost every place in the country is connected by bus, from largest cities to the villages; in addition there are international routes (mainly to countries of Western Europe with large Serb diaspora). Routes, both domestic and international, are served by more than 100 bus companies, biggest of which are Lasta and Niš-Ekspres. As of 2015, there were 1,833,215 registered passenger cars or 1 passenger car per 3.8 inhabitants.

Serbia has 3,819 kilometers of rail tracks, of which 1,279 are electrified and 283 kilometers are double-track railroad. The major rail hub is Belgrade (and to a lesser degree Niš), while the most important railroads include: Belgrade–Bar (Montenegro), Belgrade–Šid–Zagreb (Croatia)/Belgrade–Niš–Sofia (Bulgaria) (part of Pan-European Corridor X), Belgrade–Subotica–Budapest (Hungary) and Niš–Thessaloniki (Greece). Although still a major mode of freight transportation, railroads face increasing problems with the maintenance of the infrastructure and lowering speeds. All rail services are operated by public rail company, Serbian Railways. There are only two airports with regular passenger traffic: Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport served almost 5 million passengers in 2016, and is a hub of flagship carrier Air Serbia which carried some 2.6 million passengers in 2016. Niš Constantine the Great Airport is mainly catering low-cost airlines.

Hedging & Refinancing Options

According to the Country Risk Classification published by the OECD, hedging and refinancing options are available.

*This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License and Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported (Abbreviated Version). The article is based on the article Economy of Serbia from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia . In Wikipedia a list of authors is available.

Heinz Stoppe

Heinz Stoppe
+49 2361 99 188 38

Hidir Demir

Hidir Demir
+49 2361 99 188 38