Serbia changed from a labour-intensive economy to one based on “innovation and advanced technology”, the country’s Prime Minister, Ana Brnabic, said during a panel discussion at the Kopaonic Business Forum.

According to Brnabic, the services and ICT sectors have registered significant growth, with the largest share of investments in Serbia coming from the EU. However, the government in Belgrade noted that a growing number of companies from Asia have, in the past year, chosen to invest in the western Balkan country.

“Last year, 30% of foreign investments came from China, while Serbia’s relations with Japan in terms of investment, as well as in the political aspect are getting better and better,” Brnabic added.

According to GlobalData’s FDI Database, China remains Serbia’s third-largest source market in terms of greenfield investment projects. Last year, in October, state-owned PowerChina announced plans to build a 150MW power plant in Bela Palanka.

At the same time, Haitian International, a Chinese manufacturer of plastic injection molding machines, is expected to invest $100m (719.92m yuan) to open a new 250,000m² production facility in Ruma, 62km north-west of Belgrade.

“Serbia’s inward investment performance has been impressive. It received more greenfield investments compared with Bulgaria since 2019,” said Glenn Barklie, head of FDI Services at GlobalData. Bulgaria is a member of the EU, while Serbia is not.

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“Serbia’s leading FDI sector in 2023 by number of projects was the renewable energy sector. Companies announced projects in both wind and solar subsectors,” Barklie added.

Overall, according to UNCTAD’s World Investment Report 2023, FDI inflows stood at $4.65bn in 2022, up from $4.59bn in 2021 and above pre-Covid levels.