Last updated in May 2013
A keystone of German and European policy towards Serbia is providing support for political and economic reform with a view to stabilizing the country and moving it closer to the EU.
Following the autumn 2000 elections that ousted Slobodan Milošević from power, German assistance was also provided through numerous projects under the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe. After the Stability Pact was terminated in 2008, it was replaced by direct funding from the German federal budget, the Federal Foreign Office supporting projects that are generally conducted by Serbian non-governmental organizations. The focus is on legal and administrative reform, democratization and strengthening civil society. Minorities and human rights issues are another important focus of project cooperation.
EU support for Serbia is mainly provided through the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance, from which nearly EUR 1.4 billion was made available to Serbia from 2007 to 2013. Serbia also benefits from the EU’s regional and transnational programmes. Germany’s share of EU expenditure on such programmes amounts to nearly 20 per cent.
There are also close ties between Germany and Serbia owing to the large number of Serbs residing permanently in Germany (nearly 400,000) as well as former guest workers who were employed for many years in Germany and often have a good command of German.
Serbia and Germany have different positions on the issue of an independent Kosovo, which is recognized by Germany but not by Serbia.
Economic relations and development cooperation
Germany ranks first among Serbia’s principal economic partners, ahead of Italy and Russia. German companies such as STADA, METRO, Henkel, Siemens and Messer have made major investments in Serbia. There is a German Business Association in Belgrade as well as a local representative of the German business promotion agency Germany Trade & Invest (gtai).
Since Development Cooperation (DC) with Serbia began in 2000, substantial progress has been made. The population has benefited from the modernization of important sections of the public utility infrastructure. The local economy has been strengthened through programmes to promote small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Vocational training has been modernized and investment conditions have been improved by the implementation of legal reforms.
So far, Germany has made available more than EUR 1.3 billion for bilateral development cooperation with Serbia, making Germany the country’s largest bilateral donor alongside the United States. The funding is designed to
- support Serbia’s efforts to move closer to the EU
- promote a market economy and encourage democratic and ecologically sustainable development in Serbia
- strengthen regional cross-border cooperation
Cooperation focuses on the following priority areas:
- promoting public infrastructure, in particular the environmentally friendly and efficient supply of energy and water
- promoting economic development, including strengthening the financial sector, supporting legal reform and modernizing vocational training
- promoting the development of municipalities
- promoting youth welfare, especially through youth exchange
Most of the German-funded development cooperation projects in Serbia are implemented by the KfW Development Bank (http://www.kfw.de), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, (GIZ, http://www.giz.de) and the Centrum für internationale Migration und Entwicklung (CIM, http://www.cimonline.de).
Since the political changes ushered in on 5 October 2000, the country’s cultural life has changed significantly, and this has also had a positive impact on cultural cooperation with Germany. The Goethe Institute in Belgrade offers an extensive and highly attractive programme, with well-attended events such as exhibitions, lectures, concerts and theatre productions. German artists and performers are frequent guests at Belgrade’s theatre, music and film festivals. Another important element of cooperation is academic and scientific exchange. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has three lecturers working in Serbia, and since 2008 the DAAD has stepped up its activities by launching its Special Programme for Serbia. In October 2008, the DAAD opened its own Information Centre there. Scholarship and exchange programmes meet with keen interest. Some 180 children and young people from Serbia, Germany and other countries are taught at the German School in Belgrade. In summer 2012, students were able to take the German university entrance examination (Abitur) at the German School for the first time.