Serbia is no longer on the FATF List of Countries that have been identified as having strategic AML deficiencies
Latest FATF Statement - 21 June 2019
The FATF welcomes Serbia’s significant progress in improving its AML/CFT regime and notes that Serbia has strengthened the effectiveness of its AML/CFT regime and addressed related technical deficiencies to meet the commitments in its action plan regarding the strategic deficiencies that the FATF identified in February 2018. Serbia is therefore no longer subject to the FATF’s monitoring process under its ongoing global AML/CFT compliance process. Serbia will continue to work with MONEYVAL to improve further its AML/CFT regime.
Compliance with FATF Recommendations
The latest follow up to the Mutual Evaluation Report relating to the implementation of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing standards in Serbia was undertaken in 2019. According to that Evaluation, Serbia was deemed Compliant for 4 and Largely Compliant for 29 of the FATF 40 Recommendations. It was also deemed Highly Effective for 0 and Substantially Effective for 0 with regard to the 11 areas of Effectiveness of its AML/CFT Regime.
US Department of State Money Laundering assessment (INCSR)
Serbia is categorised by the US State Department as a Country/Jurisdiction of Primary Concern in respect of Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.
In 2018, Serbia made a high-level political commitment to address noted deficiencies and has subsequently made significant progress in bringing its AML regime in line with international standards, resulting in an increased number of related investigations and convictions. With assistance from donors, Serbia updated its national risk assessment (NRA) to better identify current threats or crimes associated with money laundering and methods used to launder money and finance terrorism.
UN / EU Sanctions
This regime includes a prohibition to satisfy claims in relation to contracts and transactions the performance of which was affected by measures imposed by the Security Council pursuant to Resolution 757(1992) and related resolutions. The same restrictive measures regime applies in relation to Montenegro.
Measures - Prohibition to satisfy claims
It shall be prohibited to satisfy or to take any step to satisfy a claim made by any person or body referred to in paragraph 9 of United Nations Security Council Resolution 757(1992)
BRIBERY & CORRUPTION
Rating (100-Good / 0-Bad)
Transparency International Corruption Index 39
World Governance Indicator – Control of Corruption 43
Corruption is a problem in Serbia, and the prevalence of bribery exceeds the regional average. Foreign companies should be aware of conflicts of interest within Serbia’s state institutions. Government procurement, natural resource extraction, and the judiciary are especially vulnerable to fraud and embezzlement. The Serbian Criminal Code and the Anti Corruption Agency Act criminalize public and private sector corruption, attempted corruption, extortion, abuse of office, bribing a foreign public official, money laundering and active and passive bribery. Despite strong political impetus to fight corruption, enforcement and criminal prosecutions are largely ineffective. Even though facilitation payments and gifts are criminalized by law, they are common practice in the public and private sectors. For further information - GAN Integrity Business Anti-Corruption Portal
Serbia has a transitional economy largely dominated by market forces, but the state sector remains significant in certain areas and many institutional reforms are needed. The economy relies on manufacturing and exports, driven largely by foreign investment. MILOSEVIC-era mismanagement of the economy, an extended period of international economic sanctions, civil war, and the damage to Yugoslavia's infrastructure and industry during the NATO airstrikes in 1999 left the economy only half the size it was in 1990.
After former Federal Yugoslav President MILOSEVIC was ousted in September 2000, the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition government implemented stabilization measures and embarked on a market reform program. Serbia renewed its membership in the IMF in December 2000 and re-joined the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Serbia has made progress in trade liberalization and enterprise restructuring and privatization, but many large enterprises - including the power utilities, telecommunications company, natural gas company, and others - remain state-owned. Serbia has made some progress towards EU membership, signing a Stabilization and Association Agreement with Brussels in May 2008, and with full implementation of the Interim Trade Agreement with the EU in February 2010, gained candidate status in March 2012. In January 2014, Serbia's EU accession talks officially opened. Serbia's negotiations with the WTO are advanced, with the country's complete ban on the trade and cultivation of agricultural biotechnology products representing the primary remaining obstacle to accession. Serbia's program with the IMF was frozen in early 2012 because the 2012 budget approved by parliament deviated from the program parameters; the arrangement is now void. In late 2014, Serbia and the IMF announced a tentative plan for a precautionary loan worth approximately $1 billion, but the government will be challenged to implement IMF-mandated reforms that will target social spending and the large public sector.
High unemployment and stagnant household incomes are ongoing political and economic problems. Structural economic reforms needed to ensure the country's long-term prosperity have largely stalled since the onset of the global financial crisis. Growing budget deficits constrain the use of stimulus efforts to revive the economy and contribute to growing concern of a public debt crisis, given that Serbia's total public debt as a share of GDP more than doubled between 2008 and 2014. Serbia's concerns about inflation and exchange-rate stability preclude the use of expansionary monetary policy. During 2014 the SNS party addressed issues with the fiscal deficit, state-owned enterprises, the labour market, construction permits, bankruptcy and privatization, and other areas.
Major challenges ahead include: high unemployment rates and the need for job creation; high government expenditures for salaries, pensions, healthcare, and unemployment benefits; a growing need for new government borrowing; rising public and private foreign debt; attracting new foreign direct investment; and getting the IMF program back on track. Other serious longer-term challenges include an inefficient judicial system, high levels of corruption, and an aging population. Factors favourable to Serbia's economic growth include its strategic location, a relatively inexpensive and skilled labour force, and free trade agreements with the EU, Russia, Turkey, and countries that are members of the Central European Free Trade Agreement.
Agriculture - products:
wheat, maize, sunflower, sugar beets, grapes/wine, fruits (raspberries, apples, sour cherries), vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes), beef, pork, and meat products, milk and dairy products
automobiles, base metals, furniture, food processing, machinery, chemicals, sugar, tires, clothes, pharmaceuticals
Exports - commodities:
iron and steel, rubber, clothes, wheat, fruit and vegetables, nonferrous metals, electric appliances, metal products, weapons and ammunition, automobiles
Exports - partners:
Italy 16.2%, Germany 12.6%, Bosnia and Herzegovina 8.7%, Romania 5.6%, Russia 5.4% (2015)
Imports - commodities:
machinery and transport equipment, fuels and lubricants, manufactured goods, chemicals, food and live animals, raw materials
Imports - partners:
Germany 12.4%, Italy 10.6%, Russia 9.6%, China 8.5%, Hungary 4.8%, Poland 4.2% (2015)
Investment Climate - US State Department
Following the country’s recent political progress, Serbia’s investment climate is improving slowly. In April 2013, the country signed an agreement to normalize relations with neighboring Kosovo, and in December 2015, it opened the first two chapters of the European Union (EU) acquis. These developments represent an increase in political stability and present a real opportunity for the country to attract new foreign direct investment (FDI), especially as the government aligns domestic legislation with EU standards and implements measures to improve the business environment.
The Serbian government continues to make investment a priority, especially foreign investment. U.S. investors report positively on doing business in Serbia; they highlight the country’s strategic geographic location, well-educated and affordable labor force, and free trade agreements with key markets (including Russia, Turkey, and the EU) as particular positives. Although there are challenges with bureaucratic delays and corruption, generally U.S. investors enjoy a level playing field with their Serbian and foreign competitors. The U.S. Embassy in Belgrade assists investors when issues arise and Serbian leaders are responsive to our concerns.
The Serbian government has identified economic growth as its top concern and has promised the government will resolve a number of long-standing issues related to the country’s slow transition to market-driven capitalism. On the legislative front, the government has passed labor, construction permitting, inspections, public procurement, and privatization laws that will help develop a better business environment. The government is resolving – either through bankruptcy or privatization – more than 500 state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and is working on reforms to decrease Serbia’s bloated public sector. Thousands of government employees may face layoffs as the government implements these reforms. While this will be painful for the Serbian economy, the government recognizes the need to cut spending while also improving the investment climate to attract new private sector companies and offset the public sector job losses.
The government signed a three-year, EUR 1.2 billion Precautionary Stand-By Arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Serbia has met all of its fiscal targets under the IMF agreement, including cutting the budget deficit from 6.6 percent of GDP in 2014 to 3.7 percent in 2015; however, the biggest challenge for the government is public sector reform.
If the government delivers on promised reforms, investors could find significant business opportunities over the next few years. The main sectors poised for growth include agriculture, information and communications technology (ICT), health, and mining. Although the government has passed major reforms, investors should monitor the government’s implementation of the reforms, which will signal the state’s seriousness about opening the economy to private investment. Similarly, investors should follow the development of the new investment incentive program. With an already adequate climate for foreign investors, there is room for substantial progress in the near term as economic reform remains at the top of the government’s agenda.
The National Bank of Serbia (NBS) and the Development Agency of Serbia (RAS) track FDI inflows. According to RAS, since 2000, Serbia has attracted USD 29.1 billion in gross FDI. The peak year for investments was 2006 when Serbia attracted USD 5.6 billion, followed by a gradual slowdown in FDI inflow to USD 1.4 billion in 2013. Sectors that attracted the largest amount of FDI included finance, manufacturing, wholesale and retail, real estate, and transport (http://ras.gov.rs/invest-in-serbia/why-serbia/join-the-pool-of-the-successful).
A number of well-known multinational companies completed major investments in Serbia between 2011 and 2015: Fiat and Benetton (Italy), Siemens (Germany), Delhaize (Belgium), Yura (South Korea), and Cooper Standard, Lear, KKR, and NCR (United States). Foreign investors cite Serbia’s strategic location, relatively inexpensive and skilled labor force, free trade agreements with key markets (the EU, Russia, Turkey, and others), and government support mechanisms for investors as the prime incentives for opening businesses in the country.
Other Useful Links