The Minister of Economy and Entrepreneurship of the Republic of Srpska, Vjekoslav Petričević, held a meeting today via video link with the Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations of BiH, Staša Košarac, on the establishment and functioning of free zones, whose efficient operation should contribute to improving the business environment.

Petričević emphasized that the Republic of Srpska is trying to apply the experiences of neighboring countries in the functioning of free zones that exist in Macedonia, Croatia and Slovenia, however Serbia has developed its free zones best of all the countries in the region.

“Serbia has 14 free zones in which more than 200 companies operate, and most of them are companies from the automotive, metallurgical and textile industries. The most successful free zones in Serbia, in terms of exports and number of employees, are Kragujevac, Subotica, Pirot, Priboj and Užice, whose experiences we want to apply in the Republic of Srpska as well,” he pointed out.

Minister Petričević explained that they discussed a way to make free zones more competitive, especially from the aspect of Serbia’s experience as an example of good practice which showed that the exemption from VAT on energy greatly contributed to more efficient functioning of free zones and added that it was agreed that work will be done on harmonizing the proposed solution in this direction.

Petričević informed Minister Košarac about the existence of interest in the formation of free zones on the territory of several municipalities and cities in the Republic of Srpska, and that Trebinje, Gradiška and Bijeljina lead in the potentials.

During the talks, Minister Košarac said that free zones are a development opportunity for the domestic economy and a driver of overall economic development, and that their establishment would mean new investments, new jobs, as well as an increased volume of foreign trade.

On this occasion, Košarac informed Petričević about the talks he had with foreign investors about potential locations for the establishment of free zones, and during the meeting, the ministers welcomed the efforts of the Republic of Srpska institutions to adopt and implement the new Law on Free Zones.

Petričević and Košarac assessed that the Law on Free Zones, which was adopted by the National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska this year, better specifies the procedure for establishing and launching free zones, as well as defining provisions within free zones in which businesses would have certain benefits.

The parties expressed their commitment to speed up activities on the formation of free zones, in order to facilitate business for the business community, and especially for export-oriented companies.