InFocus Spain / DC #93 / March 2024

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H.E. Juan José Sanz Aparicio Ambassador of the Kingdom of Spain to Serbia


José López Thomás de Carranza Head Economic and Commercial Counselor at the Embassy of the Kingdom of Spain to Serbia



Josep María de Sagarra Àngel Head of the Cervantes Institute in Belgrade

MARCH 2024

PUBLISHER Color Media Communication



The Embassy of the Kingdom of Spain in Belgrade



Editor in Chief

Project manager Andrej Klemenčić

Prepress Studio Lončar INFOCUS SPAIN MARCH 2024

Copyright 2016-2024

© Color Media Communications


Amixture of freedom and restrictions, bars on windows and wideopen hearts, the basic and the beautiful, Spain is a conundrum of sorts, an island, severed by the currents of history from the Western world and pushed back by those same waters to the playground of modernity which the Spain of today is conquering with giant steps.

It is tempting to think of Spain as a script of a Pedro Almódovar film, but the reality is quite different.

The imprint of centuries of scarcity following the Spanish Golden Age and the memory of the dictatorship in which much of today’s population was born, still occupy a significant space in the Spanish soul. On the other hand, Spain is a pioneer when it comes to LGBTQ and worker’s rights and is a country that offers its citizens such a level of protection and efficiency of public service that it could rightfully be called the Switzerland of the South. In post-Brexit Europe, Spain is growing into an industrial, agricultural, and renewable energy superpower, a truly global player and one of the backbones of the EU DNA.

And yet, despite the grand beauty of Seville that almost decomposes you with its sheer power as you walk down its April, orange-scented streets, despite the meticulously crafted details of the Toledo train station interior leaving you perplexed, despite the rugged contrast of cosmopolitanism and localism living side by side in Barcelona, and despite the country’s 50 UNESCO World Heritage sites being reflected in the green of the best olive oil in this and the neighboring galaxies, Spain’s main distinction is an ever-present sensation of love blossoming from its residents with a most beautiful constancy.

In an increasingly individualist world, Spain is a grand reminder that a Western, well-functioning capitalist country can walk hand in hand with a social order in which empathy reigns supreme.

Andrej Klemenčič



H.E. Juan José Sanz Aparicio Ambassador of the Kingdom of Spain to Serbia


José López Thomás de Carranza

Head Economic and Commercial Counselor at the Embassy of the Kingdom of Spain in Belgrade


Josep María de Sagarra Àngel

Head of the Cervantes Institute in Belgrade



One cannot know or understand the history of Europe in the 20th century if one does not know and understand the history of the Balkans and Serbia
H.E. JUAN JOSÉ SANZ APARICIO Ambassador of the Kingdom of Spain to Serbia

Alawyer by profession and a diplomat by career that spans over 30 years and two continents,, H.E. Juan José Sanz Aparicio, the new Ambassador of the Kingdom of Spain to Serbia brings to the table more than a decade of experience in delicate post-Brexit Gibraltar negotiations between Spain and the UK. His Andalusian spirit is already finding a welcome home in Belgrade, where Mr. Sanz Aparicio imbues himself with the buzz of the people, and with genuine interest in discovering why this part of the world holds keys to many a door of recent history.

What made you opt for Serbia as your post?

I had no doubt whatsoever when I saw that the post was available. I have to admit that I had never been to Belgrade or Serbia, before. However, for two years of my work in Madrid, my assignments were related to the Balkans. I then discovered this fascinating region, and in it a fascinating country, Serbia. I also realized that one cannot know or understand the history of Europe in the 20th century if one does not know and understand the history of the Balkans and Serbia. Then I heard stories from some of my friends both from within and outside the diplomatic corps who spoke wonders about the country and Belgrade. So, when I saw the post was vacant, I applied. It was the only post I applied for; I may add. Once the vacancies are announced, we may apply for up to five of them, and I only asked for Belgrade. So, luckily, the minister decided to nominate me, and I am very content and consider myself very lucky to be here.

There is a point of encounter between the Spanish and Serbian politics, which connects the two countries most closely. Do you believe that connection has given a sufficient boost to what seems to be a significant surge in the economic collaboration between Spain and Serbia?



Yes and no. We indeed have an extraordinary political relationship that only improved with the 2022 visit of President Vučić to Spain and the visit of Prime Minister Sanchez to Serbia. Spain supports Serbia in its defense of territorial integrity and sovereignty. However, our economic and cultural exchange, is, although good, still well below the level of our political relations. One of my main missions here is therefore going to be maintaining the level of political relations and even improving it, if possible, but most of all, I plan to do my best to improve the business collaboration by bringing Spanish investments and more Spanish companies to Serbia. For this, the 2027 Expo offers us a fantastic opportunity. In the area of culture, the Instituto Cervantes has been here for 20 years, and now we would like for our cultural presence to be noticed not only in Belgrade but also in other parts of the country. I have been here only for a couple of months, but I am fully aware that Spanish culture is very appealing to people in Serbia.


As you mentioned, you arrived very recently. What are your first impressions of Belgrade?

Very positive. I had read a lot about Serbia, and, as I said I spoke to many of my friends who were working and living here, but the reality has surpassed all my expectations. I found a very dynamic country, with a well-functioning economy and an intense political life which has its positive and negative aspects, like in all countries, and there is also a growing, flourishing civil society. I have heard a lot of people say that there has been, since 2020, a significant increase in the visibility of the role that the civil society wants to play. The Balkans and this region are fundamental geostrategic points, and they will be even more so in the coming years. It will be interesting to see what the Serbian society chooses in the future: to look more towards the West or the East.

About this East-West dichotomy; before, facing westward seemed to be the only way to go. However, it appears that this trend may have started taking a reverse turn. How do you perceive Serbia in this sense?

Spain supports firmly the Serbian candidacy for the European Union. We believe that the future of the Balkan countries is in the EU, and we cannot imagine the Balkans within the European Union without Serbia. For us, Serbia is a country of fundamental importance in the zone. It is true that the negotiations to enter the European Union are very long, even tedious sometimes, and there are ups and downs, but what I would humbly ask of the Serbian population is to understand that all the countries have been through that. Spanish negotiations were also very tough. This also happened with posterior expansions. I would encourage Serbia to follow that path because Spain and other EU members are firmly convinced that the best future for Serbia is inside the European Union. This does not mean that Serbia would have to give up its cultural and historic links to other countries. Spain is in the European Union but maintains a privileged relationship with the countries of Latin America. Adapting to the EU principles does not mean severing those ties. But, of course, upon entry, one must accept and adapt to the principles that rule this organization.


ly Slavic countries already firmly in the European Union, and also to look at some of the countries of the Vishegrad Group who, for example, maintain excellent relations with China, and this does not stand in the way of their EU membership. European Union foments the principle United in Diversity, and I believe that Serbia could contribute some very important aspects to that diversity as an EU member.

There seem to be two currents in Serbia when it comes to the perception of its EU membership. One is eager to renounce all ties with the West, and the other saying that the West could benefit from Serbia’s ties to the East once it joins the EU. What are your thoughts on this?

I would say to all fearing what might come of Serbia should it enter the EU, that it suffices to look at some of the major-

Moving to a more personal topic; you come from Seville, a city with a completely unique spirit, even for Spain. Do you see any parallels between your birthplace and Belgrade?

There are some similarities, yes. Both cities have a river that has played an important role in urban planning. Also, Seville hosted the Expo in 1992, and Belgrade will do so in 2027.


The climate is, evidently, very different, but what I can say after only six weeks here is that there is a similarity between the character of people here and in Seville. Both cities love life outside the houses, the terraces of bars and restaurants are always full, and people are having picnics in the parks, walking, doing footing, and jogging. The level of noise in the streets, the good noise, the one that people make, is very similar. And the street noise means that the city is alive. In that sense, Belgrade is very much alive and with a mentality very similar to that of Seville in particular and Andalusia in general.

Do you find the image of Spain in Serbia to be positive?

I believe so, yes. And not just positive, but very positive. There is an excellent image of Spain in Serbia. So, promoting the Spanish culture here is going to be one of my easiest tasks.

And in the other direction; the image of Serbia in Spain?

The key is to increase the number of Serbian citizens who

visit Spain. Personal relations are very important. Once established, the political and then the commercial relations follow. The more people from Serbia get to know Spain, the easier it will be for Serbian companies to establish a presence there. This would also make it easier for the Serbian embassy in Madrid and for the Serbian cultural institutions to present Serbian culture in Spain. Air Serbia is doing a great job, because we already have practically daily connections with Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia and several connections per week with Palma de Mallorca and Malaga. And I even heard from the people in the company that they are studying the opening of the Bilbao route. If these connections remain, I believe that the presence of Serbia will increase in Spain in a considerable way. The latest information I have indicates that last year, as many as 48,000 people from Serbia went to Spain, a 15% on-year increase. The number of Spaniards who came to Serbia in that period is more modest, around 10,000


people, but the increase is similar, 17%. We will try to maintain this rhythm and for that, establishing air connections is fundamental. We will also try to encourage the Spanish national carrier, Iberia, to establish routes between Spanish and Serbian cities.

What of the Spanish know-how do you consider would most benefit Serbia?

I believe Spanish companies could be of help in areas like tourism, for example. Last year we received 80 million tourists, which makes Spain one of the countries in the world with the most tourist arrivals. Our tour operators can therefore offer the know-how to their Serbian counterparts. There is also agriculture because, despite the drought issues in recent years, Spain is one of the world leaders in the food industry. In 2023 we exported 68 billion euros worth of fruits and vegetables.

When a visitor from Serbia is going to Spain, what would you recommend they see, and what would be your advice to a Spanish visitor coming to Serbia?

In Spain, we are lucky because we have many countries within one, but they all have something in common: an ancient and fascinating history, spectacular art, one of the richest gastronomies in the world, beaches, and natural reserves, and a marvelous climate all around the country. Spanish tourists should come to Serbia because it is still unknown; a place to discover and it is also the door to the rest of the region.



I think that political relations can facilitate, can boost economic relations


Proactive, good both at presenting technical data and managing it, and someone on whom Belgrade has grown quite strongly, José López Thomás de Carranza has been steering the ship of the Spanish Economic and Commercial Office for the last four years, overseeing its mission of helping companies from both countries ride the wave of the positive political ties and strengthen the economic bonds, as well.

Spanish language, much like the Spanish companies, is not the main foreign presence in Belgrade, but it certainly is on the increase. After having spent more than four years

here, are you noticing this boost in the Spanish-Serbian exchange?

One of the things that surprised me upon arrival to Belgrade is that Spanish is not necessarily spoken, but it certainly is understood by a lot of people. I am also witnessing a tremendous increase in the economic and commercial exchange. There is truly spectacular growth there. Only in the last three years, from 2020 to 2022, our bilateral exchange grew by almost 80%. This is unprecedented data. I am very happy to see that our technology and our products are gaining visibility in Serbia. When it comes to investment, some of our best com-

Head Economic and Commercial Counselor at the Embassy of the Kingdom of Spain to Serbia

panies are already present in Serbia, like Viscofan in Novi Sad, then the Veterinarski zavod Subotica that was bought by a Spanish company some years ago, and some of our leading companies have participated in different infrastructure projects. For example, on the construction of the Zezelj bridge in Novi Sad, the construction of some sections of Corridor 10, and the supply of most modern trams in the city of Belgrade.

What did you think of the business world here upon your arrival to Belgrade and what changes have you noticed over the last four years?

I arrived here in August 2020, at the peak of the pandemic. The world was closed. Serbia as well. However, Serbia didn’t stop. Serbia moved forward. And in 2020 Serbia was one of the countries with the best economic performance in Europe. This is a country with a very dynamic economy, with spectacular and commendable plans to modernize its infrastructure, to modernize the country. Serbia has shown tremendous progress, for example, in the area of renewable energy, the environmental sector, infrastructure sector in general, and I think that the Spanish companies can find a lot of opportunities in these sectors and contribute to progress in Serbia. From our office, we are letting the companies from Spain know that Serbia is an economy with a very stable macroeconomic framework where they can invest and find interesting opportunities.

of the institutional relations provided a very important boost to the economic relations. In November 2022, we organized a business Serbia-Spain forum, and then again in 2023. During the business forum of 2022, two very important agreements were signed between ministers. Thanks to one of them, Spain is now providing grants to Serbia. There is a line of grants that Spain opened for which Serbia is the only priority country in Europe. So, this shows how important Serbia is to Spain and demonstrates that we are working on intensifying our economic and commercial relations.

What sectors of the Spanish industry can find the best possible port in Serbia and vice versa?


There is a political framework that Spain and Serbia share and this makes their relationship one of unique proximity. Do you believe that there is space to create such a closely-knit space in the area of economic cooperation as well?

We have excellent political relations, we provide each other support on key topics of the political agenda, but the economic and commercial relations are not on the same level. We are still below our potential, but I think that political relations can facilitate, can boost economic relations, and there has been will from both sides for this to happen, especially in the last few years. 2022 was a historic year when President Vučić visited Madrid in February. In July, Prime Minister Sánchez visited Belgrade. This was the first visit of a Spanish prime minister to Serbia in history. This re-activation

The experience of Spain can be useful to Serbia when it comes to renewable energy. Spain is one of the leading countries in that sector. Secondly, there is railway infrastructure. Spain is also a world leader in the railway sector, especially in high-speed trains and urban transport networks. We are second in the world in terms of kilometers of high-speed railway network. We have the longest interoperable route in Europe, which is the route between Barcelona and Málaga. And the third sector I would like to mention is environmental infrastructure. We can supply water to the largest export agriculture of fresh food and vegetables in the world, we are the first country in Europe in terms of irrigated area and, also, the natural ecosystem that houses the greatest biodiversity in Europe. I also consider that Serbian companies can be very useful in Spain by increasing their presence in different sectors; for example, in manufacturing and automotive. These two industries are strong in Serbia and could find very interesting opportunities in Spain to collabo-


rate on the production of components, vehicle assembly, and product manufacturing. Also, Serbian companies working on the production of machinery, metal products, and chemicals could find interesting prospects in Spain including establishing a partnership with Spanish companies for joint manufacturing. Then, there is information technology and software. This is a tremendously dynamic sector in Serbia. And finally, there is agriculture and food. Serbia has a growing agricultural industry and I think they could look for opportunities to export what the land here offers to the Spanish market taking advantage of the demand for quality products, especially in some niches in which the Spanish companies are less present.

Do you believe that companies in both countries are proactive enough?

I think they are getting to be more and more proactive. The basic problem here is information or rather the flow of information. It is true that Spain and Serbia do not share a common past, and there is a geographical distance, so Spanish companies are not used to doing business in Serbia, and Serbian companies are not used to doing business in Spain. So, I think that the most important thing we can do is to provide, to share information; to bring Spanish business here and vice versa. Once we do that, I think that the companies will be proactive. But first, we need to encourage them to come. And for this to happen, we must attend to a few very important matters. First of all, the establishment of direct flights. This is key. In recent years, we have seen direct flights from Belgrade to Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga, Valencia, and Palma de Mallorca. This is very important because it encourages the countries to get to know each other better, and the companies to come here and explore the market. Also very important is the participation of our companies in different fairs. From our office, we facilitate the participation of the Spanish companies at the International Agricultural Fair in Novi Sad, Agro Belgrade and we organize different promotional events within the Belgrade Wine Week. Serbian companies are also participating in some fairs in Spain. 2022 was the

first year that saw the participation of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce with some companies at the Fruit Attraction. We are seeing a positive trend here.

These are the positives. What about the issues a Spanish company may encounter here or a Serbian company in Spain?

I think that the biggest barrier to our economic exchange is the lack of knowledge. As I mentioned before, the Spanish companies are more used to being present in the other markets, like Latin America or the EU, but not in the Balkans. This is where our office is trying to help. We publish sectoral studies regularly and organize business forums, as well as video conferences in different sectors. Last year, we organized a conference on agricultural technology. We also provide tailor-made services to companies, such as the identification of business partners. When it comes to the opposite direction, we invite every year Serbian companies to Spain for events like Salon Gourmet or Barcelona Wine Week where they have the opportunity to get in touch with Spanish companies.


What advice would give to a representative of a Spanish company who wants to do business in Serbia and to their Serbian counterpart wanting to go to Spain?

I would say to a representative of a Spanish company that Serbia is a land of opportunities. And I would also tell them that, if they want to do business in Serbia, they need to come to Serbia. It’s not possible to do it from Spain. Come here, open an office, and be present in the market. For a Serbian company, also, go to Spain, and if you want to invest, try to get in touch with ICEX. They can be very useful, especially their Invest in Spain division. And of course, here, at the Economic and Commercial office, we are ready to help Spanish and Serbian companies to do business in both countries.



Spain is one of the most favorable destinations in the world for foreign direct investment. Our country is the 13th largest recipient of FDI globally. Currently, there are almost 20,000 foreign capital companies established in Spain with an investment stock of more than 787 billion USD. This is a very high figure. It represents approximately 60% of Spain’s GDP.

The variety and typology of foreign investment established in Spain is enormous. Some foreign capital companies are considered large companies, others, increasingly, are SMEs or even start-ups; some are innovative, and others find home in more mature sectors. Foreign investment established in Spain is also increasingly diversified from a sectoral and geographical point of view. Our country presents interesting business opportunities for almost any type of Serbian company and investor thinking of internationalizing their business and activities.

Serbian companies and investors who want to establish themselves in Spain will find the doors open to them

third markets, both in the Mediterranean and North Africa, as well as in the Middle East and, especially, in Latin America. Spain is the second largest investor in Latin America after the United States. In turn, large Latin American multinationals are also choosing Spain as a base from which to develop their expansion strategies in the European market.

A strategic enclave and an open economy

This is also a good time to invest in Spain. Our country is currently the most dynamic economy among the major developed economies. Spain grew by 2.5% in 2023, five times the average growth of the euro zone countries. Forecasts for 2024 suggest that Spain will continue to lead economic growth among the major European economies.

Serbian companies and investors who want to establish themselves in Spain will find the doors open to them. Our country is the ninth most open country in the world to foreign investment from a regulatory point of view, according to the FDI Restrictiveness Index of the OECD.

Moreover, Spain’s special geostrategic position and its excellent historical and cultural relations with neighboring countries make it an excellent platform for doing business in

Adding allies

ICEX-Invest in Spain’s mission is to encourage and promote the attraction of foreign direct investment to Spain. To this end, we provide advice and information for investors; we carry out location searches; we facilitate regional support for company establishment; we offer tailored sector information and facilitate the identification of business opportunities and strategic and technological partners. In addition, we provide institutional support and advise the investor in the search for grants and subsidies.



To achieve this, in addition to our teams at our headquarters in Madrid, we have an international network of more than 100 Economic and Commercial Offices. One of them is in Belgrade. You can use it as a meeting point and it will offer you first direct contact with Spain.

Our country is increasingly open to the economies of Eastern Europe and Serbia plays a key role in strengthening economic and investment relations between Spain and the countries of this geographical area.


MARCH 2023

Business Forum Spain - Serbia

As a continuation of the intensification of bilateral relations between the two countries and the historic high-level visits of President Vučić and Prime Minister Sánchez to Belgrade and Madrid, the Commercial Office of the Embassy of Spain in Belgrade and ICEX organized in March 2023 a large business forum aimed at strengthening the cooperation between Spanish and Serbian companies. The priority projects in Serbia in different sectors, such as railway infrastructure, en-

MAY 2023

Agricultural Fair in Novi Sad

ergy, and environment were presented to the delegation of Spanish companies.

In addition, through B2B meetings direct contact was established between representatives of the Spanish business delegation and the representatives of Serbian companies as another step forward in the successful strengthening of bilateral economic cooperation between Serbia and Spain.

Spanish agricultural technology was presented for the eighth consecutive year at the International Agricultural Fair in Novi Sad. ICEX and the Economic and Commercial Office of Spain in Belgrade organize the Spanish Pavilion with the purpose of reinforcing knowledge of technology and supporting the presence of Spanish companies in the local market.

Spain recognizes the agricultural sector as one of the most dynamic sectors in Serbia, with great growth potential, as well as the Agricultural Fair (and its long tradition) as the main meeting point for all those working in agriculture. Given the specific climate conditions of Spain, technology has been one the key factors that not only enable big yields but also complies with the demanding European standards when it comes to the quality and safety of agri-food products. Among Spanish technologies that have been presented so far at the fair are irrigation systems, greenhouses, products for the protection and nutrition of plants, and seeds, but also animal health products, and precision agriculture/IT.



Spanish Wine and Food Salon

Top-quality Spanish wines, food products, and other delicacies are increasingly present in Serbia, both among private consumers and in the HoReCa channel. This exhibition of delicacies was held for the local professionals from the hospitality sector to become better acquainted with the quality of Spanish products, and some of the best Spanish hams, cheeses, wine, and olive oil currently available on the Serbian market were presented.

This food & wine salon, intended strictly for a professional audience, also included a complementary educational program and a series of workshops, such as preparation of the Spanish tapas in cooperation with the Department of Gastronomy of the Faculty of Science and Mathematics in Novi Sad, workshop on professional cutting of the Spanish cured ham, held by the Spanish chef, as well as a series of wine tastings through which different Spanish grape varieties and regions of geographical origin were presented.


Spanish Postharvest Technology Conference

As a continuation of the Spanish presence during the International Agricultural Fair in Novi Sad, ICEX and the Economic and Commercial Office of Spain in Belgrade organized a technical conference in December 2023, dedicated to Spanish post-harvest technology.

In recent years, Serbia has clearly expressed its interest in exporting agri-food products with higher added value. Serbian farmers have shown their willingness to increase their competitiveness in foreign markets by investing in equipment and materials related to fruit and vegetable processing, food freshness and safety, packaging, etc.

On the occasion, the Office seized the opportunity to offer the knowledge that Spain has obtained as one of the main exporters of fruit and vegetables in Europe, and to give greater visibility to Spanish producers in this segment. A delegation of Spanish companies in the sector presented their solutions to the local public. A presentation was held by the AINIA Technology Center, that not only covered the current situation in Spain concerning post-harvest technology but also the advances that aim to increase sustainability in the conservation and packaging of agri-food products.



Although our countries do not have a common past or traditional trading ties, we have witnessed an impressive boom in our commercial relations over the past few years

In a context of international uncertainty and a global economy marked by the post-COVID-19 recovery, the energy crisis, inflationary pressures, and prevailing geopolitical tensions, Spain has shown extraordinary resilience in 2023 and has been one of the main engines of growth in the Eurozone. Indeed, Spain’s estimated economic growth of 2.4% for 2023 is the highest among major advanced economies and more than three times the projected average for the Eurozone.

The good performance of the Spanish economy was driven by the soundness of the external sector. Despite the cooling of global demand, Spain registered in 2023 a current account surplus of 2.5% of GDP, and our external sector contributed 0.8 percentage points to the economic growth. These results are especially remarkable when comparing them with those of other big European countries. Indeed, our economy has consolidated its external financing capacity, which is now structural after twelve consecutive years of current account surpluses, a figure only exceeded by Germany.

The first reason is related to the moderation of our traditionally high trade deficit. In 2023, the trade deficit decreased by more than 40%, representing 2.8% of GDP compared to 5.1% in 2022. This is mostly due to the reduction of energy imports. At the same time, renewable energy production in Spain reached a record high, with an over 50% share in the total electricity production, thus alleviating foreign energy dependency.

Second, not only the Spanish exports recover their


pre-pandemic levels, but they grew by 32.3% between 2019 and 2023, reaching 383.7 billion euros in 2023. The most dynamic sectors of our exports were the car industry, equipment, and food and beverages. Furthermore, we notice a significant redirection of our exports to high-technology and medium-high-technology products, these representing 2023 a share in total exports of 10.9% and 41.9%, respectively.

The diversification of our markets, one of the priorities of our trade policy, is also contributing to the boost of our exports. While our traditional trading partners in the European Union remain crucial -EU countries amounting to 62.7% of the total Spanish exports in 2023-, we are increasingly focused on countries with different and non-synchronized economic cycles, especially in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

In addition, the service balance has also experienced a good performance over the last few years. It is crystal clear that tourism remains one of the main drivers of the Spanish economy. In 2023, the pre-pandemic figures have been surpassed with the number of visitors reaching 85 million, an 18% increase in comparison to 2019. Yet, some non-tourist-related services of high-added value are increasingly playing a key role. In fact, in 2023, Spain reached a surplus in terms of non-touristic services, which have increased by 57% in the last 5 years.

Finally, the competitiveness of the Spanish productive fabric has been underpinned by the investment stimulus and reforms of the Recovery Plan. In 2023 we received 6 billion euros from Next Generation EU Funds, bringing the overall total of received transfers to 37 billion euros.

There is no doubt that the recent performance of our external sector reflects the competitiveness of Spanish companies and their strong positioning in international markets. However, this positive trend has been even more remarkable when it comes to the bilateral trade between Spain and Serbia.

Although our countries do not have a common past or traditional trading ties, we have witnessed an impressive boom in our commercial relations over the past few years. In 2022 our bilateral trade exceeded 1 billion euros for the first time in history and in the last four years, Spanish exports to Serbia increased by 103%, reaching 570.8 million euros in 2023 and surpassing the overall growth of Spanish exports in the same period. Our main export products to Serbia were meat products, aircraft, vehicles, equipment, and electric and electronic devices. This shows that our products and technology are becoming increasingly well-known and appreciated in Serbia and vice versa.

In addition, some of our best companies are present in Serbia, promoting the creation of hundreds of jobs and contributing to the social and economic development of the country. Some of

them have made successful investments in several sectors such as agri-business, automotive, and railway industries.

Some other Spanish companies have participated in significant infrastructure projects, such as the construction of the emblematic Zezelj bridge over the Danube in Novi Sad, some parts of Corridor X, and the supply of the newest trams to the city of Belgrade.

The reactivation of our institutional relations, with the historic visit of President Vučić to Madrid and that of Prime Minister Sánchez to Belgrade in 2022, played a decisive role in the strengthening of our commercial and investment relations. In addition, we have organised two important business forums since then, that have contributed to fostering cooperation between Spanish and Serbian companies.

I had the pleasure of attending together with the former Spanish Minister of Industry, Trade, and Tourism, Reyes Maroto, the business forum organised in Belgrade in November 2022. On that occasion, I was amazed by Serbia´s enormous potential and the reinforced interest of the Spanish companies in being more present in this market.

The Spanish government not only considers Serbia a friend country, supporting it in different topics of the political agenda, but it has made the strengthening of the commercial and economic relations a top priority. In this regard, in November 2022 we signed two important economic agreements facilitating the cooperation between Spain and Serbia in the field of infrastructure.

Finally, the Spanish Economic and Commercial Office in Belgrade continues to work to help Spanish companies in Serbia by generating elements of market intelligence, providing useful information to the parties involved, putting in contact with Spanish and Serbian companies, and organising a wide range of promotional events.


In short, the external sector has played a key role in the recovery of Spain after the pandemic of COVID-19 and it has shown tremendous resilience to shocks like the Ukraine war or the conflict in Gaza. This would not have been possible without the structural change that has taken place in the Spanish economy after the Great Recession. Good as it is, this performance is overshadowed by the growth in the bilateral trade between Spain and Serbia. I am convinced that this trend is just the beginning of an even closer partnership in the economic field between our two friendly countries which will bring enormous mutual benefits.




Eptisa’s global CEO and the director of the Belgrade office share their enthusiasm for the surge in business activity of this major Spanish engineering company in Serbia. The company has made Belgrade its regional hub, and through exclusively local workforce, it promotes in its area of operation the opportunities made available by Serbia’s journey towards the EU.

What prompted Eptisa’s decision to come to Southeast Europe?

MG: Southeast Europe is a stone’s throw from the European market, sharing the vibrant culture and lifestyle of Spain. This similarity, coupled with a welcoming business environment, made our choice clear. In 1999, we began competing for EU-funded projects while simultaneously building our corporate presence in Serbia. Serbia has been our hub for Southeast Europe ever since. It’s worth highlighting that, by the time Croatia joined the EU in

Among the Spanish businesses with a high awareness of the possibilities of Serbian and the regional market, Eptisa stands tall

2013, Eptisa was already deeply involved in the region, supporting institutions with EU grants and funding from international financial institutions (IFIs) during their journey toward EU membership.

After Croatia’s accession, Eptisa became even more deeply immersed in the local environment by creating Eptisa Adria, a company that operates with local resources, employs regional talent, and aims to boost our competitive edge. This local-first approach is something we’re keen on replicating across the region. Eptisa is on a mission to become the go-to technical service provider for major donors in the EU pre-accession phase of these countries.

AT: More than 20 years ago, we turned our focus to Southeast Europe (SEE), driven by the region’s dedication to joining the European Union. Recognizing the significant investments made in SEE regarding infrastructure enhancements and socio-economic reforms, we saw a wealth of project possibilities that aligned with both our expertise and the European trajectory of Serbia.

What are your current projects in the region, generally, and in Serbia, specifically?

AT: Our activity across the region is growing, with approximately 450 projects concluded or ongoing, with a notable 150 of those successfully executed in Serbia. We offer a broad spectrum of expertise from conventional engineering endeavors to progressive ventures in public policy, environmental solutions, and energy efficiency. Presently, we are engaged in about 100 dynamic projects in Southeast Europe. In Croatia, we’re overseeing the Rijeka port construction, in Bosnia, we’re tasked with designing a pivotal railway segment linking Sarajevo to Doboj, in Montenegro, our focus is on fortifying the water management sector’s capabilities, and in North Macedonia, we’re supervising the Kichevo sewerage network build.


In Serbia, our endeavors are diverse and impactful. We’re aiding the CFCU (Ministry of Finance) with a major waste-water facility in Kraljevo (Central Serbia), backed by the European Union Delegation. We’re nearing the completion of the EU’s Water Sector Services Reform initiative, which seeks to enhance water service efficiency and promote cost recovery adherence. Our collaboration with public utility Koridori Srbije is set to wrap up several infrastructure projects along the E75 and E80 highways. The Clean Serbia program marks our supervision of infrastructural upgrades in 14 municipalities, in close partnership with the Ministry of Construction, Transportation, and Infrastructure.

What was the experience of your company when you arrived here?

AT: Eptisa’s journey in Serbia is a testament to the great possibilities for international businesses in the region. When we first set foot in Serbia back in March 2005, we were a modest office

with merely two employees. Today, we have a core team of 60 dedicated full-time professionals, all locals, who are armed with the knowledge and experience accrued through Eptisa’s growth journey.

The local administration, with its streamlined procedures, laws, and supportive institutions, has played a pivotal role in our development, ensuring our path was free from red tape and unwarranted hurdles. In short, Eptisa’s story is a vivid illustration of how international companies can not only take root but also thrive in Serbia, thanks to an enabling environment that champions growth and innovation.

MG: Serbia is currently experiencing a significant surge in growth across various sectors. In light of this progress, companies like Eptisa are increasingly choosing Belgrade as their strategic hub, recognizing it as a critical location for engaging in business and showcasing expertise in their respective fields. This growth path is typical for nations advancing towards EU integration. Just three years ago, we had little interest in competing for projects funded by the national budget. Yet, in the past three years, these projects have gained appeal, characterized by expanding budgets that attract both international and local firms. The bidding process is now transparent, efficient, and inclusive, with clear criteria that welcome international participants.

Looking at the map of your activities worldwide, we see that you have a strong presence in the Iberian Peninsula, and then it is the Balkans, some other parts of Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, Africa, and the Far East. Are these the future economy champions? What are your criteria for deciding to embark upon a business venture in a new territory?

MG: The future of engineering and consulting is being redefined by new key trends: digital infrastructure, sustainable design, circular economy, decarbonization, resilient infrastructure, and smart cities. This shift is not just about venturing into new territories, but about harnessing cutting-edge technologies that steer modern businesses towards innovation. At Eptisa, we’re at the forefront of these changes, pinpointing territories ready to embrace and excel in these pioneering projects.


Are you happy with your business here? What about the business culture?

MG: Absolutely! We’re both grounded in our local roots and expansive in our global reach, creating a powerful blend of local insights and worldwide resources. Serbia as well as Southeast Europe is home to top-notch talent across various sectors, and our team in the Serbian office and offices in the neighbouring countries embodies this excellence.

In addition to the engineering work, you are engaged in some other activities as well, at least in Serbia. Eptisa SEE is currently implementing the EU in Serbia Communication Network (EUINFONET). Could you please tell us a few words about this project in general, and what it consists of in Serbia?

AT: We’re thrilled with EUINFONET and our dedicated team behind it. This intricate project aims to enhance awareness and comprehension of the EU; its core values, operations, institutions, policies, and the support it extends to Serbia. It highlights how this affects Serbian individuals and businesses, and sheds light on Serbia’s EU journey.

ANDREJA TODOSIJEVIĆ Eptisa Regional Director of Southeast Europe (AT)


Translator of major Slavic works of fiction, a graduate of Slavic philology, and a journalist in some of the most significant written media published in Barcelona, Josep María de Sagarra Àngel landed in Serbia almost at the same time as the pandemic. That did not discourage him from finding parallels between the Spanish and Serbian culture and enjoying Belgrade which reminds him of Barcelona of the 1980s.

Head of the Cervantes Institute in Belgrade

Instituto Cervantes in Belgrade turns 20 this year. Was it the presence of this institute that initiated the interest in the Spanish language among the population in Serbia or was it the telenovelas?

Foto © Tanja Drobnjak, Institut Servantes u Beogradu JOSEP MARÍA DE SAGARRA ÀNGEL

Big Stories Can Happen in Belgrade Without the Need of Weight of History Behind Them

When you are walking in Belgrade you can frequently encounter people who speak some Spanish. If asked, they will tell you that they learned it from the telenovelas. A person who worked at the Mexican Embassy in Belgrade during the Yugoslav wars told me that, according to local authorities at the hour during which the telenovelas were aired, the intensity of the fighting dropped, because both sides stopped to watch the telenovelas. But going back to your question, I believe that the knowledge of the Spanish language and culture is something that already exists in Yugoslavia. Perhaps not in the opposite direction. The history of Spanish-Serbian, Spanish-Yugoslav relations, has been asymmetrical. Before the Second World War Spain had not had a permanent mission in Belgrade, while Yugoslavia did have an embassy in Spain. The relations were then re-established towards the end of the 1970s, and only after that time, we can talk about symmetry in the relations. The fact that for decades there has not been this bilateral component to the relations, is also something positive because it means much remains to be built between the two countries. I like the Belgrade way, which makes big things possible in the now, without the requirement of there being a history for something significant to be built. So, to conclude with the answer, the creation of Instituto Cervantes in Belgrade in 2004 has served to organize this panorama of Spanish in Serbia. Before, there were Iberic studies in the university, an interest in literature, and translation activity. In theatre and music, Spain has found its way into Belgrade. Also, many sportsmen and women from former Yugoslavia had their careers in Spain, which made the place better known among the Spanish. So Instituto Cervantes has organized, created bonds, and supported the local initiatives and I have to say that it has been very easy.

Very easy in terms of collaboration or communication?

Serbs and the Spanish have a similar character, but we

also have one other very important thing in common. I call it The Southernness. We are both Southern countries. This is why coming to an agreement with a Serbian counterpart is very easy. It happens naturally, in a way.

So, the Institute has an excellent understanding of the environment here. What about yourself?


My term finishes in September, as I arrived in September 2019. The first part of my time here has been marked by the pandemic. Our collaboration with the Yugoslav Film Archive, the National Museum, and theatres, has been very easy. Belgrade is a city that reminds me a lot of Barcelona 40 years ago. I love this neighborhood-oriented life. Living outside, on the street, on the terraces of bars is a big part of Belgrade every day. You know your neighbors and they know you. I may be a foreigner, but in my part of town, I am just one of the neighbors. This makes being part of the city something easy. Working with Serbian institutions, artists, translators, and professionals from all walks of life, has been simple and remains simple. It has been a pleasure of mine to discover the work of Serbs who are interested in culture in Spanish.

And what part of the Serbian society has the most interaction with Instituto Cervantes?

Quite a few parts, I would say. We have a space dedicated on our webpage called “España Contada” (Spain of Stories), within which we interview individuals who own libraries of Spanish literature, and then they tell us the stories about those libraries; how they came to be, and how they have grown. Within the section of Hispanics we have people who live and create in Spain, but keep close ties with Serbia. We, therefore, try to maintain this tradition of “mestizaje”, a mixture, the crossroads between people of different cultures – in this case, Spanish and Serbian. Currently, there is an exhibition called “Imagen y palabra” (Image and Word) by David Pujadó, a Spanish photographer who lives in Belgrade and who is also the director of the Belgrade Photo Month.


What are the activities that the Instituto Cervantes offers in Belgrade and also are there any activities only offered here and not in other cities where the institute operates?

For a long time, we have had a collaboration with the National Museum of Serbia which, once a year, organizes a showcase of archeological cinema. Then there is a project we offer at some of our locations which in Belgrade has had a stellar success. This is a library-related project within which we offer workshops on calligraphy, binding, and paper restoration. We collaborate with the Belgrade Faculty of Applied Arts on the calligraphy workshop. The other two courses are done in collaboration with the Serbian National Archive. The people who come here are different from those who come to our cultural activities or our courses in Spanish. These are mainly artists, craftsmen, and women, high school teachers with no particular affiliation with the Spanish culture beyond the interest in the offer of the workshop. So, wherever we spot an interest, we try to answer by creating an offer.

nize, mainly on a yearly basis, an International Congress of Hispanists, and on this, we collaborate with Belgrade University.

After almost five years here, in what direction do you believe the Instituto Cervantes should be looking to improve the offer?


What about your regular activities and offers?

One of the main things we offer are the courses in Spanish provided in all our establishments which follow a curriculum, covering all the scope from A1 to C2. These courses are offered both at the Institute as well as online, and there are also combined modalities. We also have individual classes, business classes, and preparation for the official exams. In Belgrade, there are two major cultural activities. The first are the exhibitions which we present at our gallery. We have five, or six exhibitions per year there. The second activity is a week-long international film festival called Hispanometraje, which takes place in May and showcases cinema from Spain and the Spanish-speaking countries. This festival has been developed for the Belgrade office specifically. It is done in collaboration with the Yugoslav Film Archive and The Cultural Centre of Belgrade. We also offer conferences, book presentations, and orga-

Theatre, music, and dance. We fell short when it comes to those also due to the pandemic. But I am mostly referring to the theatre here. I would like to reach an agreement with a theatre company here to be able to show contemporary Spanish plays.

In some countries in the Balkans, there is no Instituto Cervantes. Are they represented through Belgrade, and do you have any openings scheduled in the region?

From Belgrade, we must attend Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and North Macedonia. We have a relationship with the capitals and we also organize the exams of Spanish as a Foreign Language, with the abbreviated name DELE there. In Montenegro there is also a reduced festival of Hispanometraje, taking place in Podgorica, and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we are trying to resume the DELE exams which were stopped due to the pandemic. At the moment we plan no new openings of Instituto Cervantes in those countries.



Novi Sad-born scientist with a keen interest in wine and history has brought about some of the most significant discoveries in ancient DNA

Arenowned geneticist whose sequencing of the first chelicerate genome was published in 2011 by Nature, is challenging with his new research the preconceptions of the origins of the residents of the Balkans and is also helping the wine industries of Serbia and Montenegro understand the potential of their viticulture through genetic research of the grapevine DNA. Both projects are a fruit of collaboration between Spain, Serbia, and the US and open doors to the numerous possibilities of future cooperation between Spanish and Serbian scientists.

What is the current state of scientific collaboration between Spain and Serbia?

MIODRAG GRBIĆ Geneticist, Associate Professor of Genomics at the University of Western Ontario, and Visiting Professor at the University of La Rioja


As a visiting professor at the University of La Rioja in Spain, I had the opportunity to develop different projects within Spain, and especially between Serbia and Spain. This is interesting because in Serbia we perceive Spain as a nice, tourist destination, with excellent Ferran Adrià-grade food, etc., however, we are not aware of the scientific capacities of Spain and it

Andrej Klemenčič

is amazing what Spain has, especially in the area of molecular genetics and genomics and these are the projects that I am leading and collaborating on in Spain and Serbia. We are working primarily with two institutions. One is the University of La Rioja and the Institute for Grapevine Research in La Rioja led by Dr. Jose Miguel Martinez Zapater, which is one of the leading European institutions in grapevine genetics and genomics, and we are also collaborating with Dr. Carles Lalueza Fox, CSIC (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas) on the area of ancient DNA where we are exploring the history of Balkans using ancient DNA.

One of these collaborations resulted in groundbreaking findings related to the DNA of the residents of the Balkans. How did that research come to be?

The Balkan Peninsula was the birthplace of 26 Roman emperors. 18 of them were born on what today is Serbian territory, and now that we know that in our DNA, we have 50% of the Ancient Balkan population genome, and roughly 50%, on average, of the Slavic genome, our history is moving further in the past then what the official accounts have been teaching us. Our recent research done between the CSIC, Museum of Natural Sciences of Barcelona led by Dr. Lalueza Fox, Harvard University with Dr. David Reich, and Archeological Institute in Belgrade including the Roman archeological site of Viminacium, that was recently published in Cell, attracted international media attention. This research for the first time shows, based on ancient DNA, the continuity of population in the Balkans, ranging from the Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman time, Slavic migrations, medieval time, and modern population. In the past, our genetic ancestors and this territory represented the stronghold of the Roman Empire, with Sirmium as an Emporial city and our forefathers were Roman emperors.

And who were these Ancient Balkan people?

This is an interesting question and one which is difficult to answer because they did not have a written language. Romans came here in the 1st century and incorporated the local population into their service


and army. So, in the ensuing centuries, there was a transition of power in Rome, where in this late period, prominent military officers and generals became emperors, and this Balkan population was protecting the borders of the Roman Empire. Besides the “Italian” Emperors, this is the largest group of Emperors coming from non-Roman nations, showing the importance of this population and territory to the Roman Empire. The first individual with Slavic DNA dates back to the 2nd century. So this was not a barren land or a replacement of population as portrayed in some written documents, but a mixture between the ancient population and the Slavs who came from the north-west, from the territory now a part of Poland and Ukraine.

Do you expect this research to alternate social relations in the Balkan Peninsula?

This scientific data shows, in a very direct way, our shared genetic history, so it incites unity rather than separation. People who were involved in the so far rhetoric going along the lines of how their group was more special than others, were not scientists, and this current data was not available. There are no genetic reasons whatsoever for any kind of nationalism or chauvinism because genetically, we are all the same. We are some kind of a concoction between the Ancient Balkan population, and also a population that, during Roman times migrated from Anatolia. We can still find their DNA in our modern DNA. And then we have a layer of Slavic migrants. These pure races do not exist. Here on the Balkan territory, we are this nice creative mixture of these different groups, and we should enjoy that, like having a good “coupage” that has the potential to make an excellent vine.

How did you come up with the idea for the project?

When I was invited by the Faculty of Biology in Belgrade to become a visiting


professor, I proposed that we should use modern genomic techniques to study our history. There is great genetic diversity in Serbia, and this is one of Serbia’s comparative advantages, given that in this territory there are several key ancient cultures that are cornerstones of European culture and technological development. They range from Lepenski Vir, where one of the first agricultural communities was established in Europe, Starčevo, where the first bread was baked in Europe, to Vinča where we have early metallurgy. In Barcelona, we are currently sequencing the genome from Lepenski Vir, because this was a point of meeting between the hunter-gatherers and the first agriculturalists who were coming from Anatolia. The two met in the Danube valley at Lepenski Vir and they lived next to each other for 2,000 years without signs of violence and we could see that they mixed. We have one individual who is 50% hunter-gatherer and 50% first agriculturalist. Now, we are going to see what they have in their genomes, for, as we know, the agriculturalists lived close and together with animals. Since we sequenced the human genome, our user manual, so to say, we have started to understand how we function. Having this reference in the human genome, we can look at the DNA of hunter-gatherers who were omnivores, eating a very diverse diet, being physically fit, and compare it to the DNA of the first agriculturalists who started reducing the number of ingredients that they were eating. This could be associated with changes in their biology and also give us clues into how the change of diet based on processed food can affect modern human society.

We will now go to another project of yours, which also has a Spanish imprint – investigating the genetics of grapevine in Serbia. Who started the project, what is the objective, and does the research have anything to do with the fact that Serbia, as a wine-producing country, is now coming to the fore most strongly?


Apart from the aspect of social sciences and genetics, are there other aspects for which its findings could be used?

This project can boost archeotourism in Serbia because we have so many archeological sites that have not yet been properly studied. For example, only 5% of Vinča is excavated, and we should do more regarding these important cultures that were present on the territory of modern Serbia. The infrastructure we currently have is well below the level of the significance of Vinča for the history of Europe and the world.

The focus has been on determining the genetic diversity of grapevines in Serbia. The starting point was our collaboration in previous years with the Institute of Grapevine Research from La Rioja and researchers in Montenegro. Over there, we did extensive sampling over 5 or 6 years, and we came up with a complete genetic map and genetic relation between Montenegrin grapevines. Then, a suggestion came from some scientists in Serbia to do something similar here. In Serbia, currently, there is no genetic knowledge in terms of the genetic diversity of Serbian grapevines. Why is this important? First, we are now entering a global change of climate, and we are running into huge problems in grapevine production. So we have to figure out and catalogue, if you will, our grapevines, and then select those best equipped to combat this climate change. One variety we now know is an autochthonous Serbian variety is Prokupac. In the past, it was not considered to be very good, but it is thriving under new climate conditions. In these conditions, Serbia has an opportunity to become a producer of some high-quality wines. The potential is there, we just have to explore it by applying cutting-edge science, as it was done in Spain.




Climate change and the necessity to act and think sustainably impose requirements that announce a coming paradigm shift in the agricultural sector

The diversity of climates within its borders and the presence of arid and semi-arid areas distinguish Spain as an environmentally unique country, but also as particularly sensitive to climate change. In recent years, the country has experienced rising temperatures, more frequent and severe droughts, and changes in rainfall patterns. These changes threaten its water resources, agriculture, and biodiversity, and make the study and implementation of adaptation and mitigation strategies, a priority. In this context, Spain has developed a series of agricultural technologies and processes that have allowed it not only to compete in a global environment but also to become one of the leading countries in this field.

The Spanish agricultural sector stands as a compelling example of the integration of advanced technology into production to enhance yield and quality while optimizing costs and safeguarding the environment. These strategic investments have propelled Spain to the forefront of agriculture, securing its position as the leading producer of vegetables and fruits of the EU, the number one global olive oil producer, and the world’s second-highest wine exporter by volume. The symbiosis of cutting-edge technology and agriculture shows how technological innovation can contribute to a country becoming a global success in this field.

ing 22% of Spain’s total arable land. Up to 75% of irrigation in Spain is carried out by sprinkler or drip irrigation, which contributes to a significant reduction in water consumption and makes it one of the countries in the world with the largest area of localized irrigation, producing more and better with less water. In addition, irrigation allows a six-fold increase in agricultural productivity, and it also increases farmers’ income by up to four times and generates three times more employment.

Regarding greenhouse production, Spain is the second country in the world in terms of surface area covered by greenhouses, with more than 73,000 hectares available for the cultivation of fruits and vegetables. The greenhouse production has allowed Spain to produce and place these products on the world market all year round. The region of Almeria stands out, with more than 30,000 hectares of greenhouses, which has become „the garden of Europe”, a leading area in the export of agricultural and food products and fruit and vegetable production.


Spanish agrotech companies offer a diverse array of technologies and services, both hardware and software and are mainly focused on production and transformation. The ongoing digital transformation in agriculture helps to analyze parameters, behaviors, and processes, thereby enhancing the overall quality of agricultural production.

In a climate characterized by droughts, irrigation systems have played a key role in consolidating Spain as an agri-food power. Today, Spain is the first country in the EU in terms of irrigated surface area, with almost 4 million hectares, represent-

Spanish Government is making significant strides in the revitalization of infrastructures and networks, embracing modernization through substantial investments in digital technologies and renewable energy sources. Until 2027, the government will fund an ambitious public-private investment of 2.416 million euros financed by the Recovery, Transformation, and Resilience Plan.

Photo © Pixabay

Half of Spain’s electricity comes from renewables as the country has become one of the world leaders in the renewable energy revolution


limate Change and Energy Transition are at the very top of the Spanish strategic objectives and priorities. As one of the biggest EU member states and one of the main world tourist destinations, Spain has undertaken a series of measures that should contribute to the considerable reduction of carbon emissions by 2050 and help preserve the environment and natural heritage. In that regard, the Law on Climate Change and Energy Transition envisages that up to 2030, the greenhouse gas emissions will be minimally 20% below 1990 levels, at least 74% of Spain’s electricity will be generated from renewable energy, 35% of final energy consumption will come from alternative sources and energy efficiency will improve by 35%. The same law stipulates that, by 2050, 100% of energy will come from renewables.

Spain as the European leader in wind energy but also places it at the forefront of installed capacity rankings. On the other hand, photovoltaic solar energy ranks fourth in the mix with 14%, and its production of 37,300 GWh represents almost 34% more than in 2022. With continued advances in self-consumption and photovoltaic generation, Spain is poised to consolidate its position as the undisputed leader in the sector in the coming years.


Carbon-free energy technologies accounted in 2023 for a remarkable 72% share of total generation, underscoring the pivotal role of renewable energy in mitigating climate change and fostering a sustainable energy future.

Bringing renewable power to the world

To achieve these objectives, increases in renewable generation capacity (wind and photovoltaic power) by at least 3 GW/ year are planned in the coming decades.

In addition to promoting renewable energy, Spain intends to limit the awarding new licenses for extraction and fracking activities and to lead a fair transition for regions that are coal-industry dependent. The results of this transition have been rather promising.

Renewable energies have reached a remarkable milestone in Spain, accounting for over 50% of electricity generation in 2023.

Wind and solar photovoltaic energy are fundamental pillars of Spain’s energy sector. Wind energy takes the lead in the generation mix with a share close to 24%. This not only positions

There are more than roughly 4,000 companies of different sizes and activities operating in this sector in Spain employing some 81,000 Only in the wind energy sector, Spain currently has 237 industrial centers, 20 research centers, and nine universities involved in projects related to this field.

The presence of Spanish companies in all foreign markets is notable, with consolidated growth in the European Union, the United States, Canada, Mexico, China, Australia, India, etc. Notably, companies such as Iberdrola, Endesa, and Naturgy have been crucial for the expansion of renewable energy, not only operating facilities nationally but also internationally. The equipment producers like Gamesa, which is now part of the Siemens Gamesa group, have contributed in a grand fashion to the development of this sector.

Photo © Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay


Spain and Serbia are connected by stories made in the few moments of shared history

In Serbia, there is an unwritten rule: all good ideas come from a bar. So, while socializing in one such establishment with a group of young hispanophiles from Belgrade, the following question came up: „Is there content about Serbia in Spanish?“

The curiosity became weeks-long research followed by a shocking conclusion: there is no content about Serbia in one of the world’s main languages. A decision to establish an organization called Serbia en español followed. Since day one, the goal of the organization hasn’t changed: to pro mote Serbia in the Spanish-speaking countries and to strengthen Serbia`s relations with that part of the world.

One of the most significant projects of the organization in 2024 is publishing of a book called „Serbs and the Hispanic World Through History“. When it comes to Spanish-Serbian ties, the public is surely acquainted with the participation of the Serbian (Yugoslav) fighters in the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War as well as the contribution of successful sportsmen and sportswomen from Serbia in different sports in Spain.


Below is the list of characters, places, and events that are less known, but have left their mark on the history of the Serbian-Spanish relations.

The Battle of Velbužd (1330)

Medieval Serbian kings Stefan Dečanski and his son Stefan Dušan (who would later become the first Serbian tsar), had Spanish soldiers among their ranks. Those men were members of the famous Catalan Company. At the time, pro-

fessional soldiers were paid, and having such soldiers was a luxury in medieval times. Spanish knights were the warrior elite of Europe and their presence meant prestige for the ruler. During the famous Battle of Velbužd (today Kyustendil in Bulgaria) on July 28, 1330, the Spanish soldiers were a part of the Serbian army led by the kings Stefan Dečanski and his son Stefan Dušan. The cause for the battle was an attempt to stop the Bulgarian army from joining with Byzantium for a joint attack on Serbia. The objective was met; the Bulgarian army suffered a strong defeat and the Bulgarian emperor Michael Shishman lost his life. Serbia made additional territorial gains and the Spanish soldiers made a significant contribution to this majestic victory. The name of one Spaniard who served King Stefan Dušan and who especially stood out in the battle had gone down in history books. His name was Juan de Peralta.

Despot Djuradj Branković and the King of Aragon

Serbian medieval ruler Despot Djuradj Branković (1377 – 1456) was an ally of King Alfonso V of Aragon. The two were joined by a fight against the influence of the Republic


of Venice in the Mediterranean. It is also known that both rulers were members of the famous Order of the Dragon. King Alfonso, to develop mining in his kingdom, hired Serbian miners. During the time of Despot Djuradj Branković, Smederevo, where the ruler had an enormous fortress built, was the capital of Serbia.

The Battle of Senta (1697)

Towards the end of the 17th century, the Spanish and the Serbs were joined by a major historical battle near the city of Senta in the north of Serbia. On September 11, 1697, the army of the Habsburg monarchy led by the famous military commander Eugen of Savoy defeated the Turkish army, stopping its further advance into Central Europe. The army of the Habsburg monarchy was made up of representatives of several different nations, so Spanish and Serbian soldiers fought side by side. In that battle, a Serbian commander Jovan Popović Tekelija distinguished himself for his intelligence work and military skills.


The painting „The Battle of Senta“ by Hungarian painter Ferencz Eisenhut is a lasting memory of this glorious and historic victory. It is the largest oil on canvas in Serbia and it is kept in the city of Sombor.

New Barcelona near Zrenjanin

Close to where the city of Zrenjanin lies today, stood in the 18th century a settlement of the Spanish settlers called New Barcelona. The settlement of Spaniards took place between the years 1735 and 1738 and was dictated by the Court Council of the Habsburg monarchy from Vienna. The settlers are remembered for bringing the mulberry tree and starting to grow silkworms in the area. What is interesting, is that a village close to Zrenjanin, called Perlez was named after a Spanish nobleman Ramón Federico de Vilana Perlas. Also, some surnames of the residents of Zrenjanin, such as Solar and Juanin, have Spanish roots.

St. Teresa of Avila in Subotica

In the very north of Serbia, in the city of Subotica, there is a catholic temple called by the residents of this city The Big Church, while the full name is The Cathedral of St. Teresa of Avila, the protector of Spain and the famous reformer from the order of Carmelites. She was also known as a writer, mysticist, and the organizer of numerous humanitarian missions. She is also considered the protector of orphans, the ill, and those who make lace. The building of the cathedral in her honor started on October 15, 1773, which is the day when this saint is celebrated. It is important to point out that the square in front of the cathedral also bears her name and that her face is on the Subotica coat of arms. In 1973, the cathedral was protected as a cultural monument.

Ángela Graupera in Serbia during World War I

Ángela Graupera (1876 – 1940) was a Spanish writer, activist, and nurse who stayed in Serbia during World War I. After graduating at 38, she decided to volunteer as a nurse for the Red Cross and come to Serbia. She left Barcelona on August 30, 1914, and came to Niš to help the wounded. In March 1915, she was made to return to Barcelona where she spent nine months. However, in November of the same year, she went back to Serbia to continue her mission. From the hospital, she started to write and send articles to the paper „Las Noticias“ in Barcelona, thus becoming one of the first war correspondents during World War I. She described her memories from Serbia in the book „El Gran Crimen: Lo que yo he visto en la guerra“ (The Great Crime: What I Had Seen in the War).

Pablo Picasso and the film „The Battle of Neretva“

The film „The Battle of Neretva“ from 1969 is the most expensive film made in former Yugoslavia and the fifth most expensive film made outside the English language. The story about the poster for this film begins in 1964, in Monte Carlo where the most famous Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, and the director of the film Veljko Bulajić met. A few years later Picasso, on the petition of his agent, designed a poster by taking a part of his painting Rape of the Sabine Women and asking the color of the poster to be red. He did not require payment, and his only requirement was to receive 12 bottles of wine from different parts of Yugoslavia. This poster has all the characteristics of Picasso’s Cubism.



Not long ago synonymous with cheap wines, Spain today offers some world-class bottles

If by some chance you stopped by the cinema some 20 years ago and decided to see a Spanish film, the odds are that the director was Pedro Almodóvar and the main cast Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz. The situation with Spanish wines was similar. Back then, an invitation to a glass of Spanish wine meant almost without exception enjoying an oak-aged red Tempranillo from the La Rioja region. Today, the situation is completely different, and now the conversation over a glass can be had with a fresh white Albariño from Rias Baixas or a light red Mencina from the Bierzo region. These

are just some of the countless options because, as of late, high-quality wines of completely different styles lurk from almost every Spanish wine region.

Spanish wines in numbers and letters

Spain is the first country in the world when it comes to planted surface vineyard area, third by wine production, and


Photo © Marija Zindović

the second when it comes to the quantity of exported wine. According to the latest results, there have been 235 grapevine varieties identified in Spain, as many as 111 of which are autochthonous. The most widespread varieties of red are Tempranillo, Garnacha, Bobal, and Monastrell. Prevalent among whites are Airén, Macabeo, and Verdejo. Varieties Mencia, Graciano, Mazuelo, Albariño, Pedro Ximénez, and Godello are, although not the most extended, very important in the perception of Spain as a wine country.

Spain barely has a region where wine is not made. There are close to 70 wine regions in the country. Different climate conditions, locations and types of soil, and the diversity of vineyard and winemaking practices have resulted in a colorful array of wine styles. If one adds to all the mentioned innovative spirit of the young generations of winemakers, it comes as no surprise that Spain, although still famed for its price/quality ratio in wines, is becoming a place whose trademark is the diversity and modernity of the wine industry. Of course, one must not forget the undisputed quality that adorns the finest Spanish wines from Rioja, Ribera, Priorat, or Bierzo that score the highest marks at respectable wine evaluations, reach high market prices, and have an almost cult status.

Geography of Spanish wines

The most popular Spanish wines come from a dozen regions. The undisputed number one is still Rioja, located in the Ebro Valley, which is also one of the biggest producers of reds, mainly of the Tempranillo variety.

The sunny region of Catalonia in the vicinity of the Mediterranean Sea is famed for its cavas and also the Priorat region, known for its reds. The most widespread varieties in

Priorat are Garnacha, Cariñena, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot. Due to small vineyards and difficulties in cultivating them, the Priorat wines are not cheap, but they justify their price with their complexity and superior quality. In Penedes, there are Garnacha, Cariñena and Monastrell. This region is also known for its sparkling wine Clàssic Penedès, which is very similar to cava, but with a few significant differences. The first is that, since the 2017 vintage, the Clàssic Penedès only comes from organic grapes, which makes these the first 100% organic sparkling wines in the world.


Castilla y León, in the northwest, is the biggest part of the Spanish geography where wines are produced. The main wine regions there are Bierzo, Rueda, Toro, and, of course, Ribera del Duero. While the red tempranillos from Rioja are generally elegant and refined, frequently with a strong presence of the American oak, Ribera del Duero wines are frequently more intense and perhaps more concentrated, with a stronger presence of black fruit aromas.

Galicia, also in the Spanish northwest, is the biggest producer of whites in the country. The main wine region is Rias Baixas, famous for the mainly crispy and vibrant Albariños.

In the south of Spain, there is Andalusia, famed for the strong Sherry wine from Jerez.

Spanish wines in Serbia

The popularity and the offer of Spanish wine on the domestic market is growing and it seems that this trend is aided by the event Spanish Wines in the Heart of Belgrade (Španska vina u srcu grada), which takes place each year within the Belgrade Wine Week festival. The main part of this Spanish Wine Week of sorts is the exclusive Spanish Food and Wine Salon, which offers a number of workshops and tastings inspired by Spanish wines.

Wines from almost all relevant wine regions of Spain are present in Serbia and on the shelves of local wine shops and the wine lists of restaurants, one can find the champions of the Spanish wine scene, such as Vega Sicilia, Dominio de Pingus, Muga, Marqués de Riscal.

What makes the offer of Spanish wines in Serbia exciting is the fact that more and more of the top-shelf wines come from regions like Rias Baixas, Rueda, Navara, Toro, or Bierzo. It is also a pleasure to see the array of different wine styles, so there is now, in addition to the collector’s gran reservas from well-known wine producers of Rioja and Ribera, an increasing number of modern and slightly avant-garde wines from boutique wineries.



Sommeliers in Serbia and the region have their hands full when it comes to popularizing traditional Spanish varieties

er in the Balkans where 13 countries participated. We also organized the second edition of the competition called Balkan Sommelier Challenge – Open Balkan in Serbia in November 2022, but as our reputation grew, so did the number of participants which doubled the one from the first edition as we welcomed representatives from 26 countries. This year, we host the ASI Best Sommelier of Europe, Africa, and Middle East competition. Between November 11 and 15, Belgrade will be visited by sommeliers from 45 countries, numerous wine experts, and world wine media. We plan to show Serbia in the best of lights, through workshops about Serbian wines and spirits, including visits to the wineries. We are greatly helped by the government of Serbia, and we hope that, after the competition finishes, we will have 45 wine ambassadors of Serbia.

arija Radović has a soft spot for Spanish wines and believes that, in time, they will become a constant in the wine world of the region. In the meantime, she is working on sommelier education that will make recommending wines from the Iberian Peninsula to guests in Serbian restaurants easier.

Serbia’s wine industry seems to be expanding rapidly and the activities of your association testify to it. How did SERSA come to be and what is its primary role?

The Serbian Sommelier Association was founded in 2003 in Belgrade to educate the members, promote the profession, and raise the wine culture in Serbia. We grew and bigger challenges came; like organizing the first competition for the best sommeli-

What was your first encounter with Spanish wines?


It was when, after graduating in Spanish language and literature, I traveled to Spain. But only when, during my work at the Trade and Economic Office of the Embassy of Spain, I came upon a famous Spanish winery, did my interest in the Spanish varieties and the terroir they come from, begin. Since then, I have not ceased to explore both more and less known regions and wine producers in Spain.

Is there something one could describe as Spanish wine?

Grapevine grows in all the 17 autonomous communities of this in many aspects unique country. It is hard to find a common denominator because there are as many as 17 wine regions with a Denomination of Origin (Denominación de orígen). That denomination covers a major part of the Iberian Peninsula that in the northwest touches the Atlantic Ocean, so present in the wines of Galicia, while in the wines of the south, we can feel the hot summer days of Andalusia.


What kind of Spanish wines are popular in Serbia and what are their characteristics?

I think that we and the Spanish are quite alike. In addition to the similarities in the mentality, we also share similar tastes. We like bubbles, so in recent years Spanish cava has become present on the shelves of Serbian wine shops, their aged reds make a perfect match with our national cuisine, so our sommeliers are happy to recommend them in restaurants. Those are wines made of Spanish autochthonous varieties that the Spanish winemakers are proud of, like Tempranillo or Mencia. Those varieties do not depict just the terroir where they are grown, but also the character of the Spanish people.

How do consumers of wine in Serbia react to Spanish wines?

It is impossible not to react to a Spanish wine. On the one hand, because they agree with us, and on the other because their price/quality ratio is perfect. However, some wines are not known enough, and when we don’t know something, we often are not sure how to approach it. Such is the case with the Sherry. This unusual wine is made in a special way called the solera procedure and it means that the wine is aged in wooden barrels under the yeast flower or exposed to oxygen. That gives it a special taste and smell, which may feel off to wine consumers from this part of the world, but the bartenders have of late found it to be useful in cocktails, so it can be enjoyed in Serbia as well.

Do you find that Spanish wines are well-represented in the region? If not, what would you change?

Sadly, the Spanish wines are underrepresented in the region. In bigger cities, like Zagreb, they are present in restaurants, while in other places in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro, they have not been given the credit they deserve. Probably due to the need to stimulate the development of local winemaking, mostly local wines are offered in the region. I would say that the market is not familiar enough with what Spain has to offer. As a Spanish wine educator, I strive to, through my lectures, popularize Spanish wines among our sommeliers and stimulate them to offer their guests authentic Spanish wine experiences.

The story of Spanish viticulture started as a boom of relatively inexpensive wine, but in the meantime, Spain has managed to send to the market some of the most valued bottles on the planet. How do you think the wine industry will develop in Spain and how do you see the Spanish wine story continuing in Serbia?

In recent years, the taste of consumers has been changing and people seek wines with special character. The wineries respond by introducing innovations, so there is an increasing number of natural and biodynamic as well as organic sparkling wines. The young seek wines from the less represented varieties which perhaps do not have the official stamp of the state-prescribed period of aging, but they come from selected parcels and bear the mark of their producer and the terroir. Those wines are slowly finding their way to us, and I believe that through promotions of the Economic and Commercial Department of the Spanish Embassy, they will find a welcoming audience in Serbia. Our young people also want to try the wines from young wineries, and with a story behind which the love for the land and the grapevine can be felt.


What three Spanish wines would you recommend and why?

I will try to through these three wines depict the Spain I love. The first is red wine Reserva XR, which is a coupage of two autochthonous varieties Tempranillo and Graciano and it was aged 20 months in American oak. It is made in the winery called Marqués de Riscal in Rioja. Marqués de Riscal was a businessman, a journalist, and one of the two winemakers who started the traditional aging of wine in Rioja. For three consecutive years, this winery has come second in the competition for the best vineyard and winery in the world.

The second name is a cava Ana de Codorniu, brut nature, from the winery Codorniu, which is the oldest in Spain.

And thirdly, but not less importantly, we have a strongly sweet Sherry made of the Pedro Ximénez variety and coming from the Tio Pepe winery in the city of Jerez de la Frontera close to Cádiz. White Palomino grapes are sun-dried and after the fermentation given sort of a boost in the form of adding the pure wine distillate. The wine is then aged following the solera system. The result is an iodine-color wine, one of the sweetest in the world and with about 15% alcohol.



The Group collects and treats 4.4 million tonnes of domestic waste from over 6 million residents and more than 52,300 industrial and commercial customers

FCC Serbia is part of FCC Environment CEE, an international holding with decades-long experience in waste management and environmental protection. FCC Environment CEE is a leading sustainable waste management and citizen services company in Central and Southeast Europe, providing services in seven countries: Austria,

Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Serbia.


Waste processing and resource recovery are the Group’s core business. These activities range from municipal and citizen services and business waste solutions to environmental services and support.

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FCC Environment CEE serves a wide range of clients, in cluding industry, commerce, and retail, as well as municipalities and households, state organizations, and institutions.

Consulting, collection, transport, sorting, treatment, landfilling as well as the operation of municipal disposal facilities with a wide variety of collection containers are executed with the greatest care and professionalism.

The Group collects and treats 4.4 million tonnes of municipal solid waste from over 6 million residents and more than 52,300 industrial and commercial customers.

Following the mission „Service for the Future,” FCC aims to minimize waste and transform it into a valuable resource. By reducing the environmental burden, the FCC helps secure a good quality of life for present and future generations.

FCC was founded in 1900 and is a leading company in waste management in Spain and one of the leading companies worldwide in this industry.

FCC has come to Serbia to stay and to grow its operations. FCC have enough capacity to receive waste from other municipalities as defined in the 2018 government decree.

While waiting for new regional waste management centers to be built, the FCC has the potential to help the government stop the disposal to wild dumps and start redirecting them to the nearest EU-compliant landfill owned by the FCC.

FCC could be a reliable partner to the Government of Serbia in this respect.

FCC are convinced that the implementation of the government decree from 2018 could significantly reduce the disposal to wild dumps thus drastically reducing pollution.


FCC has been present in Serbia since 2007. It owns and operates two EU-compliant landfills, in Kikinda and Lapovo, and has been a strong partner to 8 municipalities with 25 years of concession contracts.

The activities carried out by the FCC have no negative impact on the environment, as evidenced by the possession of an IPPC permit, which is of great importance to the company. Through its actions, our company makes a significant contribution to the preservation of the environment and to the raising of environmental awareness, which shows a high degree of social responsibility and commitment to the constant improvement of environmental protection.





Spain’s Experience for Serbia’s Railway Evolution

As Serbia gears up to host the Expo 2027, the nation’s ambitions to revitalize its railway network reminds us of Spain’s remarkable journey in the sector at the time of the Expo 1992. The Expo in Seville has served as a pivotal incentive for accelerating railway modernization in the country since it triggered the exceptional progress of high-speed railway development, propelling Spain to the forefront of the global high-speed rail network. Now, as Serbia embarks on its own high-speed rail endeavors, it is a perfect moment to draw inspiration from Spain’s achievements and innovations in this domain.

Thirty years ago, the inauguration of Spain’s high-speed line between Seville and Madrid paved the way for unparalleled connectivity, efficiency, and progress in the transportation sector. Today, Spain leads the world with the highest ratio of constructed high-speed lines per million inhabitants.

In addition to pioneering domestic projects like the AVE, Spanish companies have made significant contributions to railway development on a global scale. Renowned firms such as Talgo and Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF) have played key roles in delivering high-speed rail projects across Europe, Asia, and the Americas. For instance, Talgo, with its innovative Talgo 350 train model, has been involved in prestigious projects like the Haramain High-Speed Railway in Saudi Arabia and the Samarkand-Tashkent high-speed rail line in Uzbekistan whereas CAF has played a key role in providing trains for projects like the Riyadh Metro in Saudi Arabia, Airport Metro Express Line in Hong Kong or Metro of Santiago de Chile. Through their expertise and use of innovative technologies, these companies have facilitated the modernization of railway infrastructure, contributing to improved mobility and connectivity in diverse markets worldwide.

The Spanish Rail Industry, a Worldwide Benchmark for Sustainable Mobility

The Spanish rail industry experienced a turning point 30 years ago, with the arrival of high-speed trains to our country. Since then, Spanish companies have been at the forefront of the sector and today they are an international point of reference, exporting their know-how to the five continents.

This is a status that, without a doubt, our companies have earned thanks to the work covering the complete value chain, offering a „turnkey” service that ranges from the first steps of planning and financing to the final commissioning. Currently, Spanish companies are present in more than 95 countries with projects such as The Marmaray project in Turkey, the CrossRail in the United Kingdom, and the Gotthard tunnel, - which have been three of the most technically difficult underground works in Europe. The extensive experience of Spanish professionals has been requested for metro, trams, conventional railway lines, and high-speed projects in countries such as India, Canada, the United States, Australia, Poland or countries in the Middle East and Latin America, where the Spanish railway engineering has helped plan the transport programs in major cities including numerous metro networks.



Mafex - an Industry With Solid Foundations

The more than 112 Mafex members form a representative value chain and are highly qualified to respond to the challenges posed by the implementation of the rail of the future: digital, connected, and environmentally friendly.

This chain integrates all the subsectors of the industry, from engineering, consulting, certification, and infrastructure, to rolling stock manufacturers that are currently leading pioneering projects.

A large number of companies specializing in signaling, telecommunications, and traffic control, as well as a robust auxiliary industry of equipment and components, are also part of it.

This constitutes an integral model that combines the distinctive expertise of each of them and allows them to provide customized solutions with turnkey projects around the world, both in high speed and in urban mobility and goods.

Atocha Railway Station / Madrid
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