Serbia occupies a key strategic juncture in the Balkans at the social, political, and geographic crossroads of Eastern and Western Europe. The United States seeks to strengthen its relationship with Serbia by deepening cooperation based on mutual interest and respect. The United States wants Serbia to be part of a stable Balkan region, and we pursue this by supporting Serbia’s integration into European institutions, helping normalize Serbia’s relations with Kosovo, strengthening the rule of law, partnering on security issues, and promoting economic growth.
Serbia opened EU accession negotiations in January 2014 and has embraced the goal of EU membership as its top strategic priority. The United States continues to support Serbia’s efforts to make progress in EU accession talks. Serbia’s accession is conditioned on significant rule of law and economic reforms, as well as the normalization of relations with Kosovo via the EU-facilitated Dialogue, launched in 2011 with strong U.S. backing. The United States supports the efforts of Serbia and Kosovo to fully implement Dialogue agreements made thus far and to help move both sides toward full normalization.
In 2019, the President appointed a Special Presidential Envoy for Serbia and Kosovo Peace Negotiations and the Secretary of State appointed a Special Representative for the Western Balkans focused on encouraging Kosovo and Serbia to accelerate efforts to reach a normalization agreement, ideally centered on mutual recognition, which would benefit citizens of Kosovo and Serbia, contribute to regional stability, and enable both countries to realize their full potential and further integrate into the West.
U.S. Assistance to Serbia
The U.S. Government’s assistance goals in Serbia include supporting Serbia’s EU accession path and strengthening Serbia’s capacity to counter terrorism and transnational crime, combat corruption, and participate in international peacekeeping missions. Since 2001, the United States has provided over $1 billion in assistance to Serbia toward strengthening the rule of law and freedom of the media, increasing good governance, fostering inclusive economic growth, supporting cultural preservation, strengthening the defense sector and our mil-to-mil cooperation, bolstering border security, aiding ongoing clearance of explosive remnants of war and the destruction of surplus ammunition, and helping local communities repair infrastructure and become stronger. The U.S. Government continues to provide support to strengthen the country’s asylum systems and to facilitate local integration of refugees and displaced persons from the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
Our Ohio National Guard-led bilateral State Partnership Program is the cornerstone of our security relationship with Serbia. Throughout the 13-year partnership, Ohio and Serbia have worked together to enhance joint training opportunities, averaging about 20 events annually, held in either Serbia or Ohio, which have provided an effective platform for developing vibrant and close bilateral ties between our armed forces. Serbia has also been an active participant in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program for more than a decade, and the United States has been a firm and consistent supporter of Serbia’s efforts to strengthen its relationship with NATO. We value, in particular, Serbia’s contributions to UN and EU multilateral efforts aimed at providing medical capabilities, defeating ISIS, and combatting international terrorism. The United States and Serbia have also partnered for more than ten years through our International Military Education and Training program to allow Serbian and American military officers and non-commissioned officers to train together and learn from each other in our most prestigious military schools.
The United States values Serbia’s contributions to global peacekeeping efforts. Our Foreign Military Financing and Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) programs have provided approximately $20 million in security assistance to Serbia for defense modernization and peacekeeping operations equipment and training since 2009. The United States has delivered a total of 40 High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs/Humvees), horizontal engineering and construction equipment, as well as over $7 million in infrastructure and equipment projects to develop the Serbian Armed Forces’ Regional Peacekeeping Operations Training Center at South Base to support Serbia’s participation in UN and EU multinational operations around the world. Since becoming a GPOI partner in 2011, Serbia has increased its contributions to UN Peacekeeping Operations more than tenfold. Serbia is likewise a recipient of DoD’s section 333 authority to build the capacity of foreign security forces, and it receives assistance in the spheres of counter-trafficking, counter-narcotics and global threats, and cyber-crimes investigations.
Bilateral Economic Relations
As part of its EU accession process and cooperation with the International Monetary Fund since 2015, Serbia has undertaken economic reforms and has seen meaningful short-term improvements. Significant fiscal consolidation and efforts to combat the informal economy delivered GDP growth of 4.4% in 2018, and the World Bank is forecasting 2019 growth of 3.3%. Unemployment has fallen to less than 13%, and inflation has fallen to 2%. The central government has run a small budget surplus for the past three years. Foreign Direct Investment inflows have increased to 3.2 billion euros ($ 4.3 billion), totaling more than 7.5% of GDP in 2018, 33% higher than in 2017. Serbia is currently cooperating with the IMF under a 30-month Policy Coordination Instrument that began in mid-2018. With U.S. assistance, Serbia has implemented reforms to its labor law, construction permitting, and inspection oversight. These reforms have translated into significant improvements in Serbia’s rankings in the World Bank’s Doing Business report, in which the country now ranks 44th in the world in overall ease of doing business. At the same time, endemic corruption, brain drain, and a still overly large state role in the economy remain persistent obstacles to further economic expansion.
There is growing interest from potential U.S. investors in Serbia, in line with positive economic trends and with Serbia’s prospective EU accession. In September 2018, the United States and Serbia signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in infrastructure projects. To deliver the additional jobs and growth its citizens demand and to catch up with EU standards, Serbia must move forward with economic reforms to strengthen its private sector, reform its public administration, resolve state-owned enterprises, and improve the rule of law.
U.S. firms have invested around $4 billion in Serbia. Among the leading U.S. investors in the country are NCR, KKR, Philip Morris, Molson Coors, Ball Packaging, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Cooper Tire, Ametek and Van Drunen Farms. Many other leading U.S. firms, from a broad variety of industrial and service sectors, have a significant presence. There has been increased interest from U.S. information technology (IT) companies, with specific emphasis on opportunities in e-government, cloud computing, digitization, systems integration and IT security. NCR, Microsoft, Oracle, FIS, and IBM all have significant IT-related operations in Serbia, along with a growing number of IT start-ups. Serbian IT professionals are highly sought after.
Serbia’s Membership in International Organizations
Serbia and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank. In addition, Serbia is a member of the Council of Europe. Serbia is not yet a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), but has observer status in the organization. Serbia participates in NATO’s Partnership for Peace.
The U.S. Ambassador to Serbia is Anthony F. Godfrey; other principal embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List.
Serbia maintains an embassy in the United States at 2233 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Suite 410, Washington, DC 20007 (tel. 202-332-0333).