PROJECTS AND PROJECT MANAGEMENT IN SERBIA – REINHARD WAGNER, President of IPMA

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Last week I visited Serbia. It was my first visit and I realized how limited my knowledge about this country and the region is. The city of Belgrade impressed me a lot, a major hub at the confluence of Sava and Danube river. This is figurative for Serbia, because the country is a confluence of many tribes, cultures and people. In the middle of the Neolithic period people settled in the region and formed the Vinča Culture, later Thraco-Dacians, Celts, Romans and Slavs settled but were often challenged by other cultures. For example, the Ottomans conquered the region and tried to convert people from the Orthodox religion into Muslims. In 1594, a major rebellion of the Serbs was crushed and Sinan Pasha ordered the relics of Saint Sava – the founder of the Orthodox church in Serbia – to be publicly torched on the Vračar plateau, where nowadays one of the world´s largest Orthodox churches is being build, the Church of Saint Sava.

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Later the Austrian Empire occupied the country. It was the declaration of war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia that caused the first World War and subsequently many damages to the capital Belgrade. Also during the second Wold War Serbia was between all forces, first the German Luftwaffe bombed the city, later the Allies and the Red Army attacked it too which still can be seen in the city. After WWII the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia  was formed under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito. Glasnost in Russia and the fall of the Berlin Wall caused the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s with another military conflict in the region. Finally, the states of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia became independent.

Serbia is in the process of transforming its economy from a planned economy into a market economy. In 2015, the nominal GDP was about $5,000 per capita, which is half of its neighbour Croatia. Main sectors of the economy are services that account to 50% of GDP, followed by industry with 40% and agriculture with about 10%.  Most of the trade is performed with the countries of the European Union and Russia. The economic crisis of 2008 and 2009 hit Serbia very much, the country is still trying to find its place in the world´s economy.

DSC07743The Top 5 export goods of Serbia in 2014 were vehicles, electrical machines, cereals, fruits and vegetables as well as clothes. New businesses, especially in the IT sector are rapidly growing and changing the focus of the country. In addition, tourism is of increasing significance for the country, attracting more than 3 Million people every year to come, from Europe, Middle East and Asia. Many projects are performed in Serbia to improve the infrastructure, for example the$388 million World Bank Corridor X Highway Project, connecting Serbia and Bulgaria. Or the Belgrade Waterfront development project, combining commerce, culture and community along the Sava River. It is designed to cover an area of approximately 80 hectares with approximately 1.8 million square meters of offices, retails, hotels and luxury apartments. It’s estimated that the cost of the project will be around three billion US dollars and will be completed within ten years. Other projects, sponsored by the European Union and the World Bank,are aiming at increasing the entrepreneurial activities and innovation, e.g. through Mini Grants and Matching Grants Programmes.

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Project management is not new to Serbia, already in the late 1960s consulting firms brought know-how into the country. Later individuals, companies and universities used it for  country-specific adaptation. 30 years ago the first association was formed. In the context of the former Yugoslavia it was called Yugoslav Project Management Association (“YUDRUP”) and became member of IPMA. Following the disintegration of Yugoslavia, the association was renamed into “YUPMA”, now focusing on the profession in Serbia. YUPMA is one of the founders of South-East Network (“SENET”), exchanging experiences on a regional basis. Many events have been organised, bringing together Academia as well as practitioners out of the region. In 2006, a Project Management College was established, contributing significantly to the education of undergraduate and graduate students. In 2014, the Commission for Accreditation and Quality Assurance of the Republic of Serbia awarded the College the status of the Faculty for Project and Innovation Management. Currently, a doctoral study programme is undergoing an accreditation process to soon complement the academic offerings. Since twenty years an international symposium is being held in Serbia, bringing together experts from the country, the region and the international level. Other activities of YUPMA cover seminars, workshop and events for practitioners and the Young Crew, the 4-Level-Certification System is offered in order to develop the competences of project managers in the country. An important step for Serbia in order to improve the economic situation and to reposition itself within Europe.