homepage_name! > Editions > Number 142 > Ambassador - Denmark

H.E. Mrs. Susanne Shine, Danish ambassador to Serbia


Denmark is the smallest of all the Scandinavian countries with approximately 5.5 million inhabitants. It encompasses the Jutland peninsula, along with numerous islands. The capital, Copenhagen, is located on Zealand Island, whereas the island, Funen, is probably best known for the city of Odense, the birthplace of the world-famous author Hans Christian Andersen. The Kingdom of Denmark also encompasses two self-governed territories – the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Greenland is over five hundred times larger than Denmark, but with a population that is one hundred times smaller. Copenhagen has the highest population density with over a million inhabitants. In addition to being known for its excellent welfare state system and general level of happiness among its citizens, Denmark also has long-standing experience in creating an energy-efficient economy that benefits the climate. Creating an ecological and sustainable society in which all energy is produced from renewable sources is Denmark’s primary objective in the fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions throughout the world.

1. Your Excellency, how do you feel in Belgrade? What are your impressions of Serbia?

Belgrade is a fascinating city with lots of history and culture. It is also very liveable, and the people have been welcoming and generous. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has limited my travels around the country, but I have had the chance to visit Fruska Gora, which is a beautiful place for enjoying nature, and Mladenovac, where I adopted an adorable Serbian dog from a well-run shelter. I soon hope to be able to visit other parts of this wonderful country, like for instance the Studenica Monastery. I am also accredited as the ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and North Macedonia and look forward to seeing more of those countries too.

2. How long have you held the position of Ambassador in Serbia and what did your diplomatic career look like before coming to Serbia?

I arrived in Belgrade in September 2020, so I have been here for almost 7 months. Before Serbia, I had assignments as the Ambassador to Egypt, and to Australia and New Zealand. I have also served in the US, Ireland, and Canada, as well as holding a number of positions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Copenhagen. At the start of my career, I worked for the UN Development Program in Lesotho, the UN Industrial Development Organization in Vienna, and the UN Refugee Agency in Washington. Later, I spent two years working on global gender equality at the World Bank in Washington. I have now been working internationally for more than 30 years and hope my experiences elsewhere can help me contribute to the relationship between Denmark and Serbia.

3. What is the current diplomatic and economic relationship between our two countries, and what was it like in the past?

The relationship between Denmark and Serbia is strong. Denmark and Serbia opened diplomatic relations over 100 years ago in 1917. Over the years, Denmark has engaged in a number of development programs in Serbia, and Danish companies have invested in various sectors of the Serbian economy.

For example, Denmark has been funding a highly successful program for six years together with the Serbian Ministry of Agriculture, which has helped farmers develop fruit and berry production and has created 800 jobs, mostly for women, in southern Serbia. Denmark’s response to the floods in 2014 provides an example of a different type of assistance. At that time, the Danish Ministry of Defense provided disaster relief support and sent staff and equipment to Serbia. Denmark has also supported judicial reform, freedom of the media, refugee resettlement, the ombudsman institution, local economic development, and entrepreneurship. Also, in recent years, Serbia was one of Denmark’s largest defense cooperation partners in Europe outside NATO, with projects primarily aimed at supporting reforms, capacity building, and regional partnership.

Today, Denmark channels most of its assistance via the EU and international institutions. For instance, Denmark is running a twinning project in Serbia financed by the EU to improve the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights and to align Serbia’s approach with European standards.

4. What is the current situation in Denmark regarding the pandemic?

More than a year ago, Denmark responded promptly and effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Denmark has, more or less, closed down completely. Schools, businesses, and shops have been closed for long periods. Denmark has thus been able to limit the number of deaths and cases of serious illness, but the pandemic has still been tragic, as in many other countries. There are still a number of restrictions in place in Denmark but with more Danes being vaccinated, the country is slowly being able to reopen. Let me also take this opportunity to congratulate Serbia on the excellent organization of its vaccination program, both for its citizens and foreign residents.

5. Today, Serbia is a candidate for EU membership, with negotiations starting in January 2014. In your opinion, where is Serbia now on its EU accession path, and what would be essential for Serbia to become a member ?

Denmark considers the Western Balkan countries a natural part of the EU and has consistently supported giving them a European, merit-based perspective. The European Commission’s recent ‘2020 Report on Serbia’ offers a detailed roadmap of the different negotiation chapters, along with clear policy recommendations. Denmark looks forward to Serbia meeting the accession requirements and entering the EU as a valued partner.

6. When we talk about investments, how do investors from Denmark see the Serbian market? How many Danish companies are operating here and what are the most important ones that invest in Serbia?

With a population of 7 million and the largest and most prosperous economy in the Western Balkans, Serbia offers excellent investment opportunities. Danish companies across a wide range of sectors see investing here as a win for both Serbs and Danes. Currently, around 30 Danish companies operate in Serbia and have created thousands of jobs. Carlsberg Srbija in Bačka Palanka and Grundfos in Indija are examples of significant Danish investments. Other examples are Novo Nordisk (insulin for diabetes), Danfoss (cooling, heating, and electric motor systems), Rockwool (insulation), Velux (windows), AVK (energy and water), Better Collective (IT), Ergomade (furniture) and Kentaur (professional clothing). Engineering and consultancy companies like NIRAS and COWI and renowned agricultural companies such as Danvi and Skøv also have a strong presence in Serbia.

7. What is the trade balance of our two countries and which business sectors have the most potential? What does Serbia export to Denmark, and what does it import?

Trade between Denmark and Serbia has increased substantially in recent years. In 2020, Denmark's exports to Serbia amounted to around 180 mill. EUR, and imports from Serbia to around 90 mill. EUR. I believe that we will continue to see steady growth in trade in the coming years. Most of the Danish exports are in goods, such as industrial machinery and equipment, as well as medicinal and pharmaceutical products. On the other hand, Denmark imports mostly furniture from Serbia.

I see many opportunities for Danish companies to invest and contribute to Serbia’s growth and development, especially in environmental protection, climate solutions, and wastewater treatment. Danish companies have cutting-edge expertise in finding cost-effective, sustainable, and green solutions within most sectors.

Let me offer an example: Buildings are one of society’s greatest energy consumers, accounting for almost 40% of global energy consumption and 36% of CO2 emissions. Almost as a turnkey solution, Danish companies can reduce the impact of buildings on the environment.

By engaging Danish architects and engineers from, for instance, NIRAS or COWI, you can plan for natural ventilation, green roofs, and even urban gardens. If you retrofit the building with Rockwool products and Velux windows, you can improve the indoor climate, reduce CO2 emissions, and lower energy consumption bills. By installing a Danfoss smart metering system, you save on energy consumption and optimize your building for comfort and by using state-of-the-art Grundfos pumps, you increase water efficiency and save energy. Green buildings, however, are only one example of potential Danish contributions in Serbia. I also see opportunities in, for instance, healthcare, digitalization and IT, agriculture, and manufacturing.

8. How would you characterize the cooperation between the Government of Serbia and business associations in terms of entrepreneurship development?

Entrepreneurship is at the core of the Danish economy, so we have tried to share some of that knowledge and passion with Serbia. For a number of years, Denmark had a large-scale program called Local Economic Development in the Balkans. At that time, we enjoyed excellent cooperation from the local authorities. We focused on supporting small and medium-sized enterprises in southern Serbia, which led to the creation of the Cluster House, an umbrella organization for clusters in Nis. More recently, the Danish Embassy organized a seminar in Nis for start-ups with a very successful Danish IT company, Better Collective. We hope to continue this initiative once the COVID-19 situation allows us to, and include as many local institutions as possible.

9. Can you tell us something about the relationship between Serbia and Denmark in the fields of culture and education?

Cooperation in culture has always been excellent as both countries have much to offer. Denmark has, for instance, taken part in the Belgrade Jazz Festival, Belgrade Dance Festival, and movie festivals, as well as in numerous initiatives in photography, architecture, literature, music, dance, and other performing arts.

In terms of education, Denmark has long had excellent relations with the Department for Scandinavian Languages and Literatures at the University of Belgrade. The Department offers Danish language and literature courses and has Danish language tutors. The Embassy has had the pleasure of employing some of those Danish language students as part-time assistants.

It is also a pleasure to see how many young talented Serbian students are awarded scholarships from the EU-Erasmus program to study at universities in Denmark. It is through exchanges like this, that the bilateral relationship will grow even stronger in the years to come.

10. How would you present your country as a tourist destination? What sights would you recommend?

As a tourist destination, Denmark has experienced a surge in popularity in recent years. People from around the world visit Denmark to see what makes Danes some of the happiest people in the world. For me, it is trust in the system and institutions, coupled with a very strong focus on the environment and its protection.

An excellent example of the system and institutions working for Danes in an environmentally friendly way is cycling. Denmark has invested significant funds in creating bicycle highways, so you can easily travel around the entire country by bicycle.

If that becomes too much, you can always hop on a train and enjoy the ride, with your two-wheels right at your side. Cycling is a great example of the synergy between different modes of transportation, which in turn allows for better urban planning, citizen mobility, and overall wellbeing. It has also become a valued characteristic of Danish culture, lifestyle, and happiness. We love to cycle and we do it year-round. It is healthy, environmentallyfriendly, and fun. I would encourage you to visit www.visitdenmark.com where you can find some highlights, destinations, things to do, accommodation, and other information on visiting Denmark.