Stakeholders from across the region meet at event sponsored by AmCham Serbia to exchange experiences on tackling illegal trade and protecting intellectual property
The conference brought together more than 100 officers of ministers of finance, law enforcement bodies, customs and tax authorities, and inspections and other oversight organisations responsible for addressing illicit trade and protecting intellectual property from five regional jurisdictions, namely Serbia, North Macedonia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Amalija Pavić, AmCham Serbia Deputy Executive Director, said the event sought to promote an exchange of ideas, foster regional integration between institutions with similar powers, and showcase successful and replicable public-private partnerships.
The participants could learn more about the Croatian track and trace arrangements for tobacco products and the EU member state’s experiences after the 2019 introduction of this comprehensive system. An effective track and trace framework for excise goods is crucial for tackling illicit trade, with other countries in the region also considering similar solutions. Serbia is planning to introduce a track and trace system for cigarettes and heated tobacco by 2025 to meet its EU accession requirements. The conference highlighted the importance of a simple, adaptable, and online system for tobacco tracking, such as QR codes on product packaging.
The conference also discussed the various technologies and investigative techniques used in tackling software piracy, a very widespread practice in the region. Aleksandar Adamović, Serbian Assistant Minister of Internal and External Trade, noted how collaboration between businesses and government authorities was what produced optimal outcomes, with particularly tangible results achieved in protecting intellectual property.
Another successful tracking initiative showcased at the event was Serbia’s National Fuel Marking Programme, which uses nanotechnology to help trace fuel products and which has substantially increased government revenues over the ten years it has been in place.
The final panel at the conference focused on the role of electronic and cashless payments in enhancing transparency, auditing financial transactions, and combatting illegal activity. Cashless payments have the potential to significantly reduce the extent of the shadow economy, as revealed by the paper The Impact of an Increase in Cashless Payments on the Shadow Economy and Public Finance in Serbia.
Ana Jović, Assistant to the Minister of Finance, said: ‘Governments in the region ought to recognise early that involving small and medium-sized enterprises in the digital economy is a driver of development for every country. Serbia subsidised the cost of two major reforms – e-fiscalisation and e-invoicing – thereby helping businesses grow.’
The conference comprised four panel discussions devoted to tracking excise goods, combatting illicit trade, protecting intellectual property, and promoting cashless payments to tackle illegal transactions. The results of regional co-operation between regional authorities have led to increased interest and a greater range of topics discussed at the event.