Russia's food import ban on the West has opened the doors to Serbian exporters looking to capitalise on traditional ties with Russia. Joel Flynn reports
Even as European sanctions bite in Russia, and hurt some EU firms, one country in the region hopes to gain an advantage. Serbian exporters hoping to capitalise on Russia's ban on importing food from the West. Meat, fish, dairy, fruit and vegetables from the U.S., the EU among others now have to be sourced elsewhere. If things go well, agriculture experts like Milan Prostran say the rewards could be great. SOUNDBITE: Agriculture Expert, Milan Prostran, saying (Serbian): "We have a chance that does not come along very often. Neighbouring countries also implementing sanctions against Russia will see their exports suffer, but taking advantage of this chance means heavy investment, better organisation, and support from the state." Links between Serbia and Russia have traditionally been strong. But Serbia is also looking West - and hopes to join the European Union in the future. Zeljko Sertic is director of Serbia's Chamber of Commerce and Industry. SOUNDBITE: Serbian Chamber Of Commerce And Industry Director, Zeljko Sertic, saying (Serbian): "The Russian situation won't see benefits for Serbia in just a month or two, but for us this is a chance to foster better competition from our companies in Russia as well as Europe, and possibly open a path towards the European Union." Serbia also says it will keep a close eye on the sale of agricultural products to Russia from the EU, so as not to infringe EU sanctions. But the director of Apple World, 200 kilometres north of Belgrade, has concerns. SOUNDBITE: "Apple World" Director, Dusan Milivojevic, saying (Serbian): "The chance to expand Russian exports could be a double-edged sword, as it might mean the closure of some economic channels with the EU. That would mean we couldn't sell to them, and I think this situation is one that isn't necessarily good news for all of us." The sanctions could present a chance that few businesses in Serbia will want to pass up. But they're also a political and economic tightrope Serbian companies don't want to fall off.