Russian citizens have founded 6,976 companies in Serbia since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Despite that “incredible” number, it is questionable whether all these companies will contribute to the growth of the Serbian economy or whether they are just a way for Russian citizens to obtain a permanent residence permit in Serbia, with the help of which they can further secure visas for European Union countries, or to waive military service obligations in Russia, the analysis of the Center for European Policies (CEP) showed.
The new generation of Russian migrants consists of enterprising young people from the middle and upper middle class, employed in the IT sector and working remotely.
The largest number of companies founded by Russian citizens is in the technology sector. Programming and consulting are dominant among Russian businesses in Serbia. In addition, Russian migrants are engaged in hospitality, retail or run beauty salons, according to CEP.
CEP states that registering the exact number of Russians living in Serbia proved to be a big challenge, and the situation was further complicated by differences in media reports and official figures.
For example, the European Commission presented the data that 219,153 Russian citizens entered Serbia from February 2022 to June 2023. However, in contrast, the Ministry of the Interior of Serbia claims that this number is significantly higher, i.e. that 370,000 Russians entered the country from February 2022 to April 2023. However, the Ministry acknowledged the departure of 340,332 Russian nationals within the same time frame.
In Serbia, 30,000 Russians successfully obtained temporary residence permits, so this is the only accurate statistical indicator, CEP points out. The CEP states that the arrival of Russian citizens has not only affected Belgrade and Novi Sad, but also some remote regions of Serbia, such as Subotica and Niš.
What is behind the figure of 7,000 companies?
The Serbian media sheds light on the enthusiasm of entrepreneurs from Russia, the prevailing optimistic atmosphere is driven by the belief that the arrival of hardworking and ambitious young people will have a positive effect on the economy of Serbia. The possibility of growth of the Serbian IT sector is especially encouraged. However, the situation is a bit more complicated than that, according to the analysis.
Achieving practical freedoms (the ability to open multi-currency bank accounts, securing visas for European Union countries, accessing the labor market, or even waiving Russian military service) depends on obtaining a valid permanent residence permit.