Belgrade, February 22, 2012
SERBIA - EU
VONDRA: SERBIA NOT TO BE CONDITIONED OVER KOSOVO
PRAGUE, Feb. 21 (Tanjug) - Czech Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra stated Tuesday that there is no reason to condition Serbia's EU candidate status with Kosovo or any other issue given that the positive opinion by the European Commission was presented late in 2011, and that is enough for the Czech Republic to support the continuation of Serbia's EU integration process.
Vondra reiterated after a meeting with Serbian Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac the Czech Republic's unwavering support to Serbia, and commended the reforms that Belgrade carried out, particularly the one in the defence system.
We support Serbia at the moment, and we will just as well support it in March, Vondra said.
When asked by Tanjug whether Serbia has met all criteria for the EU candidate status, Vondra said that Serbia met all preconditions late in 2011 which was confirmed by the opinion of the European Commission.
As far as candidacy is concerned, there are no pressures or preconditions coming from the Czech Republic. We have simply read the opinion of the European Commission late in 2011, and expressed support to Serbia's candidacy status just as we support it now, Vondra said.
He highlighted Serbia's success in the defence system reform.
We are impressed with Serbia's results in the reforms of the military and defence system in the last few years, Vondra said. Sutanovac told Tanjug that the Czech Republic supports Serbia's EU integration, stressing that Vondra confirmed at Tuesday's meeting that as far as the Czech Republic is concerned Serbia should have no additional preconditions for the candidate status in March.
"The president of the Czech Republic, the foreign minister and the defence minister have confirmed that Serbia has no additional preconditions for the candidate status as far as the Czech Republic is concerned," Sutanovac told Tanjug.
He said that this is one of the important results of Serbian President Boris Tadic's recent visit to the Czech Republic and Tuesday's talks in Prague.
SUTANOVAC MEETS WITH SCHWARZENBERG
PRAGUE, Feb. 21 (Tanjug) - Serbian Minister of Defence Dragan Sutanovac conferred Tuesday in Prague with Czech Republic First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg.
Sutanovac, who is on a oneday visit to the Czech Republic conferred earlier with Czech Minister of Defence Alexandr Vondra.
Vondra reiterated that the Czech Republic unconditionally supports Serbia and endorses its EU integration and commended the reforms implemented by Belgrade, most notably in the defence system.
KONUZIN: RUSSIA NOT AGAINST SERBIA'S EU ACCESSION
CACAK, Feb. 21 (Tanjug) - Russian Ambassador to Serbia Aleksandar Konuzin stated on Tuesday that Russia is not against Serbia's EU accession, but added that Serbia should decide on its own what price it is willing to pay for the new partnership.
Russia does not object to Serbia having new friends, but it is on you to decide what price you are willing to pay for that new friendship. I would not want the price to be worsening of relations with Russia, he said. We do not want to interfere, you should decide on your own what is better for you, said the ambassador, who was presented with the December Award of the city of Cacak.
Saying that Serbia's annual export to Russia amounts to USD 800 million and that around 90 percent of products are not subject to customs duties under the Free Trade Agreement, Konuzin wondered whether the new friends will allow such an agreement to keep existing.
The award was presented to Konuzin by Mayor of Cacak Velimir Stanojevic at the city assembly, due to outstanding contribution to the development of economic cooperation between that part of central Serbia and Russian companies. Konuzin expressed his gratitude over the award, and said that he will donate the cash part of the prize to the Red Cross in Cacak.
He also addressed the city businessmen, pointing out that Serbia is one of Russia's most important economic partners in this part of Europe. He stated that the overall trade between the two countries reached USD 3.5 billion in 2011, which is almost by one third more than in 2010.
The Russian ambassador previously attended a ceremony of naming one the streets in Cacak after the Red Army.
BELTRAN CONVINCED SERBIA WILL GET CANDIDACY
BELGRADE, Feb. 22 (Tanjug) - Spanish Ambassador to Serbia Arturo Laclaustra Beltran expressed conviction Serbia will get candidate status for EU membership on March 1 and that the country deserves this because of the efforts it has made and continues to make on its European path.
I am completely convinced Serbia will get candidate status on March 1, which it undoubtedly deserves because of the efforts it has made and continues to make in its EU accession process, Beltran told the daily Politika.
Asked what Serbia needs to do to make this happen, the ambassador said the European Council clearly set out three conditions and nothing beyond that.
I believe Serbia has shown its full commitment and a constructive spirit in fulfilling the conditions, Beltran said.
LUTOVAC: DUAL CITIZENSHIP AGREEMENT BRINGS MANY BENEFITS
POGORICA, Feb. 22 (Tanjug) - Serbian Ambassador in Podgorica Zoran Lutovac said Wednesday that a dual citizenship agreement would improve the position of many citizens of Serbia and Montenegro, but it is up to the Podgorica authorities to decide whether they find such an agreement acceptable.
"One of the ways to ease the position of citizens in Montenegro and Serbia is to introduce dual citizenship. The government in Podgorica will decide whether it finds this acceptable," Lutovac said.
He told the website Analitika that the point of state administration is to make life easier for people, not to complicate their situation. "The administration exists for the people, not the other way around. If there are good proposals for solutions which do not infringe on the citizens' rights and liberties, they are welcome regardless of what they are called or who the proposer is," Lutovac said.
According to him, the overall relations between Serbia and Montenegro could be described as very good, when compared to relations other countries have with their neighbors. "There is, nevertheless, a lot of room to improve these relations in all spheres. It is perfectly normal that the people expect the states to do everything in their power to facilitate communication, movement, business or administrative needs," Lutovac said.
He reminded that Serbia and Montenegro have signed a series of bilateral agreements which could further economic relations. "There is still a lot of room to advance these relations from improving transport infrastructure, above all building a highway and modernizing the railway, through the valorization of the Bar port by Serbian companies, including export from Zastava Kragujevac, intensifying cooperation in agriculture, trade, tourism, increasing investments and foreign trade," said the Serbian ambassador.
Lutovac commended Podgorica's support to the candidacy of Serbia's Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic for the chairmanship of the UN General Assembly.
NEW ROUND OF BELGRADE-PRISTINA TALKS KICKS OFF
BRUSSELS, Feb. 22 (Tanjug) - A new round of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina has kicked off in Brussels, and the talks are not expected to be wrapped up before Wednesday evening, or even Thursday.
Ahead of the dialogue, Stefanovic told reporters he did not expect the talks to go easy as they could take another day to complete.
"We are fully ready to reach an agreement and compromise that would be in line with the interests of both sides. Just like before, we will move within the framework of (UN Security Council) Resolution 1244, the Serbian Constitution and the national interests," Stefanovic said.
When it comes to the technical protocol for integrated control of administrative crossings, Stefanovic is confident no problems should arise if the protocol follows the spirit of the agreement the two sides reached last year. "Our position is that the crossings should serve their function but should not have the elements of national border crossings," the head of Belgrade's negotiating team said.
Asked about Serbia's prospects of getting the EU membership candidate status in March, Stefanovic said that the West should now offer a proof that the Western Balkans would not fall hostage to any political project, including Pristina's. If there is no agreement, everyone will be at a loss, even Pristina, he added.
Commenting on Pristina's team running 24 hours late for the talks, Stefanovic said that Brussels had explained that the reasons for that were technical and the Belgrade team believed them.
SERBIA – FINANCE, ECONOMY
CVETKOVIC: TALKS WITH IMF HAVE NOT FAILED
BELGRADE, Feb. 21 (Tanjug) - Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic stated on Tuesday that the talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have not fallen through or crashed as a part of the public seems to believe, and pointed out that the budget expenses in 2012 would be in keeping with the agreement reached with the international financial institution.
In a halfhour presentation during the meeting of the Serbian parliament Finance Committee, Cvetkovic underscored that the relations between the government and IMF are positive and are continuously developing, and that the cooperation would continue although there are certain divergences as regards certain points in the budget.
The prime minister specified that cooperation would continue via the IMF Belgrade Office and the new mission which should arrive in mid 2012, or when conditions for this have been met.
Cvetkovic stated that it is absolutely incorrect that the talks with IMF have fallen through because the visit of the institution's representatives to Belgrade was not aimed at arrangement revision, but rather at establishing how the year of 2011 ended and what the current developments in 2012 are.
Pointing out that a wrong impression was created in the public according to which the government consumption in 2012 would be unlimited because the talks allegedly fell through, he added that the government would stick to the agreement as regards spending the budget funds.
It is not true that the government concealed certain data from IMF and Serbian parliament, the prime minister stated and added that until the last moment, government officials maintained contact with IMF which was conscious of various opinions as regards certain points in the budget.
Cvetkovic noted that the three main points of divergence in opinions with IMF are the issue of capital increase of Komercijalna Banka and allocation of EUR 100 million from the budget for the purpose, envisaged sum of released guarantees and the issue of the 2012 risk assessment and the sums envisaged for the purpose.
As for the issue of capital increase for Komercijalna Banka, Cvetkovic recalled that the bank is owned by the government as well as certain private investors, including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) as one of the most important ones. In case the EUR 100 million worth of funds for the capital increase are not ensured, the government would lose control over the bank, the prime minister said.
He reiterated that the funds for the capital increase are envisaged in budget plans, but IMF expressed concern that the government would have to take out a loan because of the lower economic growth in order to ensure the funds, which would increase Serbia's public debt.
Cvetkovic underscored that it is important for the government to remain the owner of Komercijalna Banka and that the capital increase would not entail any negative consequences for the current budget because it should be realised late this year but, as he said, IMF expressed certain reserves as regards this issue.
Speaking about the guarantees as one of the contradictory points, the prime minister explained that these imply the government is offering guarantees for certain loans aimed at public enterprises or certain projects. The experience has shown that the degree of loan exploitation for guarantees is quite low and that they totalled around RSD 70 billion in 2011, of which only RSD 23 billion were used up, he said.
The guarantees in 2012 should total RSD 44.7 billion, and IMF requested that they should amount to RSD 30 billion and did not agree with the government's stand that not the whole amount of the guarantees would be exploited but need to be listed in the budget because relevant bodies do not know which of the planned projects would be realised, he said.
Reflecting on the planned budget funds for unforeseen situations, Cvetkovic stated that these totalled EUR 200 million in 2011 and should add up to EUR 300 million in 2012, of which EUR 150 million would go into recirculation and would pay off in six to seven months, which would lower the burden to EUR 150 million.
All these points have no financial influence on the budget until the review, the prime minister noted and added that the government is conducting the fiscal policy in keeping with fiscal regulations.
SERBIA IS RUSSIA'S MOST IMPORTANT ECONOMIC PARTNER IN REGION
BELGRADE, Feb. 21 (Beta) - The Russian ambassador in Belgrade, Aleksandar Konuzin, said on Feb. 21 that Russia views Serbia as one of its most important economic partners in the Balkans.
Speaking at a lecture on the topic "Prospects of Economic Development Between Russia and Serbia," which he held before an audience of businessmen from Cacak, Konuzin said that in 2011, Serbia increased the export of its products to Russia by 50 percent, compared with previous years.
Konuzin stressed that cooperation between Russia and Serbia in the energy sector occupied the first place, and that preparations are under way for the start of construction of the South Stream gas pipeline, which will transit through Serbia and which is to be completed in 2015.
He said that, of the RSD40.6 billion income the NIS company had earned in 2011, it had invested 34.4 billion in the improvement of its production capacities, and that it plans even bigger investments for this year.
THORNLEY: ROAD TO EU IMPORTANT FOR IMAGE AND INVESTMENTS
BELGRADE, Feb. 21 (Beta) - A negative decision on candidate status would harm the political parties that advocate European integration, and also the image of the country, a member of the British Serbian Commerce Chamber, James Thornley, stated on Feb. 21.
The negative decision of the EU in March would seriously harm those political parties that have strived towards this goal. What is even more important is that it would harm the view of Serbia from abroad, because it would provide a potentially confusing image of the intentions and capabilities of Serbia, Thornley told the portal EurActiv (www.euractiv.rs).
He stressed that any kind of halt to European integration would be bad for investments.
As a rule, investors, both domestic and foreign, are counting on Serbia's European road. If this road seems to be blocked temporarily or permanently, it will not contribute to expectations and investments, Thornley pointed out.
VOJVODINA TO PRESENT INVESTMENT POSSIBILITIES IN SLOVAKIA
BRATISLAVA, Feb. 21 (Beta) - A delegation of the Vojvodina government will present the investment possibilities of this province, in Bratislava on Feb. 22, the Provincial Information Secretariat has announced.
The delegation will primarily present the possibilities for investing into renewable energy sources, waste management and agriculture.
The Vojvodina delegation will visit Slovakia by invitation of the Bratislava Region, in keeping with the agreement on cooperation between the government of Vojvodina and this Slovak region. The speakers scheduled to address the seminar are the director of the Fund for Supporting Investments in Vojvodina, Branislav Bugarski, representatives of the Slovak Embassy in Serbia, of the Ministry for the Economy and Regional Development, and of the local authorities.
SERBIA, CANADA TO BOOST AGRICULTURAL COOPERATION
BELGRADE, Feb. 21 (Beta) - The governments of Serbia and Canada will sign Wednesday a memorandum of understanding, which is to boost the two countries' cooperation in the areas of agriculture, cattle breeding, information exchange, technological cooperation, and trade, the Serbian Ministry of Agriculture and Trade announced.
The memorandum will be signed by Serbian Minister of Agriculture and Trade Dusan Petrovic and Canadian Ambassador to Serbia Roman Waschuk.
The document envisages cooperation between the Serbian Ministry of Agriculture, Trade and Forestry and the Canadian Ministry of Agriculture and AgriFood.