Belgrade, January 04, 2012
TADIC: ECONOMY, EMPLOYMENT MAJOR ISSUES IN COMING YEAR
BELGRADE, Dec. 31 (Beta) - On Dec. 30, Serbian President Boris Tadic said that the coming year's key issues would be the economy and boosting employment.
"The capacity to defend every political question and every national interest springs from the economy," Tadic told an annual news conference.
Tadic stressed that Serbia had boosted its GDP by two percent and exports by 15 percent, while lowering its foreign trade deficit, in spite of being in an unfavorable financial situation and suffering from the effects of the global economic crisis.
"We have been servicing our international financial obligations in a relatively regular way and this indicates the stability of our economy. Our investments are larger than in every country in the region and recently a statistic was revealed that direct foreign investment in the Serbian economy was higher than in Slovenia, Hungary, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina together," Tadic said.
Tadic said that at 22 percent, unemployment in Serbia was very high, and that wages were low, yet still not the lowest in the region. He added that the GDP was predicted to grow 1.5 percent next year while exports would increase by 10 percent, adding that inflation would drop from seven percent this year to five percent.
CVETKOVIC: CABINET WILL STICK TO POLICY
BELGRADE, Jan 01 (Beta) - The Serbian Cabinet will insist on the policy of both Kosovo and the EU until the end of its mandate, as no one has the right to change the policy that was embraced by the citizens, Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic has said.
"The Cabinet has been handed a mandate based on which it has defined its fundamental objectives one of which is the EU and the other, preserving the country's territorial integrity and sovereignty," Cvetkovic told B92 TV in an interview on Jan. 1.
He said that the "government will fight for the former and latter goal until the end of its mandate."
When asked to comment on the cabinet's achievements in a political context, i.e. on the ruling coalition, Cvetkovic said that "the functioning of the coalition government, in which around a dozen parties are participating, is very complex."
Cvetkovic refused to answer whether he would run again for prime minister, explaining that the question was a personal one that he would rather not comment on, stressing, though, that he believed that "the coalition will continue to run the country and continue doing what the present government is doing."
CVETKOVIC: NO REASON TO LOWER GROWTH PROJECTIONS
BELGRADE, Jan. 03 (Tanjug) Serbia's Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic said on Tuesday there was no reason to lower the expected economic growth further below 1.5 percent, adding that he expected the economic crisis in Serbia to start weakening with the end of the crisis in the eurozone.
We have more than halved the projections for 2012 compared to a year ago, which is why I think there is no reason now to reduce them further, although it is equally legitimate to think the figure is still too high, but it is equally legitimate to me to think it might be higher," Cvetkovic told Tanjug.
The end of the crisis related to the euro will be a positive signal and help improve the economic situation in Western Europe and consequently in Serbia, he expects. "We shall see what the situation is going to be in two to three months. If new measures are needed, we will take them, but I hope the crisis will start weakening," Cvetkovic remarked.
According to him, the government made the projections for 2012 based on information from a month or two earlier, but the situation in the markets is changing and could be different in two months. The crisis from the eurozone could spill over into Serbia through two main channels, by reducing foreign investments and by cutting down export due to lower demand in eurozone markets, Cvetkovic pointed out.
When it comes to attracting investors, 2011 was fairly successful for Serbia, with around USD 2 billion of direct foreign investments, he noted. "I predict a continuation of the influx of foreign investments for 2012 and I believe we are going to have results at least equal to last year, and I hope a little more than that," Cvetkovic stated. "We have several more large investors coming in. they do not normally like their names mentioned, but those are world names and I am certain they will start investing this year."
"Our development must now be mostly based on an export oriented economy, and export means you depend on outside markets," he stressed.
DJUKIC DEJANOVIC: ELECTIONS IN LATE APRIL OR EARLY MAY
BELGRADE, Jan. 02 (Tanjug) Parliament Speaker Slavica Djukic Dejanovic said on Sunday she expected the next local and parliamentary elections to be held in late April of early May.
Djukic Dejanovic pointed out that most of the local governments' terms end on May 11 and that, for financial reasons, she will schedule the local elections to coincide with the parliamentary.
"Since I am charged with calling the local elections, I am going to schedule them to coincide with the date of the parliamentary election, which will be set by President Boris Tadic. I think he plans to schedule it for late April or early May, and there is no reason now for it to be otherwise," Djukic Dejanovic remarked.
Commenting on the Socialist Party of Serbia's (SPS) ambitions for the elections, she explained that the SPS will not run a typical election campaign because their campaign will comprise what their officials do in the parliament, ministries and local governments.
When asked if the SPS leader wished to become the prime minister after the elections, she answered it was still too early to talk about that, but that SPS leader Ivica Dacic definitely deserved the position based on his record in public offices.
DACIC: SERBIA WILL NOT BE RUINED WITHOUT KOSOVO OR EU
BELGRADE, Dec. 31 (Tanjug) Serbia's Deputy Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said on Saturday that Serbia was going towards the EU for its own benefit and only if it is in its interest, but that it would not be ruined if it lost Kosovo.
"Serbia will not be ruined even if it loses Kosovo. It has happened in Serbia's history, and that fanaticism regarding infatuation with Europe or masochism that says we cannot live without Kosovo or Republika Srpska," he said. When asked what was more important, the EU or Kosovo, he responded it was Serbia.
The administrative line with Kosovo needs to be corrected, "although Serbia could rescind the decision from 40 years ago that assigned some municipalities to Kosovo," Dacic told the Kurir daily, adding that "certain circles in the Vatican" had advised him to do so.
"The international community should accept that Serbs do not wish to live in an independent state of Kosovo, just like Serbia was forced to accept that Albanians did not wish to live in Serbia. That is why a demarcation line should be drawn, maybe at an international conference," he stressed.
When asked if the demarcation would entail a formal recognition of that country, Dacic stated that "if we reach an agreement on a just demarcation, it is completely logical that it should be followed by a full normalization of relations."
WAMMEN: ENLARGEMENT BENEFITS BOTH EU AND CANDIDATES
BELGRADE, Jan. 03 (Tanjug) Denmark's Minister of European Affairs Nicolai Wammen has said he hopes Serbia will get EU candidate status in late February, adding that EU accession is beneficial for both the candidate country and the entire EU.
Denmark hopes Serbia will get the candidate status in February, in accordance with European Council conclusions, Wammen told the Vecernje Novosti daily. Denmark took over EU presidency for the next six months on January 1.
Denmark is determined to continue the enlargement process with the countries already in it, despite the difficult challenges of the debt crisis in Europe.
Enlargement will be an important task for Denmark during its presidency, he stated, adding that EU accession was good for both the candidate countries and the entire Europe.
Heads of EU member states gave Belgrade additional time back in December to continue its talks with Pristina and implement the agreements reached so far. Serbia's candidate status will be discussed again on February 28 at a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers. Their decision should be confirmed by EU leaders on March 1, during Denmark's presidency.
SRECKOVIC: DIASPORA SENDS RECORD USD 5,5 BILLION
BELGRADE, Jan. 03 (Tanjug) Serbs in diaspora sent almost USD 5.5 billion to Serbia in 2011, so despite the economic crisis, the country recorded a record influx of foreign currency in the past 10 years, Minister of Religious Affairs and Diaspora Srdjan Sreckovic has said.
"According to estimates from the National Bank of Serbia and World Bank, the foreign exchange funds sent by diaspora in 2011 reached a record level, higher than the one in 2009 and came close to a total of USD 5.5 billion," Sreckovic told Tanjug.
The money from diaspora helped a lot to improve the standard of living, he stated.
Data indicate that diaspora was one of the chief factors of macroeconomic stability in 2011, he noted, adding that the money sent by diaspora reached 15 percent of the GDP.
The funds sent by diaspora have had a 2.5 times bigger share of the GDP over the past 10 years than direct foreign investments, he pointed out.
According to him, Serbia has received more than USD 40 billion from diaspora since 2000, which was an important financial injection that helped the country go through transition easier.
MARKOVIC: IN 2012, COMPLETION OF ONGOING PROJECTS
BELGRADE , Jan. 04 (Tanjug) Minister of Culture and Media Pregrad Markovic expressed hope that this year, Serbia, as a member of the UNESCO Committee, will continue the restoration of the Smederevo Fortress and the monasteries Manasija, Studenica and Hilandar.
Markovic told Tanjug that these projects are of key importance and directly affect the creation of jobs, sustainable development and present Serbia in an area in which it is highly esteemed cultural tourism and which brings in more and more revenue every year.
The minister also announced for this spring the opening of the Serbian Orthodox Church Archive, which holds an enormous treasure for studying Serbian history.
He stressed the importance of realizing the undertaken plans, with budget funds which exceed those from 2010, and noted it is "important that the money be transferred to cultural institutions in a timely manner."
Markovic explained that the budgets of serious countries respect this rule of increasing the culture budget because "this is the only guarantee you will come out of the crisis with less damage and have a greater chance for the future."
HOMEN: COUNTERSUIT DISCUSSION ONCE CROATIA DROPS CHARGES
BELGRADE, Jan.03 (Tanjug) Serbian government coordinator for the media Slobodan Homen said on Tuesday the government thought talks were the best way to solve all disputes, including genocide charges, but that Serbia would not consider withdrawing its countersuit until Croatia drops the charges of genocide.
"The government welcomes the announcement of a possible withdrawal of Croatia's charges of genocide against Serbia, but real action can only happen once Croatia files an official request with the International Court of Justice to withdraw the charges" Homen told Tanjug.
Croatia's announcements of a possible withdrawal of the charges against Serbia are a great step forward in the two countries' relations, Homen believes, adding that the Serbian government expected real action from Croatia in the coming period. As for a series of issues between the two countries since the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, Homen stressed Serbia had stated clearly more than once that the best way to solve issues was at the negotiating table.
"We are aware there is a series of problems that date back to the 90s. Besides the lawsuit and countersuit, there is a series of issues we insist should be solved, most importantly the problem with property belonging to Serbs who are Croatian citizens, as well as residential rights," he pointed out.
There is also the issue of numerous violations of human rights, as well as war crimes, he added. According to Homen those issues have to be addressed immediately, since the war ended more than 15 years ago, and the people still do not have the right guaranteed by the civilized world and the EU, that is the right to private property.
Negotiations are needed to find a solution for more than 50,000 refugees who were stripped of property, apartments, houses and business facilities, Homen remarked.
Croatia's Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic said on Friday Croatia would drop its charges against Serbia, but she was more reserved at a news conference on Tuesday, saying that the withdrawal would be considered once the issues related to missing persons, stolen property and war crimes were settled.
KOSOVO AND METOHIJA
BOGDANOVIC: SERB INSTITUTIONS IN KIM HAVE TO BE PRESERVED
ZVECAN, Jan.02 (Tanjug) The most important task this year is to preserve the Serb institutions on the whole of Kosovo Metohija territory, Minister for Kosovo and Metohja Goran Bogdanovic said Monday in an interview for TV Most in Zvecan.
Bogdanovic said that "after the agreement on administrative line management, barricades should be removed, as they no longer serve their purpose and only expose the people to danger."
He underlined that Serbia "will continue to back peaceful protests of the inhabitants of not only northern Kosovo, but also of all other parts of the province, of all those that are fighting for their human rights, for their survival and preservation of the state of Serbia."
"Serbia will continue to support its people in Kosovo and Metohija, it will fight for their interests, and therefore for its own interest in that territory. If the agreements reached in Brussels, and adopted by the Serbian government, should be ignored, expression of discontent is only normal," Bogdanovic said.
IVANOVIC:SOLUTION FOR NORTH KOSOVO AFTER ELECTIONS
CAGLAVICA, Jan. 04 (Tanjug) Kosovo Ministry State Secretary Oliver Ivanovic believes that the issue of northern Kosovo will be resolved after the parliamentary elections.
"After the elections, I think we will have a strong government, in other words, a government that has a stable majority, and that will be a very important element in deciding on when and in which way the issue of northern Kosovo will be solved," he told KiM Radio in Caglavica on Tuesday.
We will address the problems, but it is important that we do it in a brave, decisive and above all wise manner, said Ivanovic. Ivanovic reiterated that there will be no abolishment of Serbia's institutions in the north, and that this is proved by the fact that the ministry's budget is now larger than last year.
"That means that our institutions will continue to exist, however, a possibility of rationalization is not ruled out," said Ivanovic, adding that "certain expenses need to be cut down in order to help the returnees, and those who will return to Kosovo for good."
DIALOGUE TO RESUME AFTER JANUARY 16
BELGRADE, Jan. 04 (Tanjug) The negotiating teams of Belgrade and Pristina are set to meet again in Brussels after January 16 with the exact date to be determined after the holidays, reports the Wednesday edition of the daily Vecernje Novosti.
Serbian officials say Belgrade is fully ready to continue the talks and has already prepared several proposals for the participation of Pristina at regional forums, writes the daily.
The paper got confirmation from the European Council that this will be the main topic at the next round of talks. If the two sides finally manage to come closer to an agreement on the issue of regional conferences, energy and telecommunications could also be included on the agenda. A lot depends on regional cooperation because this topic holds the key to Serbia's future European integration.
"We are ready to continue the dialogue and our positions are well known and unchanged. Progress in talks can only be made if Pristina drops its demand that regional representation not be based on UN Security Council Resolution 1244. This is our only condition. The formula for representation at forums must be sought only within the Resolution," head of Belgrade's team Borislav Stefanovic told Novosti.
Brussels will exert pressure on the Kosovo authorities in the coming days to be cooperative in the dialogue, so that the two sides can sit down to talk again, the paper learned from top EU diplomatic sources.
EU mediator in the dialogue Robert Cooper pointed out in an interview for Novosti that the solution for Kosovo's representation at regional forums in close and that a few open issues remain.
DELL: PRISTINA SHOULD IMPROVE RELATIONS WITH MINORITIES
PRISTINA , Jan. 01 (Tanjug) U.S. Ambassador to Pristina Christopher Dell has said the Kosovo authorities should focus on improving relations between the majority ethnic Albanian population and minorities over the first half of 2012.
The end of monitored independence in Kosovo depends on the treatment of minority communities, because the ethnic Albanians have to realize the minorities are citizens of Kosovo and deserve respect like everyone else, Dell noted.
"If the issue does not get an appropriate response, it is possible for many in the international community to claim Kosovo is not prepared to govern itself, he stated. Dell believes that is the issue the institutions should focus on in the first half of 2012, according to what he told RTV 21 from Pristina.
If one looks solely at the results of the establishment of Kosovo's institutions in the past 12 months, Dell says Kosovo will be ready to end monitored independence.
However, monitored independence can end when the minorities gain equality, he added.
The U.S. ambassador cited statements by some Kosovo officials as the latest examples of the authorities' bad relations with minorities, stressing in particular the attempt to poison Serbs' food in the Klina municipality, Radio and Television of Serbia has reported.
VUKCEVIC: GREAT PROGRESS IN ORGAN TRAFFICKING PROBE
BELGRADE, Dec. 31 (Tanjug) War Crimes Prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic has said that great progress had been made in the investigation into human organ trafficking in Kosovo that involved kidnapped Serbs.
He told the Blic daily his office had many contacts with people who had information about the case.
"We are working in Serbia and abroad. We are waiting for the final legal framework and to see if we are going to talk only to EULEX or to them and UN members," Vukcevic pointed out, stressing that it would be best if a UN member were on the investigating team.
He stated that his office had started 58 financial investigations when it comes to seizing property gained through war profiteering, underscoring that it was one of his office's priorities.
When it comes to the people who helped hide ICTY indictee Ratko Mladic, the evidence is still being collected, he noted, adding that 14 members of the military had been questioned and that the police was collecting information on another 11 people at his office's request.
Commenting on the Sakali case, he said the testimony given by Zoran Raskovic about killings of women and children, rape and abuse committed by the unit's members in the village of Cuska in Kosovo in 1999 was an "atomic bomb."
Vukcevic revealed that the most recent threats to him and his deputy had come from Australia and that both were attacked once the trial had started.
HOMEN: SERBIA CANNOT ACT ON REQUESTS BY SOCALLED KOSOVO
BELGRADE, Jan. 04 (Tanjug) State Secretary at the Serbian Justice Ministry Slobodan Homen said Wednesday that the Serbian judiciary had no intention to follow any demands of the so-called Kosovo judicial institutions as Serbia did not recognize Kosovo as a country.
Commenting on recent announcements that Kosovo will ask for the extradition of the recently arrested Veselinovic brothers, Homen told Tanjug that the Serbian judiciary was firm in its stance of not recognizing Kosovo as a country or its so-called judicial institutions as legal.
The cooperation can only be had through EULEX, Homen pointed out.
If Serbia gets any request from EULEX judiciary, the Serbian judicial institutions will consider it and respond within the statutory deadline, said Homen.
"When it comes to the cooperation with EULEX, we want to reaffirm that we want to cooperate, but the cooperation has to be respected by both sides," the Serbian state secretary said.
Sikri Sila, the chief prosecutor in the city of Kosovska Mitrovica in northern Kosovo, said late last week that Kosovo officials were compiling documents to submit a request to Belgrade to extradite brothers Zvonko and Zarko Veselinovic, whom KFOR had charged with organizing the setting up of roadblocks and violence in northern Kosovo.
Zarko and Zvonko Veselinovic were arrested at Mount Kopaonik, close to the administrative line with Kosovo, on December 20. The Higher Court of the city of Kraljevo, central Serbia, has launched an investigation against Zvonko Veselinovic on the suspicion of illegal production, possession, carrying and sale of weapons or explosive materials.
Belgrade's special court is carrying out an investigation against Zarko Veselinovic over the charges of inciting Srecko Topalovic, a judge of the Raska Basic Court, to abuse of power.