Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Reception to mark end of Serbia’s presidency over CoE Committee of Ministers

Belgrade, Nov 7, 2007 – The Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated today that Secretary General of the Council of Europe (CoE) Terry Davis will arrive tomorrow in Belgrade to attend a reception marking the end of Serbia’s presidency over the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers.

According to the statement, the reception will be hosted by Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vuk Jeremic. Davis will also attend a humanitarian concert in the Sava Centre which will mark this occasion.

Slobodan Trkulja and the Balkanopolis Band together with the Netherlands Metropole Orchestra will perform at the concert and proceeds from the concert will be used for fighting drug addiction.

Serbia’s presidency was assessed as very successful on several occasions and the six-month rotating presidency will now be handed over to Slovakia on November 12 in Strasbourg.

According to general estimates, during its presidency Serbia showed commitment to European values and carried out duties on this function in a serious and responsible manner, concludes the statement.

More intensive regional police cooperation necessary to tackle organised crime

Belgrade, Nov 7, 2007 – Interior ministers and police officials from the region agreed today in Belgrade that a more intensive regional police cooperation is necessary so as to tackle organised crime.

Serbian Minister of Interior Dragan Jocic told a press conference held after the regional meeting of interior ministers and police officials in the region that this meeting confirmed readiness of regional police forces to continue fighting organised crime.

Jocic pointed out to the importance of preserving the state borders from all forms of criminal activities, thus protecting both the region and the EU countries.

He said that regional police cooperation in searching for Hague indictees will be everyday on an operational level and added that Serbia initiates this cooperation being the country that should end its cooperation with the Hague tribunal.

Representatives from Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia participated in the meeting.

Parliament ratifies agreements on visa relaxations, readmission

Belgrade, Nov 7, 2007 – Serbian parliament adopted today laws on ratifying the agreement between the Republic of Serbia and the EU on relaxing visa regime and the agreement between Serbia and the EU on readmission of persons residing in the EU illegally.

The agreements on visa relaxations and readmission, which were signed on September 18, 2007 in Brussels, should come into force on January 1 next year.

Ratification of these agreements is an important step forward in EU association and in the process of Serbia’s inclusion in the White Schengen List.

The agreement on visa relaxation regards certain categories of citizens and will simplify and accelerate the procedure of obtaining visas for EU countries. The cost of visa will be fixed at €35.

Relaxations will apply to businesspeople, lawyers, doctors, architects and other professionals, journalists, scientists, artists, sportspersons, students, professional drivers, civil servants, as well as representatives of religious and non-governmental organisations.

This document will also apply to citizens who need to travel to EU countries for medical treatment, to visit civil and military graveyards, to attend funerals or to visit family, and to tourists whose travel plans are arranged by respectable tourist agencies.

The agreement on readmission regulates the return of Serbian citizens, citizens of other countries and those without citizenship who entered EU territory through Serbia to stay in EU territory illegally.

Ratification of the agreement on readmission has shown that Serbia is willing to make such agreements with all interested countries, and that Serbia is ready to fully cooperate with the EU in organised, reciprocal and institutionalised return of persons staying illegally in EU countries.

The agreement defines the procedure of readmission; the process of return according to highest European standards, deadlines, expenses and protection instruments.

Parliament also ratified the agreement between the council of ministers of the former state union of Serbia-Montenegro and the French government on returning and accepting illegal aliens.

Serbia initials Stabilisation and Association Agreement with European Union

Belgrade/Brussels, Nov 7, 2007 – Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic and EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn initialled today in Brussels the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the European Union.
The Serbian delegation at the initialling ceremony was led by Serbian President Boris Tadic, and the delegation also includes Director of the EU Integration Office Tanja Miscevic, Assistant Foreign Minister Milica Delevic and the Serbian Deputy Prime Minister's Advisor for Legal Issues of European Integration Vladimir Todoric.

Rehn said that the EU's decision to initial SAA with Serbia is a result of improved cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which was reported by the tribunal's Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte.

He stressed that full cooperation of Belgrade with ICTY remains the condition for signing the SAA, which is initialled today, two years after the first round of negotiations on that agreement.

The Serbian Deputy Prime Minister said following the initialling ceremony held in Brussels that Belgrade will make all efforts to ensure that the agreement is signed as soon as possible.

According to Djelic, for those who are working on Serbia’s EU integration there will be no rest until the agreement is signed.

Today, on behalf of the Serbian government Djelic handed over Belgrade’s action plan to Rehn according to which it is emphasised that Serbia’s aim is to acquire candidate status by the end of 2008 and also to be included in the White Schengen List.

Djelic said that a new era of relations between Serbia and the EU has begun with the handing over of this action plan to the EU Enlargement Commissioner.

Once political questions are settled we will be able to carry out the process of EU integration at record speed. We have proven our capacity for such work since we managed to conclude negotiations on this agreement within a mere three and a half months whereas other countries needed up to two years, stressed Djelic.

He said that the SAA is the best insurance for domestic and foreign investors, and added that the EU budget for Serbia in 2008 will stand at €190.9 million.

However, as long as we do not acquire candidate status, the most important items on the European budget which regard regional development and agriculture, will not be available to Serbia, said Djelic.

He expressed conviction that Serbia will succeed in realising its goals within a period of just over a year.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Police seize over 6 kilos of heroin

Belgrade, Oct 29, 2007 – The Serbian Ministry of Interior stated that the police, members of the Security and Intelligence Agency (BIA) and border police have cut off a drug route through which heroin was smuggled.

The statement adds that at the Batrovci border crossing, 6.607 kilos of heroin and 8.795 kilos of paracetamol were found in a Nissan Primera with Italian licence plates, driven by Italian citizen Fabio B. (50).

The drug was packed in 19 parcels covered in sellotape and hidden in a specially made bunker under the vehicle’s rear bumper.

Fabio B. was detained in custody for illegal production, storage and sale of narcotic drugs. He will be taken before the investigating judge at the Sremska Mitrovica district court, adds the statement.

Robne Kuce Beograd sold for €360m

Belgrade, Oct 29, 2007 – Insolvent department store chain company Robne Kuce Beograd has been sold today at a public auction for €360 million to Verano Motors, owned by Radomir Zivanic from Belgrade.
Ten domestic and foreign companies took part in the auction held today at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. The initial price was €140 million.

Almost 240,000 square metres of office space, that is, a total of 34 department stores, was offered on sale, including department stores in Belgrade as well as Bijelo Polje, Subotica, Kikinda, Vranje, Pirot, Uzice, Backa Topola, Nis, Vrsac, Bor, Zrenjanin and other towns.

In order to take part in the bidding, the prospective buyers had to submit bank guarantees of €44 million and to purchase tender documentation whose price was €7,000.

The documentation was purchased by nearly 40 potential participants.

The Serbian Privatisation Agency issued an advertisement on the sale of this insolvent company as a legal entity on July 27 this year.

Serbia will be more flexible once unilateral Kosovo independence threats stop

Belgrade, Oct 29, 2007 – Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vuk Jeremic announced readiness of Belgrade to be even more flexible in negotiations on the future status of Kosovo-Metohija once there are no more threats of a unilateral proclamation and recognition of independence of the southern Serbian province.
In an interview with daily Blic, Jeremic said that as long as any document put on the table clearly excludes the possibility of unilateral proclamation and recognition of Kosovo’s independence.

He said that he would like a compromise solution to be found by December 10, but doubted it is a realistic aim.

Hence it is of utmost importance to make substantial progress in negotiations to set foundations for the position of the international community that talks need to continue. However, the threat of unilateral moves puts a big burden on the whole process and thus also burdens the chance to find a compromise, Jeremic said.

Commenting on the fact that the troika could come up with another, final document by the end of the negotiating process, he said that Belgrade shall not, under any circumstances, agree to any offer jeopardising and relativising Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia.

He said he believes that compromise is possible, a model which brings together the legitimate requests of Kosovo Albanians for a high degree of self-government with the equally legitimate Belgrade request for the preservation of sovereignty, which is why both sides should talk until a solution is reached.

According to Jeremic, everything else is not a solution but mere rephrasing of the problem in the Balkans and it is now increasingly clear that more international actors are becoming interested in a precedent, such as the province’s independence.

When asked under which conditions Belgrade would agree that an EU mission comes to Kosovo-Metohija, Jeremic recalled that not even during the talks led by Martti Ahtisaari did Belgrade pose amendments to the proposal defining the European presence in the province.

We did not do that because we believe that the EU should have a leading role in administering Kosovo-Metohija after a compromise solution to the status is reached. However, any change in the way the province is administered must be preceded by an appropriate decision by the UN Security Council. We now have Resolution 1244 according to which the UN mission has clear legitimacy to administer the province and this can be changed by a new resolution, explained Jeremic.

He stressed that Brussels and Belgrade advocate the joint policy that EU accession and negotiations on the status of Kosovo-Metohija are two different processes.

Our decision on Kosovo-Metohija must not in any way be related to our decision to join the EU. This is a choice which our country cannot make. No one should put Serbian citizens in a situation of choosing between those two issues. The European road is equally important to Serbia as is the preservation of its territorial wholeness, said Jeremic.

Salaries in public sector to be adjusted with inflation

Belgrade, Oct 29, 2007 - Serbian Minister of Finance Mirko Cvetkovic said that the Ministry today proposed that the Socio-Economic Council of the Republic of Serbia adjust salaries in the public sector with inflation next year and not to raise them beyond that rate.

Speaking at a press conference held after the meeting with Council members which dealt with macro economic policy of prices and salaries in the public sector, Cvetkovic said that the Ministry proposed that salaries remain within the pay freeze level, which is in accordance with inflation.

He explained that differentiation will be applied within the public sector, with the aim of harmonising and approximating salaries, and added that Council members agreed that this proposal is a solid base for further talks.

At least two meetings should be held next week with representatives of trade unions.

The Minister said that the reduction of public expenditure within GDP next year will be 1%, and the state budget will participate in public expenditure with less than 0.7%.

Cvetkovic said that the interim surplus in the budget for nine months of this year is RSD 37 billion and added that there is a possibility that this year will end without the planned budgetary deficit.

The reason for that is a reduced level of expenditure, first of all in the field of the National Investment Plan.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Round table on draft law on denationalisation

The Ministry of Finance is organising a round table on the draft law on denationalisation on October 29 at 12 noon in the Ministry’s premises, Kneza Milosa 20.

Participating will be representatives of relevant ministries, faculties, courts and associations of lawyers and economists.

State Secretary Slobodan Ilic and Assistant Minister of Finance Milorad Bjelopetrovic will open the debate.

Ten potential buyers for Robne Kuce Beograd

Belgrade, Oct 26, 2007 – The Serbian Privatisation Agency stated that on October 29, ten foreign and domestic companies will bid for the department stores company Robne Kuce Beograd, in bankruptcy.

According to the agency, the starting price is €140 million, and bidding will be held at the Hyatt Hotel, beginning at 11 am.

Due to major public interest, the bidding will be broadcast live on the second channel of the Radio Television of Serbia. A three member committee for public auctions of the agency will be in charge of the bidding.

Within seven days from the day when the auction is held, the buyer will be obliged to seek consent from the committee for competition protection and in case of a positive response the buyer will be obliged to pay within seven days of being informed of the decision at the latest.

The decision on the sale of the common debtor as a legal entity was brought at the session of the committee of creditors of the company Robne Kuce Beograd on August 24 in 2006, and the sale was announced on July 27 this year.

Austrian investors interested in investment in construction, tourism

Belgrade, Oct 26, 2007 – Serbian Minister of Economy and Regional Development Mladjan Dinkic met today with a delegation of businesspeople and investors from Salzburg, who expressed interest in investment in the construction and tourism sectors.

Dinkic spoke with Vice-Governor of Salzburg Wilfried Haslauer and representatives of the Salzburg Chamber of Commerce and interested investors on the business climate and investment opportunities in Serbia.

Representatives of Austrian Kronospan announced the building of a new plant of floor coverings in Lapovo, which will be a greenfield investment.

The visit of the Salzburg delegation comes after the Munich fair Expo Real 2007, in which Dinkic presented investment opportunities in Serbia as well as master plans for Stara Planina and Palic.

Foundations for economic, cultural cooperation of Baden-Württemberg, Serbia established

Stuttgart, Oct 26, 2007 – Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic expressed satisfaction today in Stuttgart, after visiting the German province of Baden Württemberg, that Serbia is able to set foundations for economic and cultural cooperation with this strong German province.

Djelic met today with Baden-Württemberg Minister President Günther Oettinger, with who he reached an agreement on forming a joint commission of the Serbian government and authorities of Baden-Württemberg, which would work on speeding up Serbia’s EU integration, economic and cultural cooperation.

I am very pleased that today we established these connections. This is the first visit of a Serbian government official to Baden-Württemberg in the past 32 years, Djelic told journalists after the meeting with Oettinger and a delegation of local businesspeople.

Oettinger said that as the Serbian nation and economy are progressing, Baden-Württemberg has an interest to cooperate with Serbia.

CEO of the Baden-Württemberg Agency for International Economic and Scientific Cooperation Michael Hagenmeyer said that Serbia is now attractive for foreign investors, especially in the areas of water management, energy and renewable energy.

He however, highlighted that political stability needs to be established and that ownership issue need to be resolved.

Djelic will travel to Hamburg tonight to attend the German Social Democratic Party Congress tomorrow.

Injustice redressed by rehabilitating Slobodan Jovanovic

Belgrade, Oct 26, 2007 - Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica expressed great satisfaction today because of decision on the Belgrade District Court to rehabilitate Slobodan Jovanovic.

"That is a very important thing for Serbia because we redressed an injustice and repaid the debt to a great man of the Serbian people Slobodan Jovanovic.

When we passed the law on rehabilitation we believed that justice is possible and that Serbia must not disregard and forget great injustices committed by the communist regime.

For the Serbian people Slobodan Jovanovic was never a war criminal and traitor to his country and today's court decision is only a confirmation that the state and Serbian people together pay due respects to Slobodan Jovanovic," reads the Serbian Prime Minister's statement.

Conclusion of cooperation with Hague Tribunal in Serbia’s interest

Belgrade, Oct 26, 2007 – Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica met today with Hague Tribunal’s Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte and said that there is determination and political willingness on behalf of Serbia to conclude cooperation with the Hague Tribunal.

Kostunica stressed at the meeting that fulfilment of all international obligations is primarily in Serbia’s interest, as well as the conclusion of cooperation with the Tribunal.

Del Ponte emphasised it is important for the Tribunal to have indictees stand trial as soon as possible.

Also present at the meeting were President of the National Council for Cooperation with ICTY Rasim Ljajic and Secretary of the National Security Council Miodrag Rakic.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Discussion on role of citizens at local and regional level of government

Belgrade, Oct 16, 2007 - The Serbian Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government issued a statement today that today's work of the 15th session of the Conference of Ministers responsible for Local and Regional Entities of the Member States of the Council of Europe in Valencia “Good local and regional governance – the European challenge”, is dedicated to discussion on the role of citizens in those authorities.

On the second, closing day of the conference, in which participates the Serbian delegation, led by Minister of Public Administration and Local Self-Government Milan Markovic, a discussion was held about the Strategy of innovations and good governance at local level, which envisages intensive activation of local authorities at central level. The Strategy was supported by all member states of the Council of Europe.

Minister Markovic endorsed implementation of the Budapest agenda adopted at the previous conference held in 2005.

Participants in the conference adopted the Declaration " Good local and regional governance – the European challenge".

Minister Markovic held an introductory speech yesterday in the capacity of chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. He attended the conference at the invitation of Spanish Minister of Public Administration Elena Salgado.

During the two-day conference, Markovic met with his counterparts, mostly from the neighbouring countries. The Serbian delegation also includes Speaker of the Vojvodina Assembly Bojan Kostres, reads the statement.

Kosovo status should be resolved in a way that reflects European values

Belgrade/Rome, Oct 16, 2007 - Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said today in Rome that the European future of the Balkans is guaranteed only if Kosovo-Metohija status is resolved through an approach that reflects European values.

After the talks with Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema, Jeremic said that it is not possible to resolve Kosovo status in a non-European way and then hope that such a solution will bring a European future to that area.

Jeremic stated that this issue must be resolved through compromise.

D'Alema said that Italy supports the negotiating process for Kosovo-Metohija conducted by the Contact Group's troika and a compromise solution that will be acceptable for both sides.

In Rome this morning Jeremic also met with President of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Italian Chamber of Deputies Umberto Ranieri.

Djelic congratulates Montenegro on signing Stabilisation and Association Agreement

Belgrade, Oct 16, 2007 - Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic sent greetings today to Montenegro for signing the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the European Union.

"Today's success of the Montenegrin government shows that the European Union remains committed to the European perspective of the Western Balkan states. The European Union is our future, and a step forward in the European integration of any Western Balkan state means a step forward for the entire region, " reads the greeting of the Deputy Prime Minister.

Djelic to visit USA

Belgrade, Oct 16, 2007 – Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic will lead a state delegation to the annual meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Washington, scheduled for October 19-22.

The Serbian delegation will meet with heads of both organisations and discuss advancement in cooperation and opportunities for new projects. Apart from the Deputy Prime Minister, the delegation will include Minister of Finance Mirko Cvetkovic, Minister of Economy and Regional Development Mladjan Dinkic and Governor of the National Bank of Serbia Radovan Jelasic.

During the stay in Washington, the delegation will hold several bilateral meetings with representatives of US administration and finance ministers of the Group of Eight.

On October 17 in New York, before leaving for Washington, Djelic will meet with New York Stock Exchange General Director John Thain and representatives of leading investment banks and funds to discuss investment possibilities in Serbia and the development of the capital market.

On October 18, Djelic and Minister for Diaspora Milica Cubrilo will go to Boston where they will hold a meeting with representatives of the academic community, Harvard University, President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Susan Hockfield and the Serbian diaspora.

The aim of these meetings is to ensure favourable conditions at universities for the most talented Serbian students and to intensify the integration of the Serbian diaspora in Serbia’s development projects.

As part of his visit to the US, Djelic will host a working breakfast on October 22 in Washington for representatives of the leading US media.

US officials issue statements against compromise solution for Kosovo-Metohija

Belgrade, Oct 16, 2007 – Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica stated today that the aim of daily statements by US officials, saying that after December 10 and based on Ahtisaari’s plan they will unilaterally acknowledge Kosovo-Metohija’s independence, is to prevent Kosovo Albanians from accepting a compromise solution to the province.

Vojislav Kostunica

In a written statement, Kostunica said that the USA is leading a rough policy of force and is openly advocating the dismemberment of Serbia.

Unfortunately, all this proves that the USA and NATO Pact cruelly and illegally bombed Serbia and brought their forces to the province in order to seize 15% of our country, said Kostunica.

According to him, Serbian citizens must know that the essential reason for such violence over Serbia carried out by the USA is stated in Annex 11 of Ahtisaari’s plan which says that NATO is the ultimate organ of authority in Kosovo-Metohija.

Serbia will never allow or acknowledge this outlaw creation on its territory. Every day and in every place we will keep stating that Kosovo-Metohija cannot be NATO’s war trophy, emphasised Kostunica and added that as long as the UN Charter exists, Serbia’s internationally recognised borders will remain unchanged.