International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

Protest against bad air in eastern Serbia: Reduce pollution, doesn’t matter how

November 15, 2019

Several hundred people gathered outside the Zijin Mining company, the owner or 63 percent of the equity interests of the RTB copper mining and smelting complex in eastern Serbia, in a new protest against heavy air pollution caused by the Chinese firm, N1 reported on Friday.

The protest was supported by “Defend Stara Planina Mt Rivers,” the 1 in 5 million students’ organisation, and the Vice President of the opposition Party of Freedom and Justice (SSP) Borko Stefanovic.

“We ask for the elimination of pollution; we don’t care how,” Ivana Zivkovic, an SPP member and ecology activist told N1.

The Bor protesters said the town financially relied on the company and that was the reason for that only several hundred people turned out for the protest, demanding the reduction in pollution.

They added they didn’t want to chase the Zijin out of Bor but did want them to put people’s health above the profit.

The Bor residents said they asked for help from many institutions, but nothing happened. The only good news, they said, was that local authorities formed a group to deal with the air pollution problem.

They added they were informed the Zijin halved its production on Thursday to reduce the pollution, “but tomorrow we will again breath bad air.”

They also said they would continue with protests every Friday.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a544201/Eastern-Serbia-s-residents-protect-against-air-pollution.html

Serbian central bank denies Croatian media claims

November 15, 2019

The National Bank of Serbia (NBS) rejected Croatian media claims that it spent money from the former Yugoslavia’s state accounts in the 1990s, Belgrade daily Politika said on Friday.

Croatian media reported earlier this week that Zagreb is demanding 148.5 million Dollars from Belgrade, claiming that the money belongs to Croatia under the agreement on succession of the former Yugoslavia. According to Zagreb daily Vecernji List, there was a total of 645.55 million Dollars in Yugoslav state accounts but that Serbia informed the successor states before the succession talks began that there was just 56 million Dollars in them.  

“Claims that Serbia approved the spending or spent joint funds from the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s have no basis in evidence nor in logic since Serbia was under the sanctions of the international community at the time,” Politika was told by the NBS.  

The Serbian central bank said that the succession agreement says that only available funds will be divided and that the amount mentioned in Croatian media is “the accounting balance determined by all successor states”. According to the NBS, most mixed banks were bankrupt when the agreement was signed and “it was clear that the accounting balance would not be met” but that a total of 107 million Dollars was divided from four mixed banks “disproving the claims of 56 million Dollars”.  

It added that the Croatian media reports are groundless pressure due to the unrealistic expectations of the Croatian side before the meeting of the permanent mixed committee on succession which met in Zagreb on Wednesday.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a544047/Serbian-central-bank-denies-Croatian-media-claims.html

Serbian food processing industry records drop

November 12, 2019

Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti reported on Tuesday that the Serbian food processing industry has recorded a drop of up to 7.3 percent, making it a problem for the national economy.

The daily said that the meat industry has reported a drop in production following stable growth for the past 18 months. The meat industry recorded growth of 4-5 percent last year and in the first two quarters of 2019 but reported a drop of seven percent in August.  

Economy experts said that the drop was caused by the 100 percent tariffs on Serbian goods imposed by the Kosovo authorities, low export prices, an outbreak of the swine flu and the fact that some companies have been banned from exporting to Russia.  

Industrial production in Serbia rose 1.6 percent in September and the processing industry reported a rise of 1.7 percent, but the food industry’s bad results have halved the growth of the processing industry, the daily said quoting economy experts.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a543123/Serbian-food-processing-industry-records-drop.html

Serbia opens eastern leg of Corridor 10, connecting the country with Bulgaria

November 11, 2019

The final, 22-kilometre long section of the Corridor 10 highway from Prosek to Crvena Reka, was officially opened on Saturday, which marked the end of construction of the eastern leg of the Corridor 10 connecting Nis and Dimitrovgrad, towards the border with Bulgaria.

President Aleksandar Vucic said on this occasion that this is not the end of the construction works.

“We built the roads so that the Serbs can not only leave but also come back to Serbia,” said Vucic adding that Bulgaria has never been closer.

Besides Vucic, the opening ceremony was also attended by Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov as well as many citizens.

The event marked the end of the construction works on the highway of the total length of 813 kilometres.

Bulgaria's Borisov said that the highway construction made the wall between Serbia and Bulgaria fall, comparing it to the Berlin Wall.

“Bulgarian industry will fully use that highway,” said Borisov adding that this road connected the east and the west.

The ceremony was also attended by Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, the Serb member of Bosnia's Presidency Milorad Dodik and the ministers in Serbia's and Bulgaria's governments.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a542473/Serbia-opens-eastern-leg-of-Corridor-10-connecting-the-country-with-Bulgaria.html

Serbia's economic growth disappointed, EBRD says

November 7, 2019

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) said in its latest report that economic growth in the Western Balkans is slowing due to weaker global economic prospects, adding that growth “disappointed in Serbia.

“The EBRD sees economic growth moderating in the Western Balkans region in 2020, on the back of a weaker global economic outlook, along with the economic slowdown of the eurozone,” a press release said.  

The EBRD Regional Economic Prospects report said that growth in the Western Balkans was already weak in the first half of 2019 (down by 1 percentage point from 2018), with the exceptions of Kosovo and North Macedonia.  

“Growth disappointed in Serbia, with weak industrial production; exports from Fiat’s Serbian car plant have been falling. While the region has benefited from foreign direct investments (FDI), the local supplier base remains small, limiting the positive spillovers from FDI to the local economy,” the report said.  

“Economic growth subsided in Serbia during 2019. Unfavourable trends in industrial production continued in the first half of 2019, with industrial output declining by 2.0 per cent year on year on the back of falling production in mining and manufacturing, while utilities and agricultural output stagnated. As a consequence, the overall GDP growth rate slowed to 2.8 per cent year on year in the first half of 2019, from 4.4 per cent in 2018. The 2019 budget envisages a small deficit (0.5 per cent of GDP), while public debt stood at 54 per cent of GDP at the end of June 2019.” it said.  

According to the EBRD inflationary pressure was low thanks in part to a strong exchange rate. “Inflation initially picked up in 2019, reaching 3.0 per cent year- on year in April, but then fell back to 1.1 per cent in September, undershooting the lower bound of the central bank’s target band (3 ± 1.5 per cent). After keeping the policy rate unchanged at 3.0 per cent for more than a year, the central bank cut the rate again in the third quarter of 2019, to 2.5 per cent.” the report said.  

The report authors expect Serbia’s GDP to expand by 3.2 per cent in 2019 and 3.5 per cent in 2020. “Domestic demand should remain the main growth driver, while net exports are most likely to continue their negative contribution. The economic slowdown of the main trading partner, the European Union, and the slow pace of reforms within the country might act as a drag on growth in the near term and make it more volatile,” the EBRD said.  

The report said that there are no reliable assessments of the effects of the 100 percent tariffs on Serbian goods that the Kosovo authorities imposed but added that the negative effect on the Serbian economy could stand as high as 400 million Euro.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a541579/EBRD-expects-slower-economic-growth-in-Western-Balkans.html

Zijin buys another copper and gold mine in Serbia

November 4, 2019

The Zijin Mining company said on Monday that it was set to buy out the copper and gold mines that its partner company Freeport McMoran Inc has in Serbia, the Belgrade-based Beta news agency reported quoting a Reuters report.

Zijin said it would pay up to 390 million Dollars for the lower zone of the Timok copper and gold mine. The company already owns the upper zone. The Chinese company will initially pay Freeport 240 million Dollars for the mine and will follow up with payments of 0.4 percent of net sales proceeds once production begins up to an aggregate maximum of 150 million Dollars.  

Zijin is continuing to strengthen its foothold in the Balkans after taking over copper production at Serbia‘s RTB Bor mining and smelting complex in 2018. The company said it would raise its total controlled copper resources by 15.6 percent or 7.72 million tons to 57.24 million tons, while its gold resources would rise by 161 tonnes, or 9.3%, to 1,889 tons.  

The development of the lower zone of the Timok mine has not been started while production from the upper zone is expected to begin in 2021.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a540951/Zijin-buys-another-copper-and-gold-mine-in-Serbia.html

Deputy PM says government has no plan to stop brain drain

October 25, 2019

Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Zoran Mihajlovic said on Friday that the government has not found the right way to keep young people from leaving the country.

“This is the issue that we should be tackling and which we still don’t have the right answer to or right plan for,” she told a meeting of the Serbian Employers Union assembly.  

According to Mihajlovic, the government’s job is not to get involved with business but to create the best possible conditions to do business,” a statement said.  

She said a new investment cycle is being launched in a period which is crucial to efforts to keep people in Serbia.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a538107/Deputy-PM-says-government-has-no-plan-to-stop-brain-drain.html

Shortage of skilled labor in Serbia, entrepreneurs say

October 25, 2019

The biggest problem facing entrepreneurs in Serbia is the shortage of skilled labor, the Ernst&Young company said on Friday.

A presentation of the EY Entrepreneurship Barometer 2019 at the Serbian Chamber of Commerce (PKS) was told that 90 percent of Serbian entrepreneurs said the shortage of skilled workers is the biggest challenge their companies face. “The chronic shortage of workers is a national problem which has to be solved strategically to avoid a situation in which the planned GDP growth is not achievable,”Ernst&Young Country Managing Partner Ivan Rakic said.  

Rakic said that an “alarming number of people said they contracted jobs but don’t have the workforce to do them both in production and services”. He added that the poll of 115 companies showed that 86 percent of entrepreneurs believe that tax rates on earnings have to be cut.  

“Unfair competition is also a problem because they see other companies surviving despite fines,” he said.  

According to Rakic, the third biggest problem entrepreneurs face is the fact that 77 percent are financing their growth from their own funds and just one fifth of entrepreneurs take out bank loans. Other problems include the economic climate, competition on the market, regulatory and bureaucratic obstacles, prices and long working hours.  

The poll showed that 71 percent of Serbian entrepreneurs manage family companies. A total of 41 percent feel that entrepreneurship is not viewed as a good career choice while 85 percent said the media are not focusing enough attention on entrepreneurs.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a538083/Shortage-of-skilled-labor-in-Serbia-entrepreneurs-say.html

EU, UNDP call Serbia to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

October 24, 2019

The Delegation of the European Union and the United Nations Development Program in Serbia on Thursday issued a joint message calling the government to help reduce greenhouse gas emmission and encourage the country’s society and economy to adapt to the impact of climate change.

“In the aftermath of the 2019 UN Climate Summit, which garnered momentous pledges by governments and the private sector to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050, the EU Delegation to Serbia and the UNDP kindly request the support of the Republic of Serbia in reducing the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and encourage the adaptation of Serbian society and economy to the imminent impact of climate change,” the joint statement said.

It said that climate Change is the “Defining Issue of Our Time” and warned that its consequences affect both women and men but in different ways. “Women should be part of the solutions to climate change and are increasingly being involved in the development and implementation of national climate policies as agents of change. We strongly believe that addressing gender gaps and supporting the empowerment of women provide an excellent opportunity to help achieve environmental benefits,” the statement said adding that the Serbian government should plan and implement efforts to reduce emissions with a minimum impact and without adverse effects on the lives of the poor and most vulnerable men and women.  

It recalled that Serbia has pledged to reduce its GHG emissions by 9,8% by 2030 compared to 1990, as presented in the Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement. The EU Delegation and UNDP said the government had invested significant efforts to reduce GHG emissions in key economic sectors but that opportunities still exist to do more. “We encourage a bold and ambitious revision of the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) ahead of the forthcoming 25th UNFCCC Conference of the Parties.” the joint statement said.  

The EU and UNDP encourage support to Innovation in Serbia, the transformation of the Serbian economy and support for improvements in local communities as well as support to young people in efforts to raise awareness of climate change.

“If some of the worst scenarios come true, the Western Balkans countries can expect a warming of up to 3 °C by mid-century. This will lead to an increase in the frequency and duration of heatwaves, droughts and floods … Extreme weather events will drag the countries towards crops failures and shortages, increased summer energy consumption, decreased water supply in summer and the spread of new diseases,” it said.  

The EU and UNDP also encourage Serbia to calculate environment and climate costs of all investments, as well as to conduct strategic social and environment impact assessments for each large-scale investment, the joint statement said.  

The statement was issued in the week that pollution levels in Belgrade were reported to have risen to dangerous levels.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a537813/EU-UNDP-call-Serbia-to-reduce-greenhouse-gas-emmissions.html

Antic: Bulgaria completing pipeline to Serbia

October 21, 2019

Serbian Mining and Energy Minister Aleksandar Antic said on Monday that Bulgaria is completing its part of a pipeline between the two countries, the ministry said in a statement on Monday.

Antic and his Bulgarian counterpart Temenushenka Petkova toured Turkish Stream pipeline construction sites in Bulgaria with Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.  

The Serbian Minister is quoted as saying that the Bulgarian authorities have finished the part of the pipeline from the border with Turkey to a compressor station and are starting construction on the pipeline section to Serbia. “I can say with absolute certainty that the Bulgarians will complete the project needed to supply gas to Serbia which will get the first gas supplies from it in 2020,” Antic said, adding that Serbia is working intensively on its section of the pipeline which he said would be completed by the end of the year.  

According to the minister, the pipeline running from Turkey through Bulgaria and Serbia to Hungary “represents a huge potential which will turn Serbia into a transit country”. He said all the countries along the route have coordinated their efforts and are on schedule.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a536793/Antic-Bulgaria-completing-pipeline-to-Serbia.html

Serbia likely to ban building of SHPPs, Minister says

October 21, 2019

Goran Trivan, Serbia’s Ecology Minister, said on Monday he believed there was a consensus in the Government to ban the building of small hydropower plants (SHPPs) in the country, the Beta news agency reported.

 Trivan announced changes to the Law on Environmental Protection which would enable the ban of building the SHPPs in the protected areas.

“The debate about the issue lasts for at least two years. If we know that we have the least surface waters in the region, we have to take care how to preserve them, and one of the ways is this ban in the protected areas,” Trivan told the state RTS TV.

He added that the mood in the Government regarding the ban remained to be seen, but said he thought there was no dilemma over the ban in the preserved space.

After the law was passed by the Parliament, the next issue that would be tackled would be a plan for the remaining parts of Serbia as to the SHPPs, Trivan said.            

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a536530/Serbia-expceted-to-say-no-to-SHPPs.html

Serbia’s Bank Governor to N1: No risk of over-borrowing

October 18, 2019

Jorgovanka Tabakovic, Serbia’s National Bank (NBS) Governor, told N1 on Friday that higher wages and pensions in 2020 should accelerate the economic growth through higher demand.

Speaking to N1 at the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) annual meeting in Washington, she said that Serbia did not have access to cheap money in the last period, but that the country managed to repay some two billion Dollars old debts in 2018.

Reacting to one of the IMF warnings tha low-interest rates could make countries to borrow more, Tabakovic said there was no such risk for Serbia since it had a sustainable GDP growth.

She added that NBS said that Serbia’s future growth which IMF confirmed to be 3.5 percent this and four percent next year was based on the domestic demand and direct foreign investments.

“And that perfectly fits what we do in the given fiscal space on the stable and sustainable bases,” Tabakovic told N1.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a535966/No-risk-for-Serbia-s-over-borrowing-NBS-chief-says.html

IMF: Serbia's reforms are progressing, but stronger commitment needed

October 15, 2019

The economic results in Serbia are still very good, the unemployment is at the record low level, monetary policy correct, and the 3.5 percent growth is expected this, and four percent in 2020, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission Jan Kees Martijn said on Tuesday, the Beta news agency reported.

The IMF mission spent two days in Belgrade for the third review of the Policy Coordination Instrument (PCI).

"The IMF team had construction talks with Serbia's authorities and agreed on politics needed for the completion of the PCI," Martijn told a news conference.

He recalled that Serbia's Government adopted the budget rebalance, which included additional capital spending, one-time payment for pensioners and the increase of the public sector's salaries.

"Although these measures do not impede the fiscal sustainability, Serbia's Government should carefully follow the budget execution to secure that the deficit remains within the borders envisaged by the programme," Martijn said.

"Structural reforms are still progressing, but stronger commitment in some areas is needed to induce Serbia's growth potential and limit fiscal risks," he added at the end oh the IMF two-day mission in Belgrade.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a534926/Serbia-s-economy-in-good-shame-more-commitment-needed.html

UNEP indentifies polluted sites in Serbia

October 7, 2019

The UN Environment agency UNEP has has identified 14 abandoned industrial sites which need to be cleaned up as soon as possible across Serbia, a statement said on Monday.

It added that decades if industrial activities in combination with inadequate waste disposal infrastructure have left more than 700 potentially polluted industrial locations. UNEP said those sites are part of a “dangerous heritage of contaminated land in Serbia”, adding that hundreds of sites have been polluted by heavy metals and other potentially cancerous materials. A lot of those sites are close to inhabited areas and rivers and could pollute both land and water and cause a loss of biodiversity, it said.  

UNEP launched a project to investigate possible earth and water pollution in 32 locations, providing training for local authorities which are passing their findings on to the national Environmental Protection Agency.  

UN Resident Coordinator a.i. in Serbia Hans Friedrich Schodder said at a presentation of the project that an interactive map of the polluted areas had been drawn up and a national platform set up to exchange information about soil degradation and management. “This will allow system institutions to investigate each site in detail, dispose of hazardous waste and clean up the environment,” Belgrade city Public Health Authority Milan Milutinović said.  

The project was funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Italian Ministry of the Environment and was implemented by UNEP and he Serbian Environment Ministry and Environmental Protection Agency.

Source: http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a532450/UNEP-indentifies-polluted-sites-in-Serbia.html

FIAT Chrysler Automobiles sends staff on paid leave

September 19, 2019

FIAT Chrysler Automobiles is sending its employees on vacation to the end of September, the factory union told the Beta news agency.

Production of the FIAT 500L is scheduled to resume on October 1. “We have been informed that a new break is coming, ie paid leave, up to October 1 when the workers are due back at the factory,” Independent Union leader Zoran Markovic said.  

He said the management decided on the break to bring production into line with demand. The break comes less than three weeks after the plant sent its workers on collective paid leave. That break lasted some seven weeks and staff went back to work on September 3.  

Markovic said that a total of 416 cars were made in September.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a527105/FIAT-Chrysler-Automobiles-sends-staff-on-paid-leave.html

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