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International Information Centre for Balkan Studies



Brnabic- IMF chief praises Serbia’s fiscal policy

February 13, 2024

Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said that IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva praised her government’s fiscal policy.

A Serbian government press release said that Brnabic met with IMF Managing Director Georgieva on the margins of the World Governments Summit in Dubai. “It is encouraging to hear Georgieva’s praise of our fiscal policy,” Brnabic is quoted as saying. She added that the government will continue working for the overall development of the economy and higher living standards in a stable and sustainable manner.

Georgieva wrote in an X post that she congratualted Brnabic “on her strong economic performance under the IMF-supported program: recovering growth, falling inflation and public debt, reserves at all-time high, and preparing for AI”.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/brnabic-imf-chief-praises-serbia-s-fiscal-policy/

NBS- Increase of gross foreign exchange reserves in January, net reserves down

February 9, 2024

Gross National Bank of Serbia (NBS) foreign exchange (FX) reserves amounted to 25,036.9 mn euros at end-January 2024, which is their highest end-of-month level on record (since 2000), said the NBS.

Compared to end-December 2023 they increased by 127.8 mn euros, covering 177.4 percent of money supply M1 and 6.8 months’ worth of the country’s imports of goods and services, which is more than twice the level prescribed by the adequacy standard, said the central bank.

Net foreign exchange reserves (gross FX reserves less banks’ FX balances on account of required reserves, liabilities to the IMF under the arrangement, and other grounds) came at 20,680.3 mn euros, down by 104.7 mn euros from end-December.

The January inflows were generated by net allocations of bank foreign exchange required reserves worth 157.3 mn euros, foreign exchange reserves management, grants and other sources worth total 116.4 mn euros.

The outflows were prompted by net government debt repayment on account of FX securities issued in the domestic financial market (255 mn euros) and foreign loans (52.8 mn euros), said the NBS.

The net market effect was positive (161.9 mn euros) owing mainly to the dollar’s strengthening against the euro by around 2.3 percent, while a reduction in the gold price by around 0.4 percennt in the international market worked in the opposite direction.

Trading volumes in the Interbank Foreign Exchange Market (IFEM) amounted to 654.4 mn euros in January, down by 126.4 mn euros from the month before.

In January, the value of the dinar against the euro stayed broadly unchanged. The NBS sold 45 mn euros net in the IFEM, in order to maintain the relative stability of the dinar against the euro in the local FX market, said the NBS.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/nbs-increase-of-gross-foreign-exchange-reserves-in-january-net-reserves-down/

BIO4 campus project presented to American investment companies

February 7, 2024

The Serbian Ministry of Science, Technological Development and Innovation said that a presentation of the BIO4 campus project and possibilities of artificial intelligence in Serbia was held for representatives of American investment companies in the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Serbia to the United Nations in New York.

This largest Serbian science project, worth 450 million euros, was presented by Science, Technological Development and Innovation Minister Jelena Begovic and Nenad Paunovic, IT and Entrepreneurship Team director with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic’s Office, the Ministry said.

Begovic said the presentation was attended by potential investors and representatives of the diaspora and that they were informed about how Serbia sees itself in the future, its potentials and opportunities.

Paunovic said the BIO4 campus in Serbia is a scientific, but also an economic project, and that the most developed economy in this area is precisely in the USA, which is also where the biggest companies are located.

The BIO4 campus already has memorandums of understanding with companies such Pfizer and Ginkgo Bioworks, he said, adding that meetings have been arranged with them to expand cooperation and deepen relations in order to work on joint projects with Serbian scientific institutes and BIO4 campus.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/bio4-campus-project-presented-to-american-investment-companies/

Bosnia's unemployment drops slightly

February 2, 2024

At the end of December last year, there were 343,500 people on the records of employment institutes and services in Bosnia and Herzegovina, FENA news agency reported on Friday.

Compared to the previous month, the number of unemployed is lower by 1,166 persons or 0.34 percent. Of the total number of people seeking employment, 200,672 or 58.42 percent are women. Compared to the same period a year earlier, unemployment in BiH is lower by 10,823 people or 3.06 percent.

Unemployment decreased in the Federation of BiH (FBiH) entity by 496 persons (0.18 percent), in the Republika Srpska (RS) entity by 561 persons (0.95 percent), and in the Brcko District of BiH by 109 persons (0.84 percent).

In December, a total of 18,320 persons were deleted from the records of employment services, of which 8,930 were women. Of that number, 6,981 people were employed, of which 3,629 were women.

At the same time, 8,993 people lost their jobs, of which 4,300 were women. In that period, employers reported the need to hire 5,667 new workers.

The rate of registered unemployment for November 2023 was 28.7 percent and compared to October 2023 it is 0.1 percent lower, Bosnia's Labor and Employment Agency stated.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/bosnias-unemployment-drops-slightly/

First Lumiwings flight departs from Tuzla airport

December 18, 2023

Greek carrier Lumiwings started operations from Tuzla International Airport (MAT) on Monday morning with a flight to Halmstad, Sweden.

The company will resume flights on Tuesday already with routes to Dutch Maastricht, and on December 20th to German Saarbrucken and Danish Esbjerg.

The MAT management signed a deal with Lumiwings on December 1, followed immediately by the ticket sale.

The airline will connect Tuzla with Europe via five routes and one route to Turkey.

“We chose five plus one destinations. There will be flights from Tuzla to Germany, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, and soon we will also provide flights to Turkey, for which there is a great interest of our passengers,” said the airport general manager Dzevad Halilcevic.

The flights will connect Tuzla with Stockholm and Halmstad in Sweden, Maastricht in the Netherlands, Saarbrucken in Germany, Esbjerg in Denmark and Istanbul in Turkey.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/first-lumiwings-flight-departs-from-tuzla-airport/

Serbian central bank says inflation drops to 8 percent

December 12, 2023

The National Bank of Serbia (NBS) said on Tuesday that inflation stood at 8 percent in November which it said is lower than expected.

A press release said that the rise in the prices of food and “products and services within core inflation” had slowed and added that monthly inflation stood at 0.5% due to higher electricity and natural gas as well as cigarette prices.

“We expect y-o-y inflation to drop further in the coming period. After settling below 8% in December, it will continue down, returning within the target band in mid-2024. Such inflation trajectory will be supported by the effects of monetary tightening, a slowdown in imported inflation, and the anticipated further decline in inflation expectations,” the press release said.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/serbian-central-bank-says-inflation-drops-to-8-percent/

Bosnia's Indirect Tax Authority collects record amount in 2023

December 11, 2023

For the first time in its history, the Indirect Tax Authority of Bosnia and Herzegovina recorded the revenues from the indirect taxes that exceed the amount of 10 billion marks (approx 5 billion euro).

On December 8, the total amount that the ITA BiH collected was 10.050 billion marks, which includes the revenues coming from excise taxes, customs fees and road tolls.

It is expected that the total amount by end of the year will be around 10.6 billon marks.

In 2022, the ITA BiH collected the total of 9.926 billion marks (approx 4.95 billion euro).

(1 euro = 1.95 Bosnian marks)

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/bosnias-indirect-tax-authority-collects-record-amount-in-2023/

Direct payment transactions between Serbia, Montenegro established

December 11, 2023

Starting December 11, 2023, transactions between households and corporates in Serbia and in Montenegro can be executed directly, they are now faster, cheaper and direct, because we have established direct payment transactions between Serbia and Montenegro, the National Bank of Serbia (NBS) quoted NBS Governor Jorgovanka Tabakovic as saying.

She explained that participants will be able to perform transactions for their clients on the same day for orders sent by 2 pm.

The execution of transactions between banks from countries of the region is made possible on significantly more favorable terms compared to alternative payment methods that are currently available, the NBS quoted Tabakovic as saying.

In addition, the NBS, as the operator of the International Clearing of Foreign Exchange Payments, performs all activities for other central banks and banks from the territory of other countries participating in this system free of charge, i.e. it does not charge any fees to central banks and banks from the territory of other countries participating in the system.

Tabakovic said that the NBS is the operator of the Interbank and International Clearing of FX Payments that 12 commercial banks from Serbia, the NBS and seven commercial banks from Bosnia and Herzegovina have participated to this day.

She added that Universal Capital Bank AD Podgorica recognized the importance and numerous advantages offered by this system and expressed its interest to participate in the international clearing system of the NBS.

As of Monday, Universal Capital Bank AD Podgorica is the first bank from Montenegro to participate in the NBS International Clearing of FX Payments and it will have the opportunity to offer its clients the execution of transactions in euros on the same day, at a much lower cost, said Tabakovic.

The Governor added that this enables the Montenegrin citizens and economy not only to have direct payment operations with Serbia, but also with the citizens and economy of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said the NBS.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/direct-payment-transactions-between-serbia-montenegro-established/

Natural gas from Azerbaijan: Serbia-Bulgaria gas interconnector put in trial operation

December 10, 2023

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, the President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev, the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and the head of the EU delegation in Serbia Emanuele Giaufret put the Serbia-Bulgaria gas interconnection into trial operation, on Sunday.

The officials pressed the button together, at a solemn ceremony at the Trupale gas station near Nis, releasing the gas into the pipeline.

The Energy and Mining Minister Dubravka Djedovic Handanovic stated that this is a very important and large international project.

She added that this project is important for the gas supply of eastern and central Serbia, for the gas supply of central and eastern Europe, but also for the further gasification of the southern part of Serbia and cities that are extremely important for the economic development of the country, such as Nis, Pirot, Dimitrovgrada, Bela Palanka.

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev said that the commissioning of the gas interconnector between Serbia and Bulgaria is changing the energy map of Europe.

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev said that the commissioning of the interconnector will contribute to the development of Serbia, but also to the improvement of energy security not only in Serbia, but also in the whole of Europe.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/natural-gas-from-azerbaijan-serbia-bulgaria-gas-interconnector-put-in-trial-operation/

Djerdap 1 HPP pillar of Serbian energy system

December 8, 2023

Serbia’s Mining and Energy Minister Dubravka Djedovic Handanovic said Friday that the Djerdap 1 hydroelectric power plant is one of the pillars of the country’s energy system and that the plant’s revitalization has extended its lifespan, increased its production and reliability.

Djerdap 1 has been the pride of the country’s hydroelectric power system for over five decades and, thanks to its successful revitalization, it will continue to be so for the next 30 to 40 years, it is part of the country’s history and will now also be part of Serbia’s future, the Ministry quoted Djedovic as saying.

The Minister noted that over 180 million euros has been invested in the plant’s revitalization.

The main supplier of the equipment is the Russian company Siloviye Mashiny, and some of the equipment was overhauled in domestic factories.

The ceremony marking the completion of the plant’s revitalization was also attended by Serbian power company (EPS) acting director Dusan Zivkovic, Russian Ambassador to Serbia Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko and representatives of Siloviye Mashiny.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/minister-djerdap-1-hpp-pillar-of-serbian-energy-system/

Serbian central bank says armchair banking on the rise

December 8, 2023

In the course of the third quarter of 2023, 43,318 distance contracts were concluded between Serbian banks and financial services users, which is by 9.68 percent more than in the same quarter a year earlier, said the National Bank of Serbia (NBS).

“Of this number, 35,862 contracts were concluded electronically, up by 2.13 percent year-on-year, and 7,456 via video identification, marking a year-on-year increase of as much as 70.27 percent,” said the NBS.

Contracts concluded using video identification accounted for 17.2 percent and contracts concluded in another electronic manner for 82.8 percent of all distance contracts.

In terms of the type of financial product, citizens concluded distance contracts more in the third quarter of 2023 compared to the third quarter of 2022 in respect of the service of current account opening – by 98.16 percent (4,084 vs. 2,061), other services – by 29.69 percent (3,840 vs. 2,961), current account overdraft – by 19.54 percent (8,968 vs. 7,502) and demand/time savings – by 11.39 percent (3,511 vs. 3,152), while cash loans were contracted to a lesser extent – by 3.79 percent (22,915 vs. 23,818).

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/serbian-central-bank-says-armchair-banking-on-the-rise/

Experts say Telekom Serbia has huge debts

December 8, 2023

Experts told N1 that the state-owned Telekom Serbia is one of the biggest debtors in Serbia and is forced to sell its strategic assets.

Consultant Bogdan Petrovic said that the fact that Telekom is selling its antenna arrays is less worrying than the fact that it has not been paying its electricity bills. He added that the state telecommunications giant is among the top 10 debtors in the country. “Telekom is not paying its bills and is forced to pay 14.5 percent interest on that. Telekom is not liquid with huge amounts in short-term debts and low levels of current assets. It can’t repay its short-term debts from its annual turnover. It took out a loan of 450 million Euro and even that isn’t enough so it has to sell its antenna arrays,” Petrovic said.

The BIRN investigative news portal said that it had access to Telekom final accounts for 2022 which showed that the company’s short-term debts are much higher than its current assets.

Petrovic said that Telekom needs to introduce 5G which includes new antenna arrays and added that “they expect the company that buys the arrays to invest”. “The problem is that Telekom pays rent to that company,” he said.

Petrovic said that Telekom is an open shareholder society with 5 million shareholders and “has an obligation to be on the stock exchange and publish quarterly financial reports” and asked why Telekom still hasn’t got shares on the exchange to allow shareholders to trade. “We are still waiting for the 2022 report which was initially filed with errors,” he said. According to him, the company has a turnover of a billion Euro and still hasn’t paid dividends. “It’s probably waiting for the sale,” he said.

Petrovic said Telekom’s debts have a variable interest rate which means that the annual interest on its 100 million Euro debt is higher than it was two years earlier. He said Telekom needs to cut down its administration just as the national power company EPS did. “The enormous surplus of non-productive employees is a huge problem in the public sector,” Petrovic said.

Dejan Soskic, university economy professor and a former Governor of the National Bank of Serbia (NBS), said that Telekom is in serious difficulties. He said the company was “involved in inappropriate business decisions with huge investments”. “Telecommunications are a field which offers huge profits and the fact that Telekom is facing problems indicates very bad management,” he said.

Soskic said that control over state companies is very important. “If there is no political will to control public companies you are entering an environment which leads to the dispersion of state assets. Whoever solid the boat, it will sink if everyone drills a little hole in it,” Soskic said.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/experts-say-telekom-serbia-has-huge-debts/

Serbia, Microsoft sign memorandum of understanding

November 30, 2023

The Serbian government signed a memorandum of understanding with Microsoft on Thursday to allow access to the company’s Learn platform which includes an AI module.

A press release said that the memorandum was signed at the Synergy 23 conference by Minister of Science, Technological Development and Innovation Jelena Begovic and Microsoft Country Manager for Serbia Milan Gospic giving access to the platform to researchers, startups and students.

Begovic is quoted as saying that Microsoft pledged to open jobs for 60 engineers at its research and development center in Serbia and Gospic as saying that the company’s cooperation with Serbian state institutions is focused on public digital services, healthcare, education and innovation.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/serbia-microsoft-sign-memorandum-of-understanding/

BiH bans import of 2t of Croatian mandarins due to banned pesticide

November 29, 2023

Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities have banned the import of two tonnes of mandarins from Croatia because border checks of fruit samples showed the presence of a pesticide banned in the EU since spring 2020.

The Sanitary Inspectorate of the Federation entity said on Wednesday it took samples from a shipment of mandarins at the Bijaca border crossing and that lab analysis showed an excessive quantity of the pesticide chlorpyrifos.

The Sanitary Inspectorate ordered that the shipment be destroyed. Its employees were instructed at the beginning of this month to step up the control of citrus imports at the recommendation of the BiH Food Safety Agency.

The same pesticide was discovered in another fruit shipment from Croatia earlier this month.

Source:  https://n1info.ba/english/news/bih-bans-import-of-2t-of-croatian-mandarins-due-to-banned-pesticide/

Air Serbia, Belgrade to host CAPA aviation summit

November 29, 2023

Air Serbia said on Wednesday that it would host the CAPA 2024 World Aviation Summit in November 2024 with the city of Belgrade.

„The key global event in the field of aviation, the CAPA Airline Leader Summit World & Awards for Excellence, organized annually by the renowned aviation think tank, the Centre for Aviation (CAPA), will take place in Belgrade on 21 and 22 November 2024, while the hosts of the summit will be the City of Belgrade and Air Serbia. The summit will bring together over 250 global leaders from the aviation industry and will be an excellent opportunity for Belgrade to showcase its commitment to enhancing air transport on a global level,” a press release said.

It said that the CAPA Airline Leader Summit World & Awards for Excellence brings together CEOs and high-ranking representatives of the most important global and regional airlines, airports, and others in the industry.

The CAPA Summit will include a presentation of awards for excellence to airlines and airports in several categories.

Source:  https://n1info.rs/english/news/air-serbia-belgrade-to-host-capa-aviation-summit/

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