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International Information Centre for Balkan Studies



Bosnia's foreign trade deficit over €4 billion in 2019

January 21, 2020

Bosnia's foreign trade deficit reached 8 billion and six million Bosnian marks (the equivalent of some € billion) and the import-export coverage stood at 58.9 percent at the end of 2019, the state Statistics Agency said on Tuesday.

The country's total exports reached 11 billion and 492 million marks or some €5.8 billion which is 3.4 percent less than in 2018, and imports reached 19 billion and 498 million marks or some €9.9 billion, representing an increase by 1.2 percent.

Bosnia's exports to the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) countries was 1.9 billion marks (some €1 billion) and was 2.3 percent less than in 2018, while imports stood at 2.4 billion marks (or €1.2 billion) which is 3.9 percent higher than 2018. The total import-export coverage for the CEFTA region was 78.7 percent.

Last year, Bosnia exported 8 billion and 388 million marks (some €4.2 billion) worth of goods to the EU market, which is 3.4 percent less than in 2018, while it imported goods worth 12.8 billion marks (approx. €6.5 billion). This means that it imported 3.6 percent more goods than in 2018.

The import-export coverage with this market was 69.4 percent in 2019.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a405248/Bosnia-s-foreign-trade-deficit-over-4-billion-in-2019.html

Belgrade to get waste water treatment plant

January 20, 2020

The Belgrade city authorities signed an agreement with the China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC) to start work on a waste water treatment plant.

The two agreements on initial research and planning for the project were signed by Construction and Infrastructure Minister Zorana Mihajlovic and CMEC official Li Suecheng along with Belgrade Water and Sewer CEO Dragan Djordjevic.  

The initial stages of the project will cost 271 million Euro and the construction of the plant itself in the Veliko Selo suburb will cost between 400 and 500 million Euro, a news conference was told. Another 100 million Euro will be needed to build four more waste water treatment plants.  

Mihajlovic said that Belgrade is the only European city which does not have a waste water processing plant, adding that the financial contract will be signed within six months and the research will begin immediately. She said that the project will be completed within five years of the signing of the financial contract. The minister recalled that some 190 million cubic meters of waste waters are flushed into the Sava and Danube rivers every year.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a562214/Belgrade-to-get-waste-water-treatment-plant.html

Trade minister says Kosovo tariffs inflicting one million Euro daily damages on

January 20, 2020

Trade Minister Rasim Ljajic told Monday’s issue of Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti that the country’s economy is loosing more than a million Euro a day because of the 100 percent tariffs on Serbian goods imposed by the authorities in Kosovo.

“The economy is loosing a million and 39,000 Euro a day,” Ljajic said adding that the total value of trade lost in the 14 months since the tariffs were imposed stands at 435 million Euro. The minister said that the biggest losses were incurred by the food industry.

Ljajic said he sees no readiness from Pristina to compromise. “The international community seems not to know what to do with itself, let alone tackle the Kosovo issue in any serious way and it’s hard to expect a viable solution to be found without the European Union, Russia, China and the United States,” he said.

The minister said that it would take some kind of “Dayton” (the talks and peace agreement that ended the war in Bosnia) to resolve the Kosovo issue.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a562082/Trade-minister-says-Kosovo-tariffs-inflicting-one-million-Euro-daily-damages-on-Serbian-economy.html

Angela Merkel outlines vision for Europe

January 16, 2020

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants countries in the European Union to boost their technological capabilities and push more aggressively into areas such as battery manufacturing for electric cars and cloud computing.

Merkel, who is serving her fourth and final term as leader of Europe's manufacturing powerhouse, said in an interview with the Financial Times that Europe must compete aggressively with tech companies in the United States and Asia.

"I believe that chips should be manufactured in the European Union, that Europe should have its own hyperscalers and that it should be possible to produce battery cells," she told the newspaper.

The European Union has struggled for years to produce leading tech companies. It lacks an innovation hub on the scale of Silicon Valley, and the strategic government support afforded many tech companies in Asia.

Germany's automotive giants currently have no choice but to rely on battery producers from South Korea and China to outfit most of their new electric vehicles. Volkswagen (VLKAF) is partnering with Sweden's Northvolt to build a battery factory in Germany, but production is expected to start in late 2023 at the earliest.

US and Asian companies dominate chipmaking. And Europe has no hyperscalers, or companies that provide the internet infrastructure that underpin huge platforms such as Google (GOOGL), Facebook (FB) and Amazon (AMZN).

By suggesting that Europe, and not just Germany, should develop new tech capabilities, Merkel may be opening the door to the kind of industrial strategy favoured by French President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron has been pushing for the creation and protection of European champions that can better compete with foreign rivals. Airbus (EADSF), which has facilities across the EU and competes with Boeing (BA), is one successful example.

But while calling for greater regional innovation and competitiveness, Merkel rejected the path taken by the Trump administration, which has sought to boost American interests by confronting China over trade, intellectual property protections and Beijing's support for state-run enterprises.

"Do we in Germany and Europe want to dismantle all interconnected global supply chains . . . because of this economic competition?" She added: "In my opinion, complete isolation from China cannot be the answer."

Merkel also told the Financial Times that Europe should have the confidence to set global standards, such as the GDPR rules that have helped strengthen data protection around the world.

"I firmly believe that personal data does not belong to the state or to companies," she said. "It must be ensured that the individual has sovereignty over their own data and can decide with whom and for what purpose they share it."

The interview could foreshadow Merkel's message to business and political leaders next week in Davos. The chancellor is scheduled to give a keynote address at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Thursday.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a404363/Angela-Merkel-outlines-vision-for-Europe.html

Energy Community says Serbia not complying with its emissions directive

January 16, 2020

The Energy Community Secretariat on Thursday warned the Serbian authorities that they have failed to implement its Large Combustion Plants Directive of January 1, 2018 which limits emissions from combustion plants.

The Secretariat said that it sent an Opening Letter initiating a preliminary procedure to allow Serbia to respond to the allegations that it was not complying with Energy Community law and enable the Secretariat to establish the full background of the case.

The letter said that the Serbian authorities have to do one of two things – comply with the emission limit values for SO2, NOx and dust at individual plant level or implement a National Emission Reduction Plan (NERP). “Every plant must be covered by either of the two options. Out of the sixteen existing large combustion plants in Serbia, nine are under the scope of the dispute settlement case,” the letter said.

The Mining and Energy Ministry responded to the letter saying that the Serbian power company EPS and others were absolutely in line with the measures in the NERP, adding that adopting of the plan is within the competencies of the Environment Ministry.

It recalled that Serbia’s draft NERP was approved in 2016 but was not adopted even though the Secretariat repeatedly called the authorities to do that.

“The Secretariat takes the view that in the absence of a legally binding NERP, the existing large combustion plants in Serbia have to comply with the emission limit values of the Directive at individual level. This is not the case for the nine plants concerned,” the letter said.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a561221/Energy-Community-says-Serbia-not-complying-with-its-emissions-directive.html

EU begins contracting projects funded from €71 million IPA 2018 program

January 15, 2020

The EU Delegation in Bosnia said on Wednesday that it has started contracting various agriculture, energy efficiency and justice sector projects under a €71 million financial package after state authorities in December last year signed the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) 2018 Programme.

The country is currently also using funds from the IPA 2013 to IPA 2017 “with an overall commitment exceeding €350 million,” the EU Delegation said in a press release.

It said that the EU contracted nearly €81 million and paid out over €64 million in 2019, which is “significantly above the targets set in the beginning of the year” and that the EU "expects that the financial performance of BiH (Bosnia and Herzegovina) will further increase in 2020, both for the contracting of the new actions as well as payments for the ongoing projects,”

As for IPA 2019 and 2020, EU Member States approved annual programmes worth a total of about €170 million which will be used for public administration reform, public finance management, justice and transitional justice, home affairs, support to parliaments in the EU accession process, energy, transport, environment, trade and education, employment and social policies, it said.“

This allows for the start of the preparation of BiH for the next Financial Perspective 2021 – 2027,” it added.

Bosnia is, according to the press release, “the biggest beneficiary of the Regional IPA for transport in the Western Balkans” with some €215 million of grant co-financing being used for accelerating the construction of motorway on Bosnia’s part of the pan-European Corridor Vc.

IPA assistance aims to support and promote reforms which are required for Bosnia’s EU accession process as outlined in a European Commission Opinion on the country’s membership application in May last year, the release said.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a404163/EU-begins-contracting-projects-funded-from-71-million-IPA-2018-programme.html

Less than seven million people live in Serbia, demographic fall continues

January 15, 2020

Serbia loses 37,000 people a year, and despite more newborns, the negative demographic trend continues in the country, Danica Santic, a demographer, has said, adding that less than seven million people now live in the Balkan republic, the FoNet news agency reported on Wednesday.

Speaking to the state RTS TV, she said that in the last three years more babies were born. “That’s good news, but it’s not enough. The number of fertilities raises constantly, and Serbia loses 37,000 people per year.”

Santic said that in 2019, there were 63,000 newborns, while 103,000 died the same year.

According to the latest data from the Statistical Bureau, Santic says, Serbia’s current population is the lowest in modern history.

She added the ageing process was another factor since the life expectancy was higher than before.

In Serbia, the average age is 43, while partners have 1.48 children on average, and that at least 2.1 children per couple would be enough for simple reproduction.

Santic added that made Serbia one of the oldest nations in the world, while in Africa, for example, the average age is 19.

Belgrade, she added, was the only region with an increasing number of people, but mostly due to migration from other parts of the country, since none of the 17 city’s municipalities recorded a positive trend.

Santic did not mention it, but it's the fact that young and qualified people were leaving Serbia constantly and only in 2018 some 50,000 people left, which undoubtedly contributed to the shrinking of the population.

The UN estimates Bulgaria will suffer the most with losing 40 percent of the population by 2040.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a560747/Serbia-s-current-population-smallest-in-modern-history.html

Serbia's PM calls urgent Govt. session due to heavy air pollution

January 15, 2020

Serbia’s Prime Minister Ana Brnabic called an urgent Government session on Wednesday because of the alarming situation with air pollution in Serbia, the state RTS TV reported.

Some media reported that the ministers of environment, health, energy and internal affairs, as well as the representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Republic’s Hydro-Meteorologist Institute (RHMZ) would take part in the meeting scheduled for 3 pm.

Earlier,  the City’s Institution for Public Health published on the official ‘Beoeko’ website, the air quality in Belgrade at 9 am on Wednesday was “acceptable,” while the specialised application AirVisual described the air in Serbia’s capital as “unhealthy,” N1 reported.

Belgrade and some other cities and towns in Serbia have been among the worst polluted places on earth in the last weeks.

The AirVisual said on Wednesday the concentration of PM2.5 particles was 110 micro gramme per cubic metre, adding that made Belgrade the fifth most polluted cities in the world at 8 am on Wednesday.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a560665/Serbia-s-Government-to-hold-urgent-session-on-air-pollution.html

Minister claims Bosnia's connecting on TurkStream would help beat air pollution

January 13, 2020

Connecting Bosnia on the TurkStream, a natural gas pipeline that replaced the South Stream project and which runs from Russia to Turkey with further extensions to the Southeast and Central Europe, would mean energy security and would help the country reduce the air pollution issue it faces every year, Foreign Trade and Economic Relations Minister Stasa Kosarac said Monday.

Both Bosnia's entities, Republika Srpska (RS) and Federation (FBiH), would benefit from the construction of the TurkStream leg through the country, according to the minister, as this would ensure a new natural gas source and strong energy security as well as economic and developmental potentials. 

“Therefore, I see the gasification of Republika Srpska and Federation – that means the whole country, as an important project that would enable the growth of the economy. Let me be precise, gas is relatively cheap and is characterized with simple usage both in households and in the economy. Cheaper energy source means cheaper production process, therefore lower price of final products,” said Kosarac.

He added that besides the cost-effectiveness, the use of gas is more acceptable in terms of ecology and environment protection.

“I am specifically pointing this out because the air pollution issue escalates every year in some of the cities in Bosnia, especially in Sarajevo, Tuzla and Zenica, and often in Banja Luka as well. That's why we must not ignore the ecological aspect of this project. Economic interest should be crucial in deciding on the pipeline construction and this must not serve as a subject of politicization,” he said expressing hope that the state-level institutions will see the benefits of a new gas supply source and will continue the gasification process across the country.

“I believe in the commitment of Chairman Zoran Tegeltija to have this composition of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina change the practice of slowing down the decision-making process at the level of Bosnia and Herzegovina's institutions,” said the minister.

TurkStream is a mega-project that consists of two legs, originally stretching from Russia to Turkey but with one leg going further to the Southeast and Central Europe. The two legs have a capacity of 15.75 billion cubic meters.

Source:  http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a403621/Minister-claims-Bosnia-s-connecting-on-TurkStream-would-help-beat-air-pollution.html

Serbian ministry launches infrastructure project

January 13, 2020

The Serbian Ministry of the Economy has invited applications by local authorities for a program of support for the development of business infrastructure worth 1.12 billion Dinars (1 Euro – 118 Dinars).

A ministry press release said that the money was earmarked for infrastructure in business zones and their links to their surroundings with the aim of developing tourism and other activities. The goal of the program is to create conditions to attract investments, create a better business environment and open new jobs, it added.  

According to the ministry, some projects in underdeveloped communities could receive 100 percent financing while more developed communities could get up to 60 percent of the money they need to finance projects.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a560203/Serbian-ministry-launches-infrastructure-project.html

Inflation in Serbia in 2019 1.7 pct

January 13, 2020

The prices of goods and services covered by inflation measurement in Serbia in December last year were 0.5 percent higher than the month before, and compared to the same month in 2018, they went up 1.9 percent, while the annual inflation was 1.7 percent, the Beta news agency reported on Monday, citing the Republic Statistic Bureau.

The prices went up in utility cost, fuel, food, beverages, health service, alcohol drinks and tobacco, recreation and culture, furniture, home appliances, clothes and footwear.

Less money was needed for restaurants and hotels, communication and transport.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a560089/Inflation-in-Serbia-in-2019-less-than-two-percent.html

'Serbian Railways Infrastructure' general manager arrested on bribery suspicion

January 11, 2020

Four persons including the general manager of Serbian national railway infrastructure asset management company 'Serbian Railways Infrastructure' were arrested on bribery suspicion, Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic confirmed on Saturday.

'Serbian Railways Infrastructure' General Manager M.J. is suspected of taking a 10 thousand Euro bribe from D.B., a member of the Supervisory Board in 'Ratko Mitrovic construction' company, who was a middleman in the process.

The bribery was taken in connection with the corruptive activities in the procedure of land expropriation on the site planned for construction of a speed railway, said the minister.

Two lawyers who provided the money were also put under arrest. They are suspected of arranging a deal with M.J. in which they were charging large sums for provided legal services and then taking back a part of the money and sharing it among themselves.

According to the Interior Minister, M.J. had the money with him at the moment of arrest.

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a559679/Serbian-Railways-Infrastructure-general-manager-arrested-on-bribery-suspicion.html

Sarovic: Lack of agreement still a barrier for Bosnia's connecting on TurkStream

January 10, 2020

A new gas supply source via Turkey would mean safety and that would also lead to competitiveness on the market, former Foreign Trade Minister Mirko Sarovic said on Friday, adding that Bosnia's connecting on the TurkStream is still not likely to happen due to the lack of political agreement.

“Another even larger problem is the fact that Bosnia and Herzegovina has not met the obligations from the agreement with the Energy Community, it didn't implement the third energy package and doesn't have state-level legislation treating the gas sector,” Sarovic told N1.

The attempt to pass necessary legislation at the state level failed a few years ago, he recalled, noting that it is up to Bosnian authorities to seize the opportunity and pass the necessary legislation, which would meet European standards in the way prescribed by the Energy Community.

“It is necessary to reach an agreement on joining the TurkStream and, in my opinion, it is important to make decisions towards this southern connection, which is TAP, a pipeline going from Azerbaijan via Turkey, Greece, Albania, Montenegro and further towards Croatia,” said the former minister.

TurkStream is a mega-project composed of two pipeline legs, where Russian gas would be delivered to Turkey and then further to Europe. Both legs have a capacity of 15.75 billion cubic metres each.

Turkey would be supplied via one leg, while another leg would be used to supply Europe.

The second leg that goes to Serbia has not started operating yet as Bulgaria is still working on the stream construction through its territory.

Source:   http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a403009/Sarovic-Lack-of-agreement-still-a-barrier-for-Bosnia-s-connecting-on-TurkStream.html

AirVisual: Sarajevo air more polluted than air in Dhaka or Delhi

January 10, 2020

Sarajevo had the worst air quality in the world, on Thursday evening, said AirVisual on its web portal.

According to AirVisual, Sarajevo's Air Quality Index (AQI) stood at 464 at 7pm, making it the most polluted city in the world. The second worst was Dhaka, Bangladesh, whose AQI was 28, followed by Delhi, India, with 252 AQI.

The air with AQI reaching over 400 is considered extremely dangerous for the population and experts recommends staying inside.

AirVisual also predicts pollution to drop to acceptable levels in the coming days.

Up-to-date information on other cities can be seen HERE.

Source:   http://ba.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a403137/AirVisual-Sarajevo-air-more-polluted-than-air-in-Dhaka-or-Delhi.html

Beginning of distribution of gas through Turkish Stream to Serbia uncertain

January 10, 2020

It isn't easy to say when the consumers in Serbia will start getting gas through the Turkish Stream since there are still many great unknowns about the end of its construction in Bulgaria, the experts tell the Beta news agency on Friday.

Serbia's officials have said earlier that the pipeline will be functional by the end of last year. In contrast, President Aleksandar Vucic has recently 'extended' the deadline for May or September 2020.

Aleksandar Antic, Serbia's Energy Minister, said that the Bulgarian Prime Minister Bojko Borisov had promised his country would finish its 308 kilometres of the gas pipeline in May.

"Bulgaria should finish the pipeline in the second half of this year, meaning that the first gas would reach Serbia in September or October, i.e., at the beginning of a new heating season.," Antic said, but could not be sure even after Borisov's "firm" promise.

The Turkish Stream, or as it's called in Bulgaria, the Balkan Stream, is a joint venture of the Russian Gazprom and Turkish Botas and should supply gas to Turkey, South and South-East Europe.

The pipeline is 930 kilometres long with 31.5 billion cubic metres capacity per year.

The first leg goes through Turkey, while the second goes toward Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary.

Each leg has 15.75 billion cubic metres capacity.

It would enter Serbia near the eastern town of Zajecar and exit the country in the north, at the Horgos border crossing with Hungary, and then continue to Austria and Slovakia.

The issue with the Bulgarian part construction, the experts say, is that the start of the works is postponed for five months due to a complaint of the Saudi Arabia Arkad consortium which competed for the job.  

Source:  http://rs.n1info.com/English/NEWS/a559431/It-s-still-unknown-when-Serbia-will-get-gas-through-Turkish-Stream.html

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