Friday, May 22, 2009

A Festival of the Author

(May 21 2009)
A month long Festival dedicated to the life and work of the celebrated Serbian writer Momcilo Nastasijevic started in Belgrade on Thursday, May 21. “A Festival of the Author“ is an event organized annualy with the idea to remind general public of the literary works by the Serbian writers whose contribution to the Belgrade and Serbian cultural heritage has been undermined or forgoten.
This year’s event is completely dedicated to the poetry, short-stories, plays, and essays written by Momcilo Nastasijevic (1894–1938)The Festival started with the theater performance „In the footsteps of Nastasijevic“ by Dah Theater Group,and with the exhibition titled „Secrets of Momcilo Nastasijevic“ which opened in the Cultural Center of Belgrade Building on Thursday. This biographical exhibition presents photos, artefacts, manuscripts, and other mementos from the life and time of M. Nastasijevic.
During the Festival two new editions of the books writen by Nastasijevic will be released and his poetry will be read at the Poetry Night dedicated to his work. Concerts and walk tours throuh the „old Belgrade“ insipred by his writings, as well as conference about Nastasijevic’s literary work will be a part of this Festival as well.
Momcilo Nastasijevic is a Serbian poet who belonged to the , so called, „modern“ current of the Serbian literature and poetry in the time between the two world wars. He was born in Gornji Milanovac in 1894 but most of his lifetime spent as a resident of Belgrade where he worked as a High School Profesor.
He started publishing his literary works relatively late. The collection of poetry was his first work published in 1932. Being of very fragile health, he passed away in 1938 at the age of 42. . He left behind him numerous essays, plays, short stories and poetry which were published by his friends as „Complete Works by M. Nastasijevic“ a year after his death.

VP Biden says: Serbia does not have to recognize Kosovo for EU bid

May 21 2009)
Joe Biden’s trip to Serbia is a part of a three-day tour of the Balkans meant to demonstrate the renewed interest of the United States in the region, AP reports. VP Biden said his trip to the Serbian capital Belgrade, where he arrived from Bosnia, is aimed at establishing “healthy” relations between the Obama administration and Serbia’s authorities.
US Vice President Joe Biden offered Belgrade a fresh start in relationship with Washington promising Serbia would not have to recognize the independence of breakaway Kosovo.
"The United States does not, I emphasize, does not expect Serbia to recognize the independence of Kosovo…It is not a precondition for our relationship or our support for Serbia becoming part of the European Union…We can agree to disagree provided that we have reasonable expectations for one another," Biden told a joint media conference after meeting with Serbia's President Boris Tadic.
Biden is the most senior US official to visit Serbia since Jimmy Carter came to then Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia as President in 1980. The US vice president voiced strong support for Serbia's hopes of joining the EU. So far, it has been held up by many pre-conditions, one of which is Serbia's failure to capture the last two remaining war crimes fugitives including Bosnian Serb genocide suspect Ratko Mladic.
VP Biden added that US Government “will use their influence, their energy and their resources to promote Serbia's Euro-Atlantic aspirations,"
President Boris Tadic reiterated his country's opposition to the independence of Kosovo, which has an ethnic Albanian majority.
"It is Serbia's legitimate right to defend its territorial integrity through the use of peaceful, diplomatic and legal means," Mr. Tadic said of Serbia’s case in the International Court of Justice. "Notwithstanding our different positions on the Kosovo question, Serbia wishes for the best possible relations with the United States.
Biden paid a solemn tribute to late reformist Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic at the site of his 2003 assassination outside the government building, after meeting with his widow Ruzica.
He also met with Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic, Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac, and other Belgrade Officials to discuss political, economic and military issues of mutual interest. On a three-day Balkans tour that took him to Bosnia on Tuesday, and to Serbia on Wednesday, VP Biden arrived on Thursday to Kosivo before heading to Lebanon on Friday. In Pristina, after a meeting with the President and Prime Minister of the temporary Kosovo government, Fatmir Sejdiu and Hasim Taci, Biden said that Kosovo's independence was an irretrievable process and that there could be no division of Kosovo

International Court of Justice (ICJ) debate on Kosovo

May 15 2009

Venezuela just became the 37th country on Saturday to formally join the International Court of Justice (ICJ) debate on Kosovo. Like most Latin American countries, Venezuela has not recognized Kosovo. As Serbia’s news source B92 reports, the court say that the judges decided to accept Venezuela's opinion, even though the deadline for submitting the written statements had expired. Although the content of the statements remains confidential, based on the publicly expressed position of the participating states, most likely 22 countries will support the proclamation of independence, while 15 will stand against it.
So far the most extensive arguments against the secession were given by Serbia, Argentina, Spain, Russia, and Cyprus. They call on international law and say it does not allow for Kosovo to secede, while Cyprus adds a list of Europe's regions that, should the court decide to support ethnic Albanians' proclamation, can be expected to follow suit and announce similar separatist moves. Moscow further adds that not a single condition had been met to treat Kosovo as a "unique case".
The most serious arguments in favor of Kosovo's independence came from the United States and Britain, and the Kosovo Albanian government in Priština, represented by Britain's Michael Wood. The court also invited UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to send his statement. His statement consisting of three parts in which he reminds of the process that led to the ICJ case, explains the establishment of the UN mission in Kosovo, and writes about provisions of international law relevant to the case, without expressing his position in favor or against the Kosovo's independence. Those countries taking part in the debate have until July 17 2009 to comment on other countries' statements, once again, in written form.

Srbijagas and Gazprom to Sign South Stream Deal

(May 13 2009) Serbian state owned gas company “Srbijagas” and Russian gas company “Gazprom” are going to sign a contract on Friday May 15, for the construction of a part of the South Stream gas pipeline. According to General Director of Srbijagas Dusan Bajatovic , with this agreement it will be formeda joint venture for the part of the South Stream pipeline that will go through Serbia. The predicted length of the pipeline through Serbia is estimated to be around 450 kilometers and it could carry around 23.1 billions of cubic meters of gas annually, Mr. Bajatovic added.The Gazprom-led project aims to bring Russian, Caspian and Central Asian gas to Europe and is a rival to the EU-backed Nabucco pipeline, which aims to reduce European reliance on Russia for its energy supplies.According to the agreement on the South Stream construction, signed on 24 December, 2008 in Moscow, Gazprom will owe 51 per cent and Srbijagas 49 per cent of the property of the joint venture for the pipeline’s construction. The two companies will also form a subsidiary company in Serbia for gas distribution. The date when this company will be formed is not yet determined.The signing will be followed by a feasibility study that will determine the gas pipeline's exact course. Serbia's government will discuss the proposed agreement Thursday. The pipeline through Serbia is scheduled to be finished by December 31, 2015.

EU Visa Liberalization for Serbian citizens ?

May 13 2009
The EU Official has warned that any speculation over when EU visa requirements will be lifted for Serbian citizens is ''premature''.
Mr. Pierre Mirel, Director of the West Balkan Directorate at the EU General Directorate for Enlargement, said the European Commission must first prepare well-founded and researched reports on the progress of the countries in West Balkans, including Serbia. According to Mr. Mirel “A decision on visa liberalization will depend on how much Serbia meets the set requirements. He noted that Serbia had already achieved considerable progress, especially in areas of reforms that are necessary for general entry into the EU, but a lot of work is still undone.Mr. Mirel welcomed the adoption of the National Strategy for European integration, which is a legislative package, designed to reform the judiciary and to set up laws against discrimination. He stressed that enforcement of the newly adopted laws had also to be assured. Bozidar Djelic, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration, told press after a meeting with Pierre Mirel, that Serbia is already in the process of meeting required conditions and is working with the Commission to meet the goals for visa liberalization.

250 Million Euro Credit from EIB

On Monday, May 11, in Belgrade Serbia and the European Investment Bank (EIB) signed a 250 million euro (341 million dollars) credit intended to support the Balkan country's small and medium-sized enterprises.
EIB, the European Union's investment arm, and Serbia also signed a new agreement setting up the framework for EIB's activity in Serbia.
The credit agreed Monday is the first in a series of operations that expected to reach more than 1.4 billion euros in 2009-10 planned as support of Serbian economic recovery and helping its European integration.
"Our commitment in 2009 and in the years to come will help Serbia to combat the recession and make a swifter recovery, thereby adding greater weight each day to that country's plans of nurturing closer ties with the European Union," said EIB Vice President Dario Scannapieco.
(May 11 2009)

Goran Bregovic’s Concerts in US and Canada

The famous Serbian composer and musician Goran Bregovic and his “Weddings and Funerals Orchestra” will soon set off on their first big American tour, which will start in Brooklyn, NY, on June 11 with the performance at the Summer festival “Cellebrate Brooklyn”.
From there Goran Bregovic and his 19-member orchestra will go to Toronto to take part in the Festival of Art and Creativity “Luminato” with two concerts on June 12 and 13. The celebrated Serbian musician and his orchestra will then perform on June 14 at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, on June 15 in Cleveland, on June 17 in Austin, on June 19 and 20 in Los Angeles, on June 21 at the Jazz Festival in San Francisco and on June 23 at the Moore Theatre in Seattle. After this series of eight concerts, the orchestra will continue the tour in Europe. Bregovic is currently finishing the second part of his album “Alcohol”. At the end of last year, he released “Slivovitz”, the first CD of the two-part album “Alcohol”, while the sequel titled “Champagne” is expected to be released soon. (May 11 2009)

Night of Museums

(May 18 2009)
During the Night of Museums, half a million people visited museums and galleries in Serbia. The most popular cultural event was organized in the night between May 16 and 17 and was very successful once more. It offered the residents of 41 towns in Serbia eight hours of unforgettable adventure in museums, galleries and cultural centers. Visitors were able to enjoy over 400 different programs at over 190 locations. This year’s Night of Museums gathered 18 participating towns more than the last year. More than 300,000 people visited the museums in Belgrade, which is about the same as in the previous year, when the manifestation broke all the records. Visitors in Belgrade had a unique opportunity to enjoy exhibitions, performances and concerts in over 80 locations. The greatest number of visitors was recorded in the Military Museum in Belgrade and at the Beli Dvor (The White Palace) where it was presented a theme exhibition of the culinary traditions of the kings’ court.In the city of Novi Sad, in only eight hours a record number of 140,000 visitors attended this event. Sabac, the town which offered a rich program at 12 locations, was visited by 250,000 people, while people from Bor enjoyed concerts of the local rock bands. This year’s Night of Museums was held under the sponsorship of the Serbian Ministry of Culture and by the City Councils of the cities where the manifestation took place as part of the European Night of Museums. In this already traditional manifestation,, over 1900 museums, galleries and exhibitions in 40 countries opened for free their doors to visitors during the very same night .

Serbia Starts Work on Pan-Europe Road

(May 11 2009)

On Sunday, May 10, Serbia's top political and business leaders were in Novi Sad, Serbia, to celebrate the start of work on the Horgoš-Novi Sad highway. The new highway is a part of a larger project to create a pan-European highway called Corridor 10, which will connect Salzburg to Thessalonica.
Two Serbian firms Putevi Beograd and Putevi Užice, have been given six months to complete the stretch of highway 20km-long. For these companies this is RSD 1.5billion work. The original contractor, Austria's Alpine Porr consortium has launched an international arbitration against the Serbian state for the breach of the contract.Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic explained that investing in infrastructure is the best way to create jobs during the economic crisis. He noted that the Government had secured the support of international financial institutions for projects that will bring jobs in construction, metal and the road industry, and will help small and medium size enterprises.President Boris Tadic at the opening ceremony of Corridor 10, expressed his faith that his Government would be the first in recent Serbian history to stay on track and complete the capital projects that it had outlined, planned and initiated. "The EU is not complete without Serbia in it, Serbia is the central country of south east Europe and that is why, if we do not build roads, we lose not only money, but also the credibility and potential for our country's influence in the world," Tadic told journalists. The potential benefit to the Serbian economy, as the president pointed out, is not only improved infrastructure but the creation of 200,000 new jobs for Serbian citizens over the next three years just for the construction of Corridor 10.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Books by Serbian Authors on American Book Market

An interview with the Serbian writer Milica Krkovic whose book The Little Book of Creation has been recently published by Lux Mundi Press, a publisher from New York
Q: Your book "The Little Book of Creation" has been recently published in the USA by the Lux Mundi Press from New York. The second edition in Serbian language was released last October in Belgrade, Serbia. The American edition has been just published by as a Kindle Book. How do you feel about all these attention around your first novel?
A: The first Serbian edition was sold in a very short period. It was funny, actually, because the most of the run was sold even before the publisher started his advertising campaign. We were both very satisfied. But then the readers started to contact me through the e-mail, or even by phone. They were telling me how we were soul mates, or they asked to meet me, or they felt urged to tell me their life stories. I didn’t like all that. I had already been respected in the circle of my colleagues as an editor and writer of scholarly essays on Hermeticism; this new attention seemed to me very disturbing. I just wanted some peace to read and write and to spend time with my sons, so at first I did not want to give my permission for the second edition and I did my best to become invisible again. When Lux Mundi Press decided to print the American edition, I realized that my behavior was childish and I gave the rights for the second Serbian edition to „Metaphysica“ publishing house from Belgrade. Now the wheel is turning again, there is this Kindle edition also; well, I’m glad. I’m proud, of course. All that is so healthy for my ego!
Q: Milica Krkovic is well known as a translator and book editor. What (or where) is the motivational source behind Milica Krkovic - the writer?
A: I studied Serbian language and literature at the Belgrade University – that is a group for future writers – and I started to publish my works very early, during the University days. These were mostly essays. At that time, I used to sign my work with my family name only, it was Damianovich, and everybody thought that the author was a man. Since I was not fond of women writers, I was deliberately writing and thinking like a man; my paragons were Alexander Pushkin, Ernesto Sabato, Hans Christian Andersen, William Butler Yeats... and so many others. Even at that time, I was interested in comparative religions and hermetic philosophy and the most of my work was inspired by these subjects. When the war in Yugoslavia began everything was turned upside-down. People did not want to hear or read about anything else except the war. I felt like caught in a madhouse. The publishers were still interested in my works, but they did not publish them, because nobody wanted to read them. So I quit writing and started to translate for living. The most of my efforts I invested in fulfilling my family with joy and warmth – I did not want my children to become damaged by the madness of war. All that lasted for 15 years, but although I stopped writing and publishing, I was reading, traveling abroad (always with my children) and I have never applied to become a member of the association of translators of Serbia, although translating is my main source of income, because I haven’t seen myself as a translator but as a writer.
I also worked as an editor in several publishing houses, and about three years ago, I was lucky to become the editor in chief of the first Masonic publishing house in Serbia and I still hold that position. Since hermetic philosophy has become my main interest long ago, that job is very inspirative to me, especially because it gives me the opportunity to express my opinions and research in the prefaces of the books we publish.
Q: Very few Serbian contemporary authors were published in the American book market. Do you have an opinion about reasons behind this lack of Serbian literary presence on the American continent?
A: Serbia has great writers. The problem is that the most of these books treat local, Serbian subjects, they do not communicate well with the rest of the world. American people have their own issues and they do not want to read about the Serbian ones. However, some writers who deal with more universal subjects, like Pavic and Basara are already well known in America, Japan and Europe. Then, my American publisher chose to publish also a novel by Marica Josimcevic, a distinguished writer of esoteric fiction who was the one who brought the teaching of Carlos Castaneda into Serbia. I believe that Serbian literature will become interesting and popular all around the world very soon; well, as soon as the writers find the ideal ratio between strictly Serbian „exotic“ elements and the themes that are universally human.
Q: Is there anything in your novel that will strike readers as being particularly Serbian?
A: Yes, it is a Belgrade novel – the plot is happening in Belgrade, characters are born Belgraders. The story evolves through streets, restaurants and bridges of Belgrade. Zvezdara forest, which is situated on the highest hill of Old Belgrade, plays an important role. You know, Old Belgrade lies on seven hills, just like Rome; but it is more beautiful because these seven hills stand on the mouth of two big European rivers – the Sava and the Danube. „Zvezdara forest“ means „Forest of the Stars“; there is an observatory in it, from which one can watch the stars, if he lifts his eyes; but if he looks downwards, he will see two rivers with marinas and ships. I love Belgrade, that’s my city and my great inspiration; I think it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Q: On another hand, writers constantly strive towards universality of themes and symbols presented in their novels. Will American readers be able to identify with characters and themes in your novel?
A: Absolutely. I might say that my novel is a Belgrade novel as much as „Sex and the City“ is a NY series. Places and characters are very Belgrade ones, but the main issues of my characters are not, they are universally human - Yelena, my main character, is a typical representative of the higher middle-class which is now vanishing; that is now a common problem in the whole Western world. And then, she falls in love – I think that is not something particularly Serbian, what do you think? For the first time in her life, she finds herself in a situation that cannot be easily solved, and all the spiritual teachings that served only to make her life more interesting, now are becoming her true guide. None of these teachings are particularly Serbian or Orthodox; on the contrary, they all entwine into the golden thread of Hermeticism, sprouting from different parts of the world and from different epochs. The only way for Yelena to keep her heart in one piece is to start to really understand and practice the things she used to read just for her intellectual pleasure. Her problem is universally human, so she has to find a universal solution; she has to step on the path that is universal for the whole humanity. And she succeeds, because she is a winner.
Q: Why is your novel (in the words of reviewers) a typical representative of the Rosicrucian literary genre? What do you think?
A: Because of its message, it is a typical Rosicrucian message.The essential message of hermetic teachings is that the aim of a human being is to go back to the original world from which he felt. This world in which we live is a huge school, a classroom to perfect ourselves in and become suitable again for the world of truth, the world of God and of original human beings. This message is present in all genuine spiritual teachings, but different cultures from different parts of the world, and from different periods of time, express it in different ways. However, the essence is always the same, differences are only outward; that is exactly the reason why they are so noticeable at the first sight.The Rosicrucian legend from 17th century tells us a story about German adept Christian Rosycross, who had found the practices and teachings of Universal Truth in the East and brought them to Europe, to bring back the Christian message to its origins and to complement it with Eastern wisdom. However, there are so many different and opposite statements and messages from so many authorities; how can we know whom to listen, how can we tell the difference between right and wrong, how can we find the right spiritual path and become active and operative on it? The Rosicrucian teaching says that that is possible only with the help of our hart, which still contains one atom from the original human being, susceptible to the radiation of the original world. When this atom becomes active, our hart opens under the influences of that radiation like the rose on the middle of the cross, and shows us the way.Yelena’s heart was closed like a bud and she was able to accept the message only with her head, as curiosities or philosophy; but when her hart starts to bleed, she becomes susceptible to the radiation of Light and she manages to put her feet on the path of striving and self-masonry towards the good end.
Q: You had spent several days in New York City last October during the promotion of your book. What do you think of New York and about mega bookstores like Barnes & Noble and Borders?
A: Oh, I loved New York very much! I felt so good and I really believe NY is a city where everybody must feel good. People are so friendly, cultural facilities are great and the architecture is wonderful, but what really made me feel relaxed is – well, the spirit of NY. It’s unique and I cannot compare it with any other place in the world, especially not with European metropolises, like Paris, or London, or Rome... not even with Amsterdam, although there are certain similarities. But you know, for example, I do not like to wear purses and bags – I prefer to put everything in my pockets including my hands and to feel free. In Europe such behavior is considered as not polite, or at least strange; in NYC, it’s completely normal. For some reason I was especially attracted to the Central Park, but I cannot exactly tell why. It just has a very good energy and I enjoyed walking around or having coffee by the lake, or watching at the tall buildings around the park, which are much higher than the trees. And the Metropolitan museum – it is really impressive, but what impressed me more than all of those famous collections is the fact that visitors can still observe these works from the closest proximity; in Europe, that is not possible any more. Famous paintings are protected with glass, or at least with a rope and security system which doesn’t let you approach closer than 2 meters from the showpiece. It’s the NY spirit of freedom, friendliness and intellectual creativity that really made me feel great. Maybe it has to do something with the fact that I am a Gemini, I don’t know.Mega bookstores and the City Library are the places where I think I could spend days and days. When I am in Belgrade, although I have a huge family library at home, I prefer to sit in a public library or a bookstore and to read there; Barns & Noble on Union Square is a bookstore of my dreams. It’s a place where I would like to give lectures, for example, the atmosphere is very inspirative. Besides, these stores can really make your life easier because you can always find any title you need. For example, I wanted to buy a book that was published some 15 or 20 years ago, and the shop assistant in Barns & Noble was able to order it for me and have it delivered in seven days. That’s impressive.
Q: Is there any new novel in making?
A: Yes. I am writing a novel inspired by an old Celtic legend. But the legend is just the beginning, the plot of my novel starts when the legend finishes. Everything is happening in the Carterhaugh forest on the Scottish border, and on the mountain Avala next to Belgrade, where a huge and rich Celtic city was situated in the Roman period. Some scholars even think that this is where the mysterious Avalon from Arthurian legends was situated, because of the similarity of its name with the name of the mountain. I do not imply anything like that in my novel, but I do give a great magical and mystical importance to that city. The novel is divided into three parts – a fairytale with seemingly happy ending; a fall into the darkness of Maya or false reality; and awakening in the light of the true reality. My previous novel is about the stepping on the path of self-masonry, this one is about the path itself. Since I believe in the strength of the spoken word, I’m also working on a project connected to storytelling. I’m preparing a series of stories on universal subjects like friendship, fear, love, hate, devotion etc, but instead of printing them and publishing in a form of a book, I will tell them to the audience in a club. These stories are a combination of well-known folk stories and legends on those subjects and my creative interpretation and additions. We shall record them, so maybe one day they will appear on the paper also, but for now the plan is to establish a place for cherishing the artistic beauty and strength of the spoken word.
Q: just published the Kindle edition of "The Little Book of Creation". Your book is also available as an e-book in the Internet stores like How do you feel about new trends in the publishing? The idea that somebody will read a novel on their iPod, or Kindle book, or phone, sounds surreal and disturbing to many authors.
A: I like it. Books are written to be read. I think that Kindle is a great invention, like iPod, not only because they make storing of books or music easier, but also because they are so practical for use. Who could imagine some twenty years ago that people would be able to take the whole libraries with them when they go to work, or when they are having holiday; or, to adjust the size of the font in any moment so that they can skip the glasses, or to change the color of the paper to suit their eyes better? I like everything that is practical and saves time and money. Besides, electronic editions are much cheaper than paper editions, so practically anybody can purchase them. I think that is a very important step in the cultural evolution.
Q: Your book will be promoted by your American publisher at the Book Expo in New York in May 2009. This is the single largest book fair on the American continent. Are you going to be there?
A: Yes, I am looking forward to come to New York again. Book Expo is a huge and important event and I am so curious to see it, no way I would miss it!
Thank you Milica Krkovic!

Economic crisis and its effects on Serbia

According to IMF, chances for recovery of European developing markets, including the one in Serbia, in 2010 and 2011 do exist but are small. Financial pressures on Central, Eastern and Southeast Europe are intensifying. Among other things, they are reflected in cancelations or postponement of loans and investments as well as in the possibilities that major European banks sell their branches in developing countries in order to save the capital for domestic markets. Majority of countries of Eastern and Southeast Europe, including Serbia, are very dependent on the West European banks, in the first place those from Austria, Germany and Italy. At recent G20 summit, a decision was made over increase of assets at the IMF disposal. The report presented states that the losses caused by the world crisis until the end of 2010 would amount to 4,050 billion Dollars. According to the IMF the banks shall suffer two thirds of that loss what is almost two times more than initially projected amount of 2,200 billions corrected in January to 2,700 billion Dollars.
In the January report by Dun & Bradstreet (D&B), a company that provides credit information on businesses and corporations, it was said the worsening of the global economic situation is starting to affect Serbia as well. The report claims that Serbia is still a country of high risk, with a DB5 rating. Out of four factors that influence the final rating, as the indicator or risk for the business environment in a certain country - political, macro-economic, commercial and external, political tremors are mostly responsible for the high risk rating Serbia received.
Since the increase of Serbian economy during the last years had been dictated by the increase of export, foreign investments and personal expenditure, the short-term perspective of Serbian macro economy will be affected by the decrease of global solvency, decrease of foreign investments in countries with increased risk rating, as well as the economic decrease in main EU countries, which are also trade partners of Serbia, the report states.
As the consequence of this state of affairs, D&B is expecting the decrease of Serbian growth to 2,5% in 2009 and 3,5% in 2010, compared to the average economic growth of 6,9% in the 2004- 2008 period.
The economic crisis in Serbia has severely hit small business sector, whereas 10,000 small enterprises have been closed down since the start of 2009, as Belgrade daily "Blic" reports.The reasons for this lay in the reduction of citizens' purchasing power, insolvency, grey economy and strong competition from large retail chains.
According to the Agency for Business Registers, 10,508 enterprises have been erased from the register as of January 1, i.e. five percent of the total number of registered companies in Serbia. Majority of closed enterprises are retail shops, hair & beauty salons, dentist and veterinary offices, as well as small shops offering various services.
Other sectors of Serbian economy are affected with the global economical crisis as well. Industrial production in Serbia in February recorded drop of 21.9 percent in relation to the same period of the last year. The mostly affected is the metal industry. This is not very good news since this segment of Serbian industry has been so far the biggest contributor to the total export of the country.
The main element of the Serbian strategy for improving the business environment is the passing of the restrictive budged for 2009. The aim of this budget is a deficit that equals 1,5% of GDP, in accordance with IMF recommendations. The government is planning to cover the decrease of deficit from 2,7% (2008) to 1,5% in 2009 with profits from privatization, new credits and the increase of taxes on gas, coffee and cigarettes, the report states. In accordance with the expectations of a quick economic decrease, D&B believes that the deficit in Serbia will surpass the planned 1,5%.(ANSAmed).
As news Agency Tanjug reports, the Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic said on April 29th 2009 that the IMF has forwarded proposal for the two-year stand-by arrangement in the amount of EUR 3 billions. According to his words, the proposal covers in full all of the measures suggested by Serbian Government within a package for economic stability of the country.
“The arrangement with the IMF represents important support to macroeconomic stability of Serbia. It is also a strong positive signal to other international financial institutions but also to investors to continue investing in Serbia. We expect the IMF Board of directors to approve this arrangement on May 11”, the Prime Minister said. The arrangement understands consolidated sector deficit, i.e. budget deficit of 3 percent of the GDP. The Government has already adopted measures for cutting of costs in the public sector and for decrease of budget income in 2009.

Fight against corruption and organized crime

At the opening the ministerial conference “Promoting Justice and Safety in South-eastern Europe”, which took place in Belgrade on March 15th 2009, the Prime Minister Mr. Mirko Cvetkovic said that corruption and organized crime are a serious threat to democracy, human rights, stability and economic progress of Serbia.
In recent years Serbia has made further commitments in fight against organized crime and corruption. In close cooperation with OSCE the Serbian government has dedicated itself to strengthen its legislative framework and the capacity of judges and prosecutors. This is very important in order to fight organized crime and corruption effectively. In addition, close relations have been developed between prosecutors in Serbia and Italy’s anti-mafia Directorate.
The level of corruption is measured by the Corruption Perception of Transparency International, an international NGO that fights corruption globally. In 2007 Serbia scored a 3,4 (on a scale from 1-10, with 1 means highly corrupt) on this index. This is not a great score, however, compared to the region and the past scores this is not bad. To give an indication: Bulgaria and Croatia score better (4,1 both), whilst Albania scores 2,9 and Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia 3,3. According to Transparency International, Serbia is making progress in fighting corruption: in 2002 the country scored only 2,3 and was therefore the most corrupt country in the Balkan region. In 2007, Serbia has improved its position, both in absolute score as in the relative position compared to the other countries in the region.
Corruption is one of the most important problems facing Serbia today. While there are some indications that corruption may have become less rampant in recent years, available evidence suggests that corruption levels are still high, while trust in key institutions is low. The impact on citizens is significant: day-to-day corruption can put a substantial strain on the poorest and most marginalized groups, while frequent scandals involving corruption among the highest public officials, undermines people’s confidence in the future, particularly among young adults. Serbia is a country in transition. It is important to tackle corruption systematically to avoid its becoming institutionalized. However, while good news and perceptions are thin on the ground, we find that the country is on a positive track in several areas: there are signs of greater control of public procurement, conflict of interest has begun to be regulated, access to information and transparency of the government institutions have improved significantly, and the capacity of enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute organized crime and corruption is increasing. The burden of rules and procedures has eased for private business, cutting opportunities for corruption. However, the political nature of the problem is constant, and more ambitious reforms are often effectively blocked by entrenched elites. A lasting impact on corruption levels cannot be achieved without sustained political will at the highest levels of government. On October 23 2008 the Serbian parliament adopted the Law on the Anti-Corruption Agency, whose implementation will begin on January 1, 2010. The Agency’s key tasks will be conflicts of interest, control over the finances of political parties and international cooperation in the fight against corruption.
On April 15th 2009 the Anti Corruption Agency held its constitutive session to appoint its Board, formed in line with the Law on the Anti-Corruption Agency. Serbian parliament speaker Mrs. Slavica Djukic-Dejanovic addressed the Board and recalled that the Law on the Anti-Corruption Agency was adopted in October, adding that the agency will not only strive to implement laws but the Anti-Corruption Strategy as well. “Unfortunately, we have to admit that there is corruption in many segments of society, and the fact is that there can be no democracy, human rights, stability and economic development without a resolute fight against corruption”, said Dejanovic.
She said that the Agency, as an independent body, will considerably help institutions to function properly and in line with their authorizations.
On behalf of the government, State Secretary of Justice Mr. Slobodan Homen greeted the Board members and wished them success, adding that the Agency will not have mercy for anyone when it comes to corruption. Mr. Homen said that regulation of the finances of political parties will be among the Agency’s key priorities.
Board member Zoran Stojiljkovic told the press that this body will establish how certain property deals were financed, examine conflicts of interest and most importantly the corrupt financing within the political system. It will be allowed to sanction party budgets and the legitimacy of their financing, said Stojiljkovic adding that the Agency has the right to publicly announce the names of individuals or parties who break “the rules of the game”. Mr. Stojiljkovic recalled that the Agency will begin fully authorized work on January 1, 2010. The period up until then will be used to constitute all organs and establish agendas.According to law, the Board will have nine members.

No Solution for Relocation of Toxic Chemicals

Thousands of tons of dangerous industrial waste are stored in factories out of work located throughout Serbia.
Many of the factories that used toxic chemicals and dangerous substances in their production went into bankruptcy and are now closed or are in the process of bankruptcy. Some of them are in the programs of privatization, which means layoffs, closing of some units and restructuring of the operations in order to meet industry standards and be competitive.Nevertheless, in the warehouses of these factories, tons of dangerous wastes are stocked in inadequate conditions, often without complete inventory lists and proper safeguards. Companies responsible for these warehouses are either out of business or out of funds, which would enable them to destroy this waste, remove it, or just guard it safely.
‘Regardless whether factories work or are in bankruptcy, they have to fulfill their obligations and keep the dangerous waste in line with security regulations in force until such waste is undertaken for transport to appropriate facilities or abroad if such facilities are not available in Serbia’, Aleksandar Vesic, assistant to the Minister for environment protection explains. He also says that 80 million RSD (11 Million Dollars) have been provided by the Government this year for securing of dangerous waste.
According to his words, there were several accidents in recent time but almost all of them were the result of human mistake or negligence. Plan of action called ‘Let’s clean Serbia’ is initiated with the idea to remove dangerous substances from the urban areas. Serbia does not have sufficient capacities for treatment of all kinds of dangerous waste. Most of it has to be exported into neighboring countries and that is very expensive. According to Mr. Vesic, EU is ready to invest EUR 14 millions in construction of such a facility in Serbia and the works should begin in 2011.

Five Reasons to invest in Serbia

There are many reasons for a wise investor to start looking towards Serbia for a new and secure investment opportunities. According to the Serbia Investment and Export Promotion Agency there are five major reasons to invest in Serbia: Investment Incentives, Quality Human Resources, Strategic Geographic Location, Low Operating Costs, and many opportunities to Locate Your Business.
There are two types of Investment incentives given by the state to the new investors: Financial Incentives in manufacturing and production: from €2,000 up to €5,000 of state grants per new job created; in services : from €2,000 up to €10,000 of state grants per new job created; in R&D from €5,000 up to €10,000 of state grants per new job created; and Tax incentives: A 10-year corporate profit tax holiday for investment over €7.5 million and 100 new employees; Corporate profit tax credits up to 80% of the fixed assets investment; Carrying forward of losses over a period up to 10 years; Accelerated depreciation of fixed assets; A 5-year corporate profit tax holiday for concessions; Salary tax base deduction in the fixed amount of €60 a month; Salary tax exemptions for employees under 30 and over 45 years; Annual income tax deductions up to 50% of the taxable income; Social insurance contributions exemptions for employees under 30 and over 45 years; and Customs-free imports of equipment based on foreign investment.
Quality Human Resources or skilled and productive labor force has proven to be one of Serbia’s major competitive advantages in the global investment market. With a unique combination of high-quality and low-cost skill-set, it is widely regarded as a strong business performance driver. Unlike most transition countries in Central and Eastern Europe, Serbia fostered extensive relationships with Western economies for decades. A list of blue-chip companies maintaining strong ties with local partners is lead by Siemens, Alcatel, General Motors, FIAT, IKEA and many others. Throughout years of cooperation Serbian workers have received specific know-how and adopted advanced technology applications and rigorous quality control standards. Having vast experience in both manufacturing and management, local staff requires minimum training to adopt cutting-edge technologies and assembly processes. The skill level of local labor force is reflected in high industrial productivity increasing at 11.4% over the past five years. The quality of Serbia’s intellectual capital is based on its educational system generating well educated, fast-learning, multilingual, and IT literate people. Technical education is particularly strong, thus high school students perform among the best in mathematics, physics and IT international competitions. In recent years the number of university graduates grew by almost 14% annually averaging 14,370, while 1/3 of all students graduate from technical universities. The Strategic Geographic Location is the third reason one should consider Serbia as a place to do business from. Not only because Serbia has easy export access to Russian market, but also from Serbia, you can effectively serve your European and Middle Eastern customers thereby enhancing your business performance. Furthermore, a company can fully benefit from having production outside the European Union, while enjoying the possibility of easily accessing the EU market. Bordering Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria, Serbia is at the doorstep of the European Union. Via strategic transportation corridors No. 10 and No. 7, the country links Western Europe and the Middle East.
In Serbia Operating Costs are much lower than in most of neighboring countries. Serbia’s tax system is highly conducive to investments featuring the following unique benefits: One of Europe’s lowest corporate profit tax rates set at 10%; Value Added Tax (VAT), salary tax and social insurance contributions are highly competitive compared to Central and Eastern Europe; A 10-year corporate profit tax holiday for investments over €7.5 million and 100 new employees, Tax credits for investing in fixed assets up to 80% of the invested amount; and State subsidies for creating new employment.
Looking for a perfect location may be a great challenge, especially if it is in a foreign country. However, Serbia Investment and Export Promotion Agency’s ever expanding database of Greenfield and Brownfield locations that are immediately available for viewing on line and on site is giving you the quickest way of choosing your new business location. At the moment the database counts almost 400 locations that you can also immediately locate on the interactive map.