Business, political leaders want to see Serbia resume reforms

The world’s business and political leaders have expressed hope that Serbia will succeed in its efforts to fully implement economic reforms, Serbian Minister of Finance and Economy Bozidar Djelic told a press conference upon return from the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos.

As part of his visit to Davos, Djelic held over 40 bilateral meetings to present the results of Serbia’s economic reforms in the past three years. The Minister also used the opportunity to reiterate that Serbia has enough wisdom and strength to form a stable democratic government that will continue to steer the country on the path of reforms.

The Minister also met with representatives of large international companies that have already established presence in Serbia, such as Holcim, Lafarge and Philip Morris, who said they expect the state to form a new government as soon as possible, introduce value-added tax to curb the gray economy and continue developing friendly relations with its neighbours in the

region.

Djelic also held talks with EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana and European Commission President’s Personal Representative to the G8 Stefano Sannino who wanted to know how the EU can help Serbia at this point. The Minister said that what the EU can do is not to hinder the country, stressing that any future EU decision should reflect partner relations with Serbia, not punishments or conditioning.

Djelic suggested that the EU should discuss strategic issues with Serbia’s new government as well, adding that Solana and Sannino agreed to back this approach at upcoming meetings of the EU administration.

He said that Russia’s deputy prime minister and finance minister, Alexei Kudrin, has given assurances that the Russian government will verify the November 2003 agreement on settlement of reciprocal debts within a month.

According to Djelic, officials from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed that macroeconomic situation in Serbia is „very good,“ but also warned that the IMF’s further financial support would require guarantees that certain reforms will be carried out and that Serbia’s 2004 budget will be in line with a three-year plan agreed with the IMF in May 2003. Djelic recalled that a 15 percent write-off of the country’s debt to the Paris Club will depend much on the success of the three-year plan.

Djelic also met with representatives from Transparency International and arranged a meeting to discuss ways to help Serbia advance on the annual rating list of Transparency International. He added that Serbia currently hold the 106th position, of 130 countries surveyed. At the same time, Harvard University Professor Michael Porter expressed interest to set up a regional project to boost competitiveness in Southeast Europe, in cooperation with Serbian experts.

As part of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, Serbia received an official invitation to take part in the European Forum, in late April this year, which is to debate the EU enlargement.