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A landslide win for the ruling party in Sunday’s Serbian election provides a mandate for sweeping reforms including privatisations, changes to labour legislation and fiscal tightening in the country running Europe’s highest budget deficit.

But, as ever, actually implementing unpopular measures is likely to prove difficult, even with a hefty parliamentary majority. Continue reading »

On January 15, 2000, 23-year-old Dobrosav Gavric strode into the lobby of Belgrade’s InterContinental hotel, pulled out a Heckler and Koch submachine gun and unloaded it into Arkan, one of the most notorious warlords and gangsters in the Balkans.

Arkan – real name Zeljko Raznatovic – died in the arms of Ceca, his “turbo-folk” singer wife, the other half of the First Couple of Serbian nationalism. The assassination seemed to typify Serbia in the wake of the Yugoslav wars: lawless, shamelessly violent and ruled by extremist kleptocrats. Continue reading »

Serbia could privatise up to 100 state-owned companies and enact wide-ranging reform of the business environment if the government is re-elected in next month’s general election, Ivica Dacic, prime minister (pictured), has told beyondbrics in exclusive comments.

But can he deliver? Continue reading »

Ivica Dacic (left) with José Manuel Barroso, EC president

By Harriet Salem of bne

Serbia may have opened its EU accession talks on January 21 but the bloc’s stringent restrictions on smoking have not yet permeated the Serbian Embassy on Boulevard du Regent in Brussels. Reclining in a large armchair, Ivica Dacic, Serbia’s prime minister and leader of the Socialist Party, puffs on a fat cigar to celebrate what he describes as “the most momentous and most important day for the country since the end of World War II.” EU officials reciprocated by lavishing praise on the Serbian government’s work over the last 18 months.

But on the home front the situation is less then ideal. Continue reading »

Recovering growth, a new settlement on Kosovo, real progress with the European Union, generous funding packages from the UAE and Russia and new trade and investment ties – last year was a pretty good one for Serbia. The government is already looking to cash in on the success with a snap election in the spring.

But has the positive news papered over real cracks in the economy? That is the view of Fitch, the ratings agency, which on Friday downgraded Serbia to B+, or “highly speculative junk” status. Continue reading »

Just over a decade ago, in the wake of the bloody Yugolsav Wars, Serbia was regarded as a pariah by many European countries. Next month, it will start negotiations for membership of the European Union.

A rogue state no more, the beginning of formal talks on a wide range of policy areas (“chapters”) indicates how far the country has come. But the way ahead is not an easy one, entailing many years of difficult reforms. Continue reading »

Serbia’s national bank has delivered an early Christmas present to borrowers with another interest rate cut, its third in succession.

The move comes as talk of a snap election next year intensifies, raising concerns about the short-term economic outlook and the future of the government’s promised austerity measures. Continue reading »

A CNN affiliate has launched a broadside against the Serbian government over a draft law that it says restricts media freedom, threatening to take the case to European level if Belgrade does not back down.

Brent Sadler, a veteran CNN reporter and now chief executive of N1, an affiliated local-language 24-hour news channel that would broadcast to Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia from their capital cities, told beyondbrics that the proposed electronic media law would “strangle the channel before it is born”. Continue reading »

A landmark deal with Kosovo, a $3bn loan package from a new Emirati ally, a high-profile anti-corruption drive: Serbia has been filled with a new boldness in recent times.

It continued on Friday as the National Bank of Serbia cut its policy interest rate by half a point to 10.5 per cent, more than the expected quarter-point cut. The bank had held steady for the previous three months following reductions totalling 75 bp in May and June, as inflation fell from double figures. Continue reading »

Hollywood, Bollywood, Nigeria’s Nollywood; France’s arthouse cinema scene, British romcoms, Italian and Russian film from the likes of Fellini and Tarkovsky; the Korean Wave. The cinema culture of south eastern Europe may be rather less celebrated outside the region than those of its more famous peers, but there is growing recognition both of a resurgent home-grown movie scene and the competitive advantages of SEE as a location for shoots. Continue reading »

Reports of Serbia’s near-bankruptcy are exaggerated. True, the country is in a tight fiscal spot, growing slowly and in need of external help – but the apocalypse is not yet nigh. The government seems to be flagging up long-awaited cuts in the public sector. It is sweetening the pill with the announcement of a loan package worth up to $3bn from the UAE – Serbia’s new best friend – that could make a big difference to the beleaguered country. Continue reading »

Here to help

Serbs are justly proud of their hospitality. Traditionally, guests – whether old friends or new – are welcomed into the home and treated to limitless coffee, or meze and lashings of potent homemade slivovitz. Serbia’s latest guests this week, from the IMF, are as much old sparring partners as friends, but no doubt will receive a particularly warm welcome. For the country needs a new deal with the Fund to underpin its fledgling economic revival. Continue reading »

By Ivica Dačić, Prime Minister of Serbia

There are some lines by Albert Camus that apply perfectly to Serbia over the past two decades. They also help to explain why I decided, without fear, to accept the position of prime minister of a country with a dark and difficult historical heritage.

The lines are: “I shall tell you a great secret my friend. Do not wait for the last judgement. It takes place every day…” Continue reading »

By Nicholas Watson of bne

It has been a good week for the Serbian economy: a day after the prime minister attended a ceremony on Wednesday to break ground on a new $35m Cooper-Standard auto component plant, his deputy was shaking hands with the head of Etihad, the United Arab Emirates airline, on a €40m deal that will save JAT Airways from the same fate as some of the region’s now-defunct carriers. Continue reading »

By Nicholas Watson of bne

The Serbian coalition government will remain standing, though probably without the smallest party of Mladjan Dinkic, the ejected finance minister (pictured).

In a long drawn-out reshuffle of his year-long coalition, Prime Minister Ivica Dacic moved to oust Dinkic this week, angering the largest party in the government, though not enough to cause the coalition to collapse and force early elections – something that would unnerve investors in this economically fragile country. Continue reading »