Deiss reinforces Swiss support for Serbia
Economic ties were at the centre of talks in Belgrade on Monday between Swiss Economics Minister Joseph Deiss and Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica.
This year Switzerland will provide SFr25 million ($20 million) for development projects in Serbia and Montenegro.
The main topic of conversation at the meeting, which came at the end of Deiss’s two-day visit to Belgrade, was the need for reforms to improve trade between the two countries.
Kostunica, who was accompanied by his minister for economics and foreign trade, called for more Swiss investment in the industrial, food and environmental sectors.
Deiss stressed the importance of political stability for attracting investment, saying Belgrade must clarify its relationship with the UN war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the Kosovo statute and the destiny of Serbia and Montenegro.
On Monday Deiss visited two of the projects supported by Switzerland. One of which, the Diplomatic Academy of Belgrade, has received Swiss donations since 2001.
This project, which is supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), resulted from a suggestion by the Serbian foreign ministry.
Deiss joked with students from the academy that he feared better education was making bilateral negotiations more difficult for Switzerland.
The SDC also supports the Serbian foreign ministry in terms of technological infrastructure. The total project costs for 2001-2004 amount to SFr1.4 million.
In his speech as governor of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Deiss said he believed in the economic future of Serbia and Montenegro.
He said that the EBRD’s annual conference in Belgrade was drawing the attention of investors to a market with a bright future.
At the meeting European politicians said the EBRD should in future also be active in eight new EU countries which were formerly Communist. This went against a request from the United States.
On Sunday the US representative, state secretary of finance Randy Quarles, had argued for the bank’s withdrawal from these countries within two to three years.
Quarles had pushed for a stronger EBRD involvement in less developed countries.
swissinfo with agencies
Switzerland has supported projects in Serbia and Montenegro since 1991.
In 1999/2000 the humanitarian programme was complemented by additional projects.
In 2005 Switzerland will provide SFr25 million in development aid to Serbia and Montenegro.
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