18,000 Euros Returned To Owner

An impoverished man working at a green market in Novi Sad, the Serbian northern city, has returned a bag with 18,000 euros to its rightful owner.

Dusan Mijatovic was given 100 euros and money for a cab fare to get back home as a reward for his good deed by a delighted woman.

“I called the police as soon as I came across wads of notes. It would never cross my mind to take the money for myself. My father was a police officer, and even if he had not been, I would never dream of taking other people’s money,” said Mijatovic.

The man lives on 74 euros a month, or 8,400 dinars, in disability pension from the state and supplements his meager income by selling wool clothing at the market.

The woman, who also lives in Novi Sad, left behind one of her two bags at Mijatovic’s stand a couple of days ago when she was buying a wool vest there.

Tadic Withdraws From Party Presidential Race

Two-time president of Serbia and leader of the opposition Democratic Party, Boris Tadic, has announced he will not seek reelection.

At the meeting of the top Democratic Party officials, Tadic has confirmed he will remain a party member. However, he expects to be elected an honorary party president. Tadic claims the consensus is much needed within the party after many months of his inter-party feud with the Mayor of Belgrade, Dragan Djilas.

“The Democratic Party made many mistakes in the past three months. At the forthcoming session of the main board, the Democratic Party has to prevent all divisions and demonstrate unity. Unity is our imperative. Unity is the issue of the utmost importance for the Democratic Party”, Tadic said.

Reacting to Tadic’s decision, President of the UN General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic, who is also a Democratic Party official, has said he does not consider it a good move. Jeremic says he cannot support Tadic’s withdrawal from the inter-party presidential race.

Former Defense Minister, Dragan Sutanovac, has followed Tadic suite by dropping his candidacy for another term as the party’s vice-president.

The Democratic Party convention, which is to elect a new leadership, has been set for November 25.

China And Serbia Talk Business

Strategic partnership between China and Serbia, established in 2009, has been the main topic of talks between a high level Chinese delegation and top Serbian officials this week.

The delegation was led by Vice-Chairwomen of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Zhang Rongming.

After meetings with Serbian Prime Minister, Ivica Dacic, and Parliament Speaker, Nebojsa Stefanovic, she said “China and Serbia have realized deepening mutual political trust and new achievements in economy”.

According to China Daily, Zhang noted that the co-built Zemun-Borca Bridge and the Kostolac thermoelectric power plant suggest that China and Serbia have made a breakthrough in large cooperative projects, raising bilateral cooperation to a new level.

She also said China was willing to make joint efforts with Serbia to actualize economic projects, agreed on top level.

China Daily says both Stefanovic and Dacic expressed their gratitude for Beijing’s firm support for their country’s position of safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity, reiterating Serbia’s firm commitment to the one-China policy.

Zhang also held talks with Serbian First Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Aleksandar Vucic.

On its tour of South-Eastern Europe, the high-level Chinese delegation is visiting Serbia, Albania and Moldova.

Zhang stresses China wants to step up cooperation with the region in the areas of infrastructure construction, energy, culture, education and tourism.

Did The Financial Times Get It All Wrong?

Six years ago, the renowned Financial Times daily named Belgrade as the south European capital of the future.

Simultaneously, the daily named Paris, Brno, London and Baku capitals of the future for western, central, northern and eastern Europe respectively.

Since then, Belgrade managed to build a single new bridge and reconstruct three old ones. A bypass around the Serbian capital is still under construction while the authorities struggle to manage local roads, damaged during the impoverished 1990s and chaotic 2000s.

However, the state of Belgrade roads was not the reason for Financial Times’ optimistic forecast. The real reason behind such a decision was the amount of empty land along the rivers Danube and Sava, currently overgrown with reed, that may be put into good use.

The FT believed Belgrade could be turned into Dubai of the Balkans or a new Budapest. However, with global economic crises, foreign investments started to crumble.

On the other hand, the city council failed to initiate construction of new business centers and residential blocks along the new bridge that is being constructed over the Danube linking Belgrade quarters of Zemun and Borca.

The only consolation for citizens of Belgrade may be that FT failed to give the prestigious title to Belgrade’s eternal rival Zagreb. The daily also failed to mention how far into the future its vision for Belgrade may stretch.

Beginners’ Guide To Slava Season In Serbia

Another Slava Season has just hit Serbia!

For new arrivals to Serbia, the very term Slava is puzzling.

So, for starters, what is Slava?

As a nation, Serbs converted to Christianity during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Basil I (867-886). However, Slavic pagan roots and beliefs remained strong. Hence, in the early days, Serbian families replaced old Slavic Gods with a Christian saint of their choice. Saints inherited the role of pagan Gods to protect and look after a household that chose them. They were not randomly chosen. For example, Christianity defines St Nicholas as protector of sailors and people working near, on or with water. Subsequently, he replaced the Slavic pagan God of water who was incidentally one of the most popular Gods amongst the Slavs.

So, it is no wonder that a large proportion of Serbs celebrate St Nicholas as their Slava. The same applies to St George who replaced the ancient Slavic God of fire and St John who stepped into the shoes of the pagan God of earth. However, as the number of Christian saints started to multiply and pagan roots to weaken, Serbs started picking other “less popular” saint protectors. Usually, they would choose the saint celebrated on the date of high significance for their family. During the Ottoman rule that date would often coincide with a lucky escape from certain death.

The term Slava is an abbreviation. If a family celebrates St Nicholas as their protector, its members would say: “Slava, Svetom Nikoli!” or “Glory to Saint Nicholas!” After many centuries of exclamations, only Slava remained to describe the feeling of gratitude to family’s favourite saint.

So, now that we know what Slava is, lets see how to celebrate it properly.

On the day, marked in the Serbian Orthodox Church calendar as the day of the feast of a particular saint, a family goes to church to consecrate a special Slava Cake and Žito – a mash between crushed wheat, ground walnuts and sugar. Žito is a traditional funeral dish and is offered only if the saint protector is being considered dead by the church. Yes, it is complicated.

Also, if a certain Slava coincides with days of lent, the family must only offer dishes that correspond to the lent diet, which is very strict for the Orthodox Christians. It is basically vegan, fish being the only exception.

Although saint protectors are scattered all through the year, Slava Season unofficially begins in autumn with the celebration of the Holy and Glorious Virgin-Martyr Saint Paraskevi, on October 27.

Serbs take great pride in the fact that Slava is their unique custom, unshared with other Orthodox Christian nations. For many, Slava is both the happiest and the most hard working of feasts since an average family plays host to dozens of people in a space of a day.

If you get invited to a Slava, you have to know that:

– It is a great honour.

– You have to be prepared for a short story about the life of the family’s protector saint since some of them are local Serbian Martyr Saints. As a foreigner, you should be oblivious of their existence. So, it will not go amiss to Google out some useful information in advance.

– Although a host will almost never tell you at what time you should arrive at the feast, keep in mind that visits after 9 o’clock in the evening are not considered to be polite.

– Standard Slava gift is a bottle of wine.

– You should not be eating anything for a while before going to a Slava feast for that’s exactly what it is – a true feast. Early Christians ate in moderation on the Slava Feast Day. However, nowadays, it is a true competition in excess.

– You have to be ready to partake žito from a common dish and drink wine from the same glass as many before you since you have to try both before entering the house. Clean teaspoons are always provided. After tasting a teaspoonful of žito, place the teaspoon into a specially provided glass of water along with other dirty teaspoons.

– It is impolite to get drunk or be loud during the feast, although this kind of behavior is more tolerated now than in the olden days.

– An invitation to a Slava is life-long. The host takes it for granted you will continue to visit each year.

– Slava should not be avoided if you are not religious. For many, Slava is more of a tradition than expression of religious beliefs.

After having armed you with this knowledge, we leave you with the very last advice. In order to survive the Slava Season, eat it moderation in between feasts.

Serbia’s Business Climate Improved

Serbia is among 10 national economies that have done their utmost to improve their business climate in the past year, a survey has shown.

The 10th annual edition of the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation joint report saw Serbia moving up six slots in the overall global rankings to 86th place. The country is still behind Croatia (84th) and Albania (85th), but ahead of Kosovo (98th) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (126th).

The 282-page annual study of 185 national economies in 10 different categories was released on October 23.

According to the report, Serbia made the biggest leap forward by eliminating the paid-in minimum capital requirement for new businesses, climbing 50 slots up to 42nd. It also improved its global rankings for enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency, taking the 103rd position in both respective areas.

Serbia’s weakest spots this year are construction permits (179th) and tax system (149th), although the country did abolish 130 different taxes.

The report praises Serbia for strengthening its insolvency process by introducing private bailiffs; prohibiting appeals of the court’s decision on the proposal for enforcement; expediting service of process and adopting a public electronic registry for injunctions.

However, the real effects of the improved business environment are yet to be felt since many reforms are not to be implemented before January 1, 2013.

100 Days Of Serbian New Government

Serbian Prime Minister, Ivica Dacic, has said his government used the first 100 days in power to return the country back on track that leads to reduction of economic slowdown, resolution of the Kosovo issue and EU membership.

“The level of unity within this government is much higher than in the previous one”, Dacic said.

”The issue of Kosovo is going to be resolved peacefully through dialogue and in accordance with Serbian Constitution and legal system”, Serbian Prime Minister said.

The First Deputy Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vucic, has said the ongoing fight against crime and corruption has zero tolerance level, stressing that mixed teams, working for the state prosecutor’s office, specialized in organized crime, are examining at least 30 cases.

He says that prior to his mandate, the state prosecutor’s office for organized crime was processing only three “one-sided and politically oriented” cases.

Deputy Prime Minister says the results of the first 100 days of the new government have been significant. He believes there is a real possibility for Serbia to set a date for beginning of accession talks with the EU as early as March 2013. He has not excluded a possibility of obtaining conditional date in December this year.

Finance and Economy Minister, Mladjan Dinkic, has said the government managed to prevent the state bankruptcy within the first 100 days of its mandate, adding the cabinet may allow itself to be relatively satisfied with current results.

New Russian Investment In Serbia

Serbian main oil refinery, located in the northern industrial town of Pancevo, restarted its operation after two years of upgrade.

Russian Gazprom Neft, the majority shareholder in NIS, has said it invested 500 million euros into the upgrade aimed to boost the quality of the produced motor fuels to Euro 5 standard and reduce pollution.

Russian President, Vladimir Putin, announced Gazprom Neft was going to invest further 1.5 billion euros in NIS.

“The company that employs staff from both our countries has been increasing profit, along with its contributions to the Serbian state budget, ready to conquer new markets in the Balkan region. Good cooperation on this project has been the best proof that businessmen of Serbia and Russia are able to realize even the most ambitious of plans”, president Putin wrote in a letter read at the refinery opening.

With the capacity of 4.8 million tonnes of crude per year, officials say the refinery will be able to meet full demands of the Serbian market and increase export.

NIS is about to finalize a feasibility study for the next stage of the Pancevo overhaul, which will include the construction of a new complex for processing heavy residues.

Due to reopening of Pancevo refinery, NIS output rose by 13 percent while investment into the company marked a 62 percent increase.

NIS reported its net profit being up by almost 50 percent to 48.1 billion dinars.

The Largest Solar Park In The World To Be Built In Serbia?

A Luxembourg-based energy company has said Serbia has approved its plan to build one of the largest solar parks in the world.

Securum Equity Partners & Associates says the binding agreement with Serbia’s government was signed on October 25. However, the claim has not been confirmed by the Serbian government.

The total investment in the one gigawatt project that is supposed to be located in south Serbia should hit 1.75 billion euros.

The park is to cover 3,000 hectares of the land that a previous Serbian government promised to provide free of charge. It is expected to produce 1.15 terawatt-hours of electricity per year, destined for export to markets in western Europe.

The construction, which should create around 800 jobs, is supposed to start in April next year while the park should become fully operational by December 2015.

Two thirds of Serbia’s electricity is being produced in coal-fired plants and the rest from hydro power. The country urgently needs to upgrade its energy infrastructure, which was damaged or mismanaged during the 1990s Balkan wars.

Mayor vs. City Police

The Mayor of the central Serbian industrial town of Kragujevac, Veroljub Stevanovic, has engaged 2000-strong security staff of his Democratic Party in order to watch over security of the city administration, citizens and his private house.

Mr. Stevanovic claims his party colleagues have been targeted by the police in Kragujevac requesting sacking of the city police chief.

In an attempt to prove his allegations, at a press conference Mr. Stevanovic has presented a video clip showing several men, dressed as police officers, beating a member of the opposition Democratic Party, Ivica Samailovic.

Kragujevac police chief constable, Ivan Djorovic, claims the video shows continuation of a wedding brawl that ended in beating of a police officer. The fight happened in a restaurant of the local Sumadija expo-center, run by Ivica Samailovic, the victim of the subsequent beating.

Head of Kragujevac police says the Mayor should have promptly sent the video to the police instead of “organizing its premiere for the press 25 days after the actual event”.