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Serbia Lobbies for Foreign Investment at World Economic Forum


Many countries made formal presentations to the World Economic Forum in a bid to win favor and communicate directly with important decision-makers. The presentation of Serbia on Monday may have had a particularly strong impact.

Serbia's Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic was an active participant at the forum. Armed with fluent English and German, the former protester and anti-Milosevic activist worked the corridors of the Waldorf Astoria for three days, introducing himself and promoting Serbia as suitable destination for foreign investment.

On Monday, Mr. Djindjic and two of his cabinet ministers, addressed a gathering of media representatives from Europe and North America. He had the rare distinction of being introduced by forum founder Klaus Schwab.

Mr. Djindjic surprised his listeners by saying he had no interest in discussing Slobodan Milosevic but instead wanted to discuss the economy, which he called the main priority of his year-old government. Mr. Djindjic spoke of an economic union in the Balkans and the immediate need for regional cooperation on energy, transport, and combating organized crime. Mr. Djindjic said investors have no reason to worry about whether Montenegro withdraws from the Yugoslav federation.

"I can promise you that regardless of the future of the federation, Serbia and Montenegro will remain friends and we will not have violence and we will go towards European integration," he said. "With Montenegro, without Montenegro, it will not attact so much of our priorities. And [but], of course, we prefer to keep this federation because of a possible chain reaction in Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia."

Mr. Djindjic said to combat corruption in the judicial system, salaries for judges by mid-year will be increased from the current $125 a month to $500 a month. The Serbian prime minister said his country has built good relations with several of its neighbors including Albania, Macedonia and Bosnia. He said Yugoslavia, since the fall of Milosevic 15 months ago, has received only $500 million of foreign assistance. That, he said, falls far short of the $5 billion needed simply to repair the damage caused from NATO bombardment in 1999.

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