Keynote address of Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic

Belgrade, 14 March 2011

Esteemed Members of Parliament,

I have the honour to present to you the Programme of the reconstructed government, consisting of the Coalition for a European Serbia, SPS–PUPS–JS Coalition and a group of parties of national minorities. Over the next year, the reconstructed government will implement strategic priorities and I am here today to present the government’s plan of action and seek your support for the implementation of the proposed programme.

The priorities of the government of Serbia, on the basis of which it was formed in July 2008, remain unaltered, and these are:

• Commitment to Serbia’s accelerated entry into the European Union (EU);
• Preservation of the Autonomous Province of Kosovo-Metohija;
• Need to strengthen the economy and improve citizens’ living standard;
• Increasing the social responsibility of the government and developing a society of solidarity;
• Relentless struggle against crime and corruption;
• Full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.

Serbia, guided by the government which I have had the honour to lead, consistently implementing reforms in all segments of the society, has made a decisive and fundamental step towards full EU membership. Ahead of us is the continuation of the realisation of the action plan that has been harmonised with the European Commission and a continuation of reforms of the Serbian society on a path to the EU.

In order to fully achieve these reform tasks, the government will send a series of systemic laws to the Serbian parliament over the following months to define the manner of electing parliament members, regulate the issue of blank resignation letters, define public property, solve the restitution issue and at the same time take energetic measures in accordance with the European Commission in order to successfully conclude the reforms in the judiciary.

Ratification of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) is under way in parliaments of the remaining 11 EU countries that have not ratified it yet. So far, this document has been ratified by 16 EU countries, namely Spain, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Malta, Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Cyprus, Austria, Slovenia and Luxembourg, while the SAA has also been ratified by the European Parliament.

Successful conclusion of the planned reform processes will enable Serbia to achieve the following goals before the year’s end:

Crucially improve the legal order and the country’s economic system, thus bringing it closer to EU standards;

And, esteemed Members of Parliament, to

Acquire candidate status for full EU membership, thus fulfilling the most important task which the citizens of Serbia placed before this government.

In order to successfully realise the action plan, we will recruit all sectors of the society, state institutions, the civilian society and the broadest public, and I believe that this supreme home of representatives will efficiently implement reforms in its jurisdiction, as it has done in the previous period.

Full EU membership, as a historic goal, and the acquisition of candidate status as a necessary and key condition on this path, are of fundamental interest for Serbia and its citizens. This is why the government and all of us together share great responsibility and obligation to take advantage of this historic opportunity and make a decisive step towards a better and safer life for Serbia and its citizens within the European family of states.

Naturally, the high standard and the quality of life in countries that are members of the EU are among the key reasons why Serbia’s membership in the EU is by far the best alternative for both this government and the whole of Serbia. This is why the government will work incessantly to conclude all reform processes which our coalition established as its basic goal during its formation in 2008.

We have demonstrated by our actions that our commitment to Serbia’s EU accession goes arm in arm with the intention to continue developing better political, economic and cultural relations with all countries in the world, especially those in our region. Furthermore, this government formulated and implemented a state policy which, apart from its basic goal, namely EU membership, also implies the best possible relations with other powerful countries, primarily the United States, Russia and China.

Honourable Members of Parliament, I believe that the fact that Serbia has made a key step towards improving good neighbourly relations with countries in the region is of topmost importance, as well as the fact that it has become a focal point of regional cooperation, which is a basic precondition for stability and long-term prosperity in this part of Europe.

The Serbian government is determined and consistent in its stance not to recognise the independence of Kosovo-Metohija and is undertaking all available diplomatic activities to retain the province within its borders. In this sense, the government can be satisfied with the results achieved so far in limiting the number of states that have recognised the so-called independence of Kosovo.

The government will continue to be committed knowingly, responsibly and devotedly to keeping Kosovo-Metohija within Serbia, and guided by the Constitution and decisions of the Serbian parliament, it will do everything in its power to reach a solution through peaceful and diplomatic means that will allow for a historical reconciliation of the Serbian and Albanian peoples.

From the very beginning we believed that dialogue is the only way to find a mutually acceptable solution, which would be sustainable in the long run and which would guarantee a long-term stability of the region. Serbia has succeeded in its efforts to establish a dialogue with representatives of the interim authorities in Pristina on the basis of the Resolution of the UN General Assembly.

Among other things, this dialogue is additional support to the efforts of the government in the activities it carries out in order to enable the survival of the Serbian people in Kosovo-Metohija and to improve their economic and social status.

Esteemed Members of Parliament,

Immediately after its formation, in autumn 2008, the Serbian government had to face the challenges of the world’s greatest economic crisis. Such an unprecedented financial collapse has created a situation that has seriously shaken the economies of the world’s richest countries and led some EU countries to bankruptcy.

We have witnessed how financial institutions collapsed overnight, world-recognised companies were going bankrupt and a vast army of people all around the world were losing jobs every day. In these, according to international standards extremely unfavourable conditions, the Serbian government has managed to minimise the impact of the crisis to Serbia’s economy with its measures and maintain stability.

Still, effects of the economic crisis did hit our economy and each of our citizens, and all of us, including myself, are aware of this. We know very well how many people are jobless, how our people live and what kind of difficulties they encounter in their daily life.

That is why the biggest challenge is ahead of the Serbian government in the next year, and this is to work intensively every day on reducing unemployment and increasing the standard of living in Serbia. I would like to send a message from this place that the Serbian government will spare no effort to succeed in achieving this goal. The citizens of Serbia have to live better today, straight away! And we will do everything to make it happen.

At the macro level, we managed to save large industrial systems and banks from collapsing during the worst period of the crisis, but now we have to shift our focus to strategic sectors that will be generators of development in the post-crisis period. Only a dynamic growth in volume and competitiveness of the Serbian economy can be a real basis for increasing employment and raising the standard of living of every inhabitant of Serbia.

To accomplish these goals we will implement a development economic policy, which is also envisaged by the new model of economic growth within the “Serbia 2020” concept of development, a plan prepared by leading Serbian economists which will serve as a guideline to the government in the following period.

Therefore, in order to accomplish its goals and improve the standard of living of citizens, this government will implement measures of the economic policy in the months to come that will enable:

- supply of basic foodstuffs at affordable prices for all citizens;
- increase in employment through new forms of incentives for creating jobs;
- further reduction of public expenditure and fiscal deficit to ensure long-term macroeconomic stability;
- dynamic economic growth based on production of tradable goods;
- greater investment in agricultural production aimed at greater productivity and higher degree of finalisation of the products;
- support to export activities through the establishment of the Development Bank and a more effective mechanism of guarantees for export activities;
- attracting new investment through improvement of business environment and balanced regional development;
-systemic support to the small and medium-sized enterprises and innovative activities;
- reform of public enterprises by abolishing monopolies, introducing professional leadership and reducing subsidies;
- more efficient management of large infrastructural projects.

We are aware that the investment potential in the construction of infrastructure, whether transportation, energy, agriculture or information infrastructure, has not been used sufficiently, which is an additional internal resource that will start to make greater contribution to economic growth already this year.

We will focus on resources that Serbia has, but is not using efficiently enough, such as agriculture, food processing industry, mining, energy, and most importantly knowledge and innovative spirit of citizens.

Esteemed Members of Parliament,

Investment in the dynamic growth of the economy will in no way diminish the social responsibility of this government and our efforts to protect the most vulnerable population. In this sense, the new law on social protection, which is in parliamentary procedure, will significantly improve the quality of protection of those who are most vulnerable and will cover a large number of social care beneficiaries.

However, the social responsibility of the government does not apply only to protection of the most vulnerable groups of citizens who we dedicate our special attention, but to all citizens of Serbia. The government will therefore make the necessary decisions with respect to interests of the majority of the population making sure to significantly reduce the number of the poor and improve living conditions for all citizens.

The government has made great steps in building an effective system of combating all forms of corruption and crime being aware that combating these social problems is the matter of Serbia’s future and one of the key requirements for EU accession.

The Law on seizure of assets acquired through criminal activity was adopted and a Directorate for the management with seized property was established. The results achieved through the implementation of this act clearly indicate that this is a very powerful and effective mechanism to combat all forms of crime.

Applying this law in the past two years, property whose value is estimated at over €300 million has been seized temporarily or permanently. The property was taken away from approximately 200 individuals against whom proceedings have been initiated. This gave a serious blow to organised crime. At the same time, we cut off a key channel of international trade in narcotics and human trafficking. In this way, Serbia has made a significant contribution to the international fight against organised crime.

One of the priorities in the next period will be to increase the efficiency of clearing up crimes and shortening deadlines for the conduct of criminal proceedings. Also, in the fight against corruption we established an Anti-Corruption Agency, we drastically made penalties in cases of detection of corruption stricter, and now there is a legal requirement that all government officials at national and local level, managers of state institutions and public companies publicly disclose data on property they own.

A well-established mechanism for combating crime and corruption must be constantly improved and used in order to permanently eliminate sources of corruption and punish those trying to achieve tangible benefits in an unlawful manner. Finally, by the end of the government’s mandate, we will fully implement the judicial reform, making effective and independent judiciary and prosecution services, and consolidating the rule of law and legal security.

In the field of international law, the government will continue with its policy of strict compliance with all international obligations, including cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). In accordance with this policy, Serbia is fully committed to the successful completion of cooperation with the ICTY, including the extradition of the two remaining fugitives, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic.

Dear citizens of Serbia, honourable deputies,

The Serbian government remains consistent in the struggle for the realisation of the principles on which it formed. Being the Prime Minister, I will make sure that the government is even more united and more resolute in the implementation of its key goals, working and acting as a team and responding quickly to the needs and concerns of citizens.

We have crossed a long way in the country’s European integration thanks to the extraordinary efforts of all institutions, but above all citizens of Serbia. Therefore the people have the right to criticise, to be unhappy, and we are the ones who should take the criticism, endure and make our work better and more efficient.

Therefore, I will personally try to introduce zero tolerance for negligence, arrogance and all that stands out from the set of common policy. All members of this government will have be more responsible, more modest in their behaviour, more industrious in achieving their results, and even more responsive to the needs of citizens. The interest of the citizens and solving their problems will the top priority for every member of the government.

For this reason, esteemed Members of Parliament, the Serbian government will by the end of its mandate systemically work on measures to increase employment and living standards of all citizens of Serbia in the long term, and will also take operational measures that will soon lead to relief of the current difficulties of the most vulnerable population and improving the lives of citizens.

This government has shown to have the courage to make tough decisions in the interest of Serbian citizens, and we will be making them in the future as well. Only in this way can we provide certainty for long-term prosperity of our country and for generations to come after us, and a better life for all our citizens today and now.

I am confident that members of the government that I have suggested have the necessary knowledge, energy and responsibility to do a big job ahead of us and achieve goals that are the interest of all.

Thank you for your attention.