Montenegrin Finance Minister Aleksandar Damjanović said today in Belgrade that Serbia is still one of Montenegro’s leading partners in trade, and that in imports and exports from that country, space is being sought for improving cooperation.
Damjanović, after the meeting with the Minister of Finance of Serbia, Siniša Mali, said in an interview with the Beta agency that the growth of the exchange of goods between the two countries, which will exceed one billion euros this year, is also possible in the exchange of services and capital, primarily in transport.
“A significant part of the Serbian economy is certainly based on the Port of Bar, on the closest possible point of reference. I’m primarily referring to Smederevo and Kragujevac. In the perspective and announcement of what will be done in Serbia in terms of further economic development, and bearing in mind the events of the war and the relative closure of the Black Sea for a long period of years, the possibility has arisen that this corridor from Bar towards Belgrade and Budapest will be revitalized again and that, as we jointly stated, be ‘filled’ with energy and traffic infrastructure”, said Damjanović.
As he assessed, Montenegro needs progress in the implementation of infrastructure projects and that the completion and connection of the highway through Montenegro only makes sense “if Serbia completes its part of the work”.
“We finished the priority section from Kolašin, which is also the most difficult in technical terms. According to the estimate, it cost a little less than one billion euros. We have generally finished it, put it into operation and it is already showing its advantages, although it is only half the story until a complete road is built and connects Serbia and Montenegro. The key idea is to continue the journey towards Hungary,” said Damjanović.
Regarding the reconstruction of the Belgrade-Bar railway, Damjanović pointed out that its value will only be visible if it is viewed as a single platform with the Port of Bar towards Belgrade and Budapest.
“I estimate that when we have already reset the rather bad political relations that the previous governments had and when we have brought them to an appropriate political level, it would be good to achieve economic priorities that will be the same in Montenegro and Serbia,” said minister.
According to him, the topic of the Open Balkans Initiative is current in Montenegro, which carefully tests and evaluates the understandings and thoughts of the European partners in Brussels, whether it speeds up or slows down Montenegro’s European path.
“We are listening to steps of encouragement coming from the US.” There must not be a mistake in the steps, with full consultation and what the Berlin process already brings, which has been on the table since 2014, let’s see if there is complementarity,” Damjanović pointed out.
He said that he opened the Issue of Montenegro’s indebtedness for larger infrastructure projects and that the country is considering concluding an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“As an interesting fact, both Minister Mali and I assessed that one of the reasons for Serbia’s good positioning almost at the level of Romania and Hungary on the market was precisely the standby arrangement with the IMF, which ensured that Serbia entered the commercial market and received maximum possible conditions of additional indebtedness,” he said.
Damjanović pointed out that Montenegro is a net producer of electricity and that through further investments in renewable energy sources, primarily in solar plants, it can have a significant energy surplus in electricity production.
“We are trying to significantly improve the import of food, and Serbia is one of the key partners in the import of consumer goods.” First of all, I mean food items. It was also assessed that this cooperation is good. “Serbia is the closest to Montenegro in terms of availability of food supplies and prices,” said Damjanović.
He pointed out that Serbia has done a good job on the eFiscalization system.
“That is the goal in Montenegro as well. We successfully completed eFiscalization, that is, we launched it last year. We are now in the second phase of fiscalization, and this is the formal start of that story after the conversation with the Minister of Finance of Serbia. We are also in a race against time to ensure the initial conditions and preconditions, and then the law that would make it possible,” said Damjanović.
He assessed that the Post of Montenegro has serious potential, capacities and resources and that it is being considered to turn one part of it into a Postal Savings Bank, i.e. a domestic bank.
“This can be a way to solve the now decade-old problem of payment transactions in Serbia and Montenegro, where payments are not carried out directly as they should be”, said the minister, adding that payment transactions are carried out through foreign banks and such large commissions are paid by the economy and citizens who were once in a common state.
Commenting on the frequent mention in the public of the possibility of electing a new Montenegrin government, Damjanović said that the mandate of the current government expires, according to regular elections, in September 2024 and that the current Government of Montenegro, regardless of the loss of confidence in the parliament, is working at full capacity, that everything she regularly fulfills her constitutional obligations “keeping in mind only one possibility that she cannot dissolve the parliament if she has lost confidence”.
He added that despite those circumstances, the state budget was adopted without any problems and the shares of Port of Bar were bought.
“I don’t see extraordinary parliamentary elections on the horizon. I especially don’t see them after technical elections or I expect that the Democratic Party of Socialists will lose that foothold and that the path of changes that came after 13 years of absolute power of the DPS will continue,” said Damjanovic.