Friday, April 9, 2010

The premiere of Srdjan Karanovic’s movie “Besa”

Belgrade, April 01. 2010 (Serbia Today) - Srdjan Karanovic’s movie “Besa” was released for the first time at Grand Hall of Sava Center, and the entire film crew was welcomed sincerely after the projection. The film takes place in the small town in the south Serbia during the World War I, and the main characters in this love drama are played by Predrag Miki Manojlovic and the young Slovenian actress Iva Krajnc.
The movie “Besa” is co-production involving seven media houses from Serbia, Slovenia, France, Hungary and Croatia, along with eight producers from six countries and the European producer Eurimaz. The major producer from Serbia is “Bas celik”. The film was made in 2008. in Deliblatska Dunes National park and the first time was shown last autumn in Portoroz at the Slovenian national Festival. The film will be at the regular repertoire of the Belgrade theatres from April 1st

Sunday, February 21, 2010

When mystery is not a mystery any more

By Stevan V. Nikolic

Belgrade, Feb. 23, 2010 (Serbia Today) - An interesting article appeared on the B92 news website on Sunday. In the English language edition it was titled: “Mystery surrounds potential Galenika buyers” and in the Serbian edition the title was “Who is interested in Galenika?”.
Galenika is the biggest state-owned pharmaceutical company in Serbia. It was recently offered for sale to private investors by tender as part of the government program of privatization.
As one of the few Serbian companies with healthy structure and profitable returns, Galenika is certainly a prime target for any investor who wants a steady return on his investments.
The article in B92 reported that:
“Four companies have bought the documentation in the tender organized to sell Serbia's state-owned pharmaceutical giant Galenika.
B92 has unofficially learned that German STADA, Greek Alapis, American Abbott and European investment fund OMNIA have indicated their interest in the privatization.
The Privatization Agency would neither confirm nor deny this, saying only that the identity of the interested companies would remain a secret at the request of one of the companies.
B92 has learned that STADA has insisted that they would not participate in the tender if named as one of the companies that had bought the documentation.
The German company already has a presence in Serbia as the majority owner of VrÅ¡ac-based Hemofarm. The agency said that the identities of the interested companies would not be disclosed until March 19 – the deadline for them to submit their letters of intent.”
\It is not entirely clear what was the purpose of publishing this information. One of the bidders wished to remain anonymous but B92 reveals its identity.
As journalists, we can always claim it is our right to freely inform the public. The need to disclose however, should be tempered with a sense of the public good. To publish the names of potential buyers in an ongoing business tender, where one of them wishes to stay anonymous and is likely to retract his offer cannot have any public benefit.
This article in B92 could only result in the withdrawal of the named company from the tender, and this can only benefit others interested in buying Galenika. I do not think that B92 published this article in order to help other bidders, but that is exactly how this article comes across.
I hope I am wrong…

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Adoration of the Dictator by his Victims

By Stevan V. Nikolic
New York, Feb. 15 2010 (Serbia Today) – Recently I walked down the 4th Street in the Village and the homeless man in the wheelchair asked me for a dollar. I didn’t have a smaller bill than a $5, so I gave it to him telling him in passing: “Today is your lucky day”. He smiled, thanked and asked me where am I from. I told him “Yugoslavia”. He smiled again and said: “No, you are not from Yugoslavia, you must be Serbian”. I stopped and asked him “Why you say that”. His answer was simple and logical:”Because only Serbs still say that they are from Yugoslavia, you will never hear a Croat, Slovenian, or Macedonian saying that.
This accidental conversation with the homeless black man in New York made me think of the mentality of Serbians. It is almost two decades that Yugoslavia does not exist anymore and many of us are still more comfortable identifying with the past than with the present.
The worst of all, the man most responsible for all tragedies in the Balkans since the Second World War, Yugoslavian dictator Josip Broz Tito, still has his Museum in the Serbian capital city Belgrade. His gravesite was designed as a Temple where those who admire him can come and bow to the memory of the “Half-God”. It is officially a part of yet another museum “25th of May”, dedicated to the memory of the person responsible for a death of a hundred of thousands of Serbs during and after the second World war.
Of course, Serbs today are too impressed with the grandeur of the St. Sava Cathedral as a symbol of their faith, and with the architectural beauty of the Serbian National Library to remember all those unnamed Serbian intellectuals buried on the same spot where those two buildings are standing today. They have been executed by Tito’s communist government immediately after the Second world War just because they were not communists.
Yesterday media reported of the opening of the exhibition of not yet seen photographs taken by Tito himself. Tito taking picture of himself in front of the mirror, picture of his wife Jovanka and her sister and dozens of other amateur pictures that could be found in the shoebox of any average family anywhere in the world made it to the halls of the museum just because they were made by Tito.
The article about this exhibition made me really sick in my stomach. There is no a single person in the history of Balkans that made more lasting damage to the Serbian nation than Tito, yet Serbs are still impressed with the memory of their torturer.
If they are Americans, Serbs would already have an expensive psychiatrist who would help them deal with their obsession with the oppressor. Nevertheless, being Serbians denial is the best resort, and to make a point of their denial, it does not hurt to show signs of respect to the cause of all pain and suffering. God bless a memory of President Tito…we deserved him….

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Jumping on the Wagon

By Stevan V. Nikolic

New York, Feb. 11, 2010 (Serbia Today) – Until couple a months ago, or rather until local elections in the Belgrade Municipality of Vozdovac, nobody in Serbia seriously believed that new parliamentary elections will happen this year.
And while the political analysts are still discussing if Serbian Progressive Party won the confidence of voters in Vozdovac or Democratic Party lost it, the activists of the Serbian Progressive Party and some other smaller parties are collecting the signatures on the petition asking for new elections.

The maneuvering and positioning of the major players at the Serbian political scene prove that new elections are quite possible. Being pro –European is the trend of the day among politicians who want to stay in the game. More so, showing the willingness to listen to the concerns of the American friends doesn’t hurt either. The list of the Serbian politicians visiting lately Washington for various reasons, is very eclectic. One would almost assume that the overseas confidence is more important for Serbian politicians than the confidence of the voters back home.

The language, the tone and the attitude of the politicians when expressing their opinions on various issues softened up lately as well. There are many in Serbia who question political abilities of the President Boris Tadic, but throwing into political arena the proposal of the Resolution on Srebrenica was a stroke of a master. Suddenly, party leaders were between the hammer and the stone. Being too much against the resolution would damage their prospects for the future, while voting for it could make them betray their party lines.

If nothing else, it seems that the days of “Serbian nationalism” as a trend among politicians that will brings votes of the citizens are gone forever. Serbian voters are tired of the political slogans that the “whole world is against them” and Serbian politicians realized that the only way to stay in the political arena of Serbia tomorrow is to jump on the wagon of the train heading towards Europe.

And as it is case anywhere in the world, when it comes to staying in power, party lines and party programs don’t matter much if the potential ruling coalition could guarantee well paid political office. So, it is a beautiful picture at the moment looking at the Serbian politicians being so cordial and understanding to each other across the party lines.. Just in a case…elections happen...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Work Ethics

By Stevan V. Nikolic
New York, Feb. 04, 2010 ( Serbia Today) – The issue of work ethics is one of the most important aspects of the economies worldwide, particularly when it comes to the economies of the developing countries. In its base, work ethics could be defined as the responsible approach to the obligations at one’s work place. This does not relate only to the contractual obligations coming out of the work contract made between employee and employer, but also to the personal understanding of the professional obligations and one’s identifications with the goals of the organization one is employed with.
In the Serbian conditions today, it is very hard to introduce the necessity of the ethical approach to the work obligations. While most of the older working people in Serbia still remember the “benefits” of the dysfunctional socialist economy embedded in the slogans like
“ nobody can pay me as little, as little I can work”, or “if you work or do not work, radio and TV are still working”, younger generations never actually had a chance to be employed and to develop any type of work habits or work obligations.
The transition from the state controlled to the free market economy which Serbia is still going through does not help development of the work ethics among working people as well. Massive layoffs of workers, unpaid salaries for months, non-payment of medical and pension contributions for employees are all generally accepted and excused as a collateral damage of the transitions that Serbian economy and society are experiencing at the moment.
There are very few companies in Serbia that dare to educate their workers about the direct codependence of the business results and the workers respond to their professional obligations. To bring the individual responsibility to the level where every worker will see the importance of its own contribution as the key element of the company success is the ultimate goal.
In the conditions of the deep mistrust between employees and employers in most of Serbian companies today it will take some time until workers understand that behind any successful businessman is a company of committed and responsible workers, and that their relationship cannot be defined without the application of the best methods of work ethics.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

What does Serbia aspire for in 2010?

By Stevan V. Nikolic
Belgrade, Jan. 1, 2010 (Serbia Today) – New Years Eve is often the time to review last year’s events and to make resolutions for the next. How did Serbia do in 2009, and what does it aspire for in 2010?

In Politics the Serbian government enters the New Year with an uncertain parliamentary majority. Leaders of the ruling coalition claim that their majority is stable and will not require early general elections. On the other hand opposition parties led by the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) assert that the present government coalition is under too much pressure, and that it will break apart in 2010, opening the door for early elections. Victory at the polls would give the opposition an opportunity to form a new and “progressive” coalition government. That remains to be seen. What seems certain is that the announced layoff of 3500 government employees will prompt reconstruction of the government to include a smaller number of Ministers. Part of the government’s New Year’s resolution to the IMF is that the number of government employees will be reduced to 28,400 in 2010.

In Economy & Investments Fiat’s investment in the Kragujevac auto industry will give a great boost to Serbia’s industrial complex. Production of the Punto model will double to 30,000 in 2010. The Union of Kragujevac Auto Workers has announced that over 2,000 workers will soon sign a contract with Fiat Auto Serbia. Unfreezing the Transitional Trade Agreement with the EU and Fiat’s expansion may well motivate other big EU companies to consider investing in Serbia. To increase its marketing efforts the government assigned “Economic Diplomats” to 28 Serbian Embassies with the instructions to introduce to potential foreign investors the many possibilities of doing business in Serbia. The construction of the new Bridge “Zemun-Borca” will begin this year, and 100km of the new Corridor 10 Highway should be completed during the year. Of course, the government is confidently claiming that Serbia will overcome the economic crisis in 2010.
In Banking and Finances the National Bank of Serbia projects annual inflation of 6%, plus or minus 2%. It is expected that euro will stay under 100 dinars. Diana Dragutinovic, Minister of Finance, said it was possible that public spending would be stabilized even without raising taxes.

In Society the price of electricity will go up 10 % by the end of March, while the price of gas will decrease.Pensions will be frozen at the level of last year. The government announced that 2.5 billion dinars will be set aside for low interest housing loans. Low cost foreign airlines will finally start flying to and from Serbia. Visa liberalization opened door to seasonal employment in the EU for many unemployed Serbs. As to expected, both EU and Serbian governments are not commenting on this issue. Serbia has submitted its official application for EU membership and expects to receive a standard EU Questionnaire with 4000 questions. The last two Hague Tribunal war crime fugitives will, unfortunately, be an issue for Serbia in 2010. The Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church will assemble at the end of January to elect a new Patriarch in place of the Patriarch Pavle who passed away in December. In February a new wave of the H1N1 flu is expected in Serbia.

In Arts & Culture Serbia contributed in 2009 more than many richer and more developed countries. Music and film festivals, exhibitions, concerts, book fairs, and theater performances of international significance occur in Serbia year after year, regardless of political or economical conditions. It is amazing to how Serbian artists are able to create quality art on very low budgets. One eagerly anticipates the many cultural events taking place in 2010 in Serbia such as FEST (the International Film Festival in Belgrade); EXIT (the International Music Festival in Novi Sad); BITEF (the International Theater Festival in Belgrade); BEMUS (the International Classical Music Festival in Belgrade); ULUS October Salon (the Annual Art Exhibition of the Serbian Art Association); the Belgrade Book Fair; and Beer Fest (the Summer Music Festival).

In Sports the Serbian National Soccer Team qualified for the World Cup, and will play in South Africa in June in a group with Ghana, Australia, and Germany. The Serbian Basketball team will compete in the World Championship in Turkey. Serbian professional tennis stars, men and women, are on the top of the international charts. And in 2010, as in many years preceding, tennis clubs throughout Serbia nurture and mature a new generation of tennis champions.

A lot has happened in the year 2009. For some it was positive, for others negative. Some are richer, others poorer. All of us, certainly, are a year older. Some of us, possibly, a little wiser. But all of us can aspire for a happier, healthier, and more prosperous Serbia in the year 2010.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

“An uneasy and treacherous road” – Serbian integration into EU

By: Stevan V. Nikolic

Belgrade, Dec. 25 2009 (Serbia Today) - In recent weeks we have witnessed three major events: on Dec. 19th EU visa liberalization for Serbian citizens; this past Tuesday official application for EU membership in Stockholm; on Monday adoption of a strict budget by Parliament, a major pre-condition for continued lMF support. From these remarkable events one might conclude that positive things are finally happening for Serbia. Yet is it everything so rosy?

The Serbian coalition government is certainly doing everything it can to satisfy the formalities required by the EU for integration. However, it is equally certain that little is being done to realize substantively the required changes.

Necessary laws are being adopted by the Parliament, but nothing is being done to enforce their implementation or to secure the independence of the courts. Recent reevaluation and reelection of the judges at different levels cast a deep shadow on the independence of the justice system from the political system.

The Anti-Corruption Agency has been established. But somehow its power fades out whenever the suspect in a corruption case is a member of one of the ruling political parties or is one of the so called “untouchable” Serbian business tycoons.

Sale of the state owned companies to the private investors is in process, but it is not going as expected. For one thing the amount of money collected by the Government from the sales is not what was hoped for. For another the restructuring of many of the privatized businesses by their new private owners has resulted in massive layoffs or delayed paychecks.

Bringing the last two remaining war criminals to the Hague Tribunal seems to be a no-win battle for the Government. If they don’t deliver Gen. Mladic to the Hague, they may lose their credibility with the EU. If they do, they may unleash the worst kind of nationalistic rage still existing among many Serbs.

The new budget was written in accordance with IMF requirements laid out as a condition for the continuation of its financial support. One of those conditions was the reduction of the public sector workforce. Despite promises and commitments by Government officials at all levels little is actually being done. Moreover, it appears that the only cuts in the public sector which will actually happen will be cuts in the socially sensitive areas of health and education. It seems easier to fire a nurse or a teacher than to fire a government clerk who is affiliated with a political party.

Similarly the budget freezes pensions at the level of last year. Considering that almost one third of the adult population of Serbia are retirees, this measure will certainly be unpopular. Should there be early general elections, the present ruling coalition may well be defeated, as was the case recently in the local election for the Municipality of Vozdovac, where the opposition Progressive party won.

This is not to say that Serbian Government is not doing a good job at all. Results from the efforts to make Serbia a modern, western democracy are evident everywhere. However, in the transition from a dysfunctional socialist system to a functioning free market system the necessary changes must be substantive, not mere formalities.

As it is now, Serbs can finally travel to EU countries, but can not afford to do so. Companies are private, but workers are not being paid and their rights are not being protected. Corruption is being prosecuted, but the major sources of corruption remain untouched. Children are being taught in larger classes by fewer teachers. Retirees are standing in line longer for medical care. For many standing in line at the soup kitchen has become a necessity for the first time since immediately after the Second World War. Social differences among very rich and very poor are more visible now than ever before.

So everything is not so rosy. In their effort to be elected and stay in power politicians often neglect to mention that the road to integration into the EU may be “uneasy and treacherous.”