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Serbia: Italian businesses in media spat

last update: June 07, 12:41

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Belgrade, 7 June (AKI) - Two Italian business giants on Thursday found themselves in the midst of a political media war between newly elected Serbian president Tomislav Nikolic and his predecessor Boris Tadic.

Nikolic, former ultranationalist, turned pro-European, defeated Tadic in May presidential election and his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) beat Tadic’s pro-European Democratic Party (DS) in parliamentary race.

But Tadic was on the verge of forming new government with the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and most likely with pro-European Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the only parliamentary group which openly advocates independence of Kosovo declared by majority Albanians in 2008.

After consultations with Nikolic on new government on Wednesday, Tadic ignited bitter polemics by telling journalists that Italian steel giant “Danieli” and precision mechanics company “Baldieri” postponed their investments in Serbia because of Nikolic’s election victory.

“Danieli” signed a “memorandum of understanding” with Tadic’s government on 30 March, in the heat of the election campaign, to build a steel factory in western city of Sabac, worth 500 million euros.

Tadic, who based his campaign on attracting foreign investments and the creation of new jobs, said at the time the project would create over 1,000 jobs and generate annual exports exceeding one billion euros.

But “Danieli” this week bought Sisak steel plant in Croatia for 30 million euros, instead, Tadic said. “For Serbia it isn’t good that ‘Danieli’ two days ago bought Sisak steel works in Croatia and, of course, this has happened after the election”, he added.

In the unusually dirty campaign, Tadic has questioned the sincerity of Nikolic’s pro-European stands and said his election would be detrimental to foreign investments.

But Nikolic’s party quickly retorted that “memorandum of understanding” with “Danieli” was just an election trick and that the Italian giant never truly committed itself to the agreement.

“It is obvious that investors are by-passing Serbia because of the corruption level in our country,” SNS said in a statement, blaming Tadic’s democrats for the situation.

DS vice-president Jelena Trivan told media Nikolic has managed to “spoil relations with neighbors and the whole world”, since taking office last week. “It’s extremely unthinkable to think that such people could be a guarantee for investors,” she said.

Nikolic has been criticized by the international community and European Union officials for saying last weekend that a massacre of over 7,000 Muslims in Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995 was a “horrible crime”, but not genocide, as ruled by the International Court of Justice in 2008.

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