Deputy PM on corruption, popularity, and early elections

Serbia's First Deputy PM and Defense Minister Aleksandar Vučić has stated that this year would see the completion of investigations launched into "all 24 controversial privatizations".

Aleksandar Vučić (Beta, file)
Aleksandar Vučić (Beta, file)

"Serbia will work on establishing the system and strengthening the institutions to combat corruption in 2013," Vučić told B92 TV on Jan. 3.

According to him, the probes into the privatizations of the Port of Belgrade (Luka Beograd) company and the Veterinary Medicine Institute are nearly complete.

B92: What has marked the work of the government, and your work so far, has been the fight against crime and corruption. Are you satisfied with what has been done and what lies ahead in 2013?

Vučić: I am satisfied with the political will that has been expressed, and which is always the most important factor in the fight of a state against corruption and crime. Certain results have been achieved, and it seems to me that we are beginning to work on creating the system, institutions. I wish to inform the public that a majority of prosecutors and judges, those people that are supposed to conduct prosecutorial investigations, are at this moment attending school and specialist courses abroad. With the changes to the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure laws, as well as the adoption of the Strategy for the Fight Against Corruption, which will happen by March, we are achieving significant results. It will no longer be important who occupies this post, their name and their partisan affiliation.

Q: Which investigations will be finished this year - in view of the list of the 24 controversial ones?

A: All 24. We have completed five cases so far. Essentially completed them, there's more tentacles there within those five cases. It's not all about privatizations, I think there's 16 or 17 privatizations. There will be other big cases that we will try to solve... The Development (Razvojna) Bank, the Capital Investments Fund, we'll talk about that when the time comes... but this task that was our priority will be completed.

Q: Which five investigations have been completed so far?

A: There's Delreal, Nuba Ivest, Azotara. We are starting, slowly but surely, on Port of Belgrade, and it seems to me that the Veterinary Institute is nearly finished. These are the cases that are almost done. What remains is the realization, and after that, nothing else.

Q: When you say that the Port of Belgrade investigation is almost done - I must ask whether Milan Beko will receive the same treatment as Miroslav Mišković in the previous one?

A: Absolutely... absolutely...

Q: There's no difference between the two... as far as you're concerned?

A: There's no difference between anyone. I'm very serious when I say this, just as I was serious when I spoke about other things.

Q: Have there been any pressures in this case, as it was said happened during the investigation against Miroslav Mišković?

A: Do you think somebody will allow this, or easily let go of that - for some snot-nosed kid, psychopath, madman - this is what they're calling me - to, via processes, take away the property that they had been earning for decades, and the state thinks they did so illegally. This is about tens and hundreds of (millions) of euros. Do you think someone will give up on that easily - certainly not. Especially when it is known that the principle in this country has been that politics is omnipotent, that it can determine what the prosecutor and the judge will say. I'm trying to tell you this is not an easy job, but - has somebody been calling me and telling me in that direct way - no. What I hear I hear from the sidelines, what I see, I receive some reports, in other words, I see a commotion. I know that I made myself - I hope only myself and not my children too - a countless number of enemies for life.

Q: How has the fight against corruption been influencing the mood within the government? There is a sense that your coalition partners fear you.

A: Nobody fears me. I have a fair relationship with everyone. And that is all I can say.

Q: Still, some of the investigations that have been underway are only a step away from high ranking party officials of your coalition partners.

A: The investigations will touch some people from the SNS as well, some people from the parties of our coalition partners, there's no doubt about that. They will, it goes without saying, also touch those who belong to some other political parties. I will not allow for one second that this political trick should become something that will scare anyone in Serbia. 'Don't prosecute that one because he's a politician," and then they will tell you it amounts to political persecution. I saw it on your television, on the occasion of an arrest, it was written, 'who's behind the arrest'... the only thing that can be behind it is the law.

Q: According to the latest polls, you have the approval rating that hardly any politician in Serbia can match. Will you live up to the citizens' expectations this year?

A: I suspect that I come across to some people, and I see this in surveys, as an arrogant man, but I doubt it you could see this as being the most important to me. I accepted it, and perhaps it was sociologist Zoran Stojiljković who recognized it best when he said that 'Vučić is not in it too much for politics, he's in it for something that he had set for himself as a mission". I don't think I'll be the party leader in ten years' time, not to mention it's not the most important thing to remain in power for I don't know how many years. My job is to do an important thing in Serbia. I believe that by creating the system and institutions that will fight corruption many things will be healed in this country. I'm glad that a good number of the citizens in Serbia supports that. But if you want to know about my popularity... I've been both unpopular and popular, I've been through all that. What matters to me is the result.

Q: Will you capitalize on that popularity through early parliamentary elections?

A: I am thinking, above all, about how to do the job. It is very important for us to get a date for the start of EU negotiations. That's very important. To the citizens who are wondering why that is important and think this is a bureaucratic thing, I wish to demonstrate on just one example. For instance, Kia and Hyundai, who have their plants in Europe, will not move their major factories, but perhaps they would bring their spare parts factories to Serbia. Japanese, Korean, western companies arrive in a country only after it receives a date because that is the so-called no point back. It's important for people's employment. And only then can we think about other things. And to consider elections in January or February, because somebody told you you look nice, or not so nice, in the photos - that doesn't make a lot of sense.

Q: Have you been neglecting the Defense Ministry?

A: No. There's never been more memorandums, pre-contracts and contracts on military and economic, military-military, military-education and military-medial cooperation. That's my job. My job is not to disassemble rifles, I learned to do that when I served in the military, but that's not my expertise and I will not do that. My job is to secure a good budget in the best way. A special program is being prepared that will allow for a large number of apartments to be built for military personnel, I'm working on improving international cooperation, and on making sure that our army receives the best weapons and equipment.