Serbia and Russia "agree to continue joint investments"

BELGRADE, PANČEVO -- Serbian Minister of Mining Milan Bačević and Russian Minister of Energy Alexander Novak signed on Friday a protocol and agreed to "continue joint investments."

Novak (L) and Bačević are seen at the Pančevo refinery (Tanjug)
Novak (L) and Bačević are seen at the Pančevo refinery (Tanjug)

The protocol concerns the session of the Russian-Serbian Intergovernmental Committee on Trade, Economic and Scientific-Technical Cooperation, while the two ministers also reached an agreement on further joint investments in several sectors.

"We managed to bring the level of our economic relations to that of our political ties, and they have never been better than they are now,” Bačević told reporters after the signing of the protocol.

He underscored that the work of the Russian-Serbian Intergovernmental Committee on Trade, Economic and Scientific-Technical Cooperation was very successful in 2013 and some very important projects were launched, including the South Stream pipeline, which he described as "vital."

This was a successful year in the financial and banking sector as well, Bačević said and recalled that Russia granted two important loans to Serbia, one of them to cover the budget deficit while the other was used for railway modernization.

He noted that thanks to the work of the Intergovernmental Committee, in only one year Serbia reduced its foreign exchange deficit with the Russian Federation and increased exports to the country by around 13 percent.

Russian Minister of Energy Alexander Novak underscored that his country regards Serbia as the main strategic partner in the Balkans.

The Friday talks covered new programs, such as the investment program of Gazprom-owned NIS concerning the reconstruction of the Novi Sad oil refinery and a program to increase the processing of oil derivatives in the Pančevo refinery, Novak said and added that EUR 1.5 billion would be invested in the realization of the tasks over the next two years.

Apart from energy, the talks also covered cooperation in other areas such as transport, traffic, industry, education, health-care and culture, the Russian minister said and noted that joint investments in the fields would total around USD 5 billion in the next five years.

Novak noted that the talks also covered cooperation in the metallurgy and mineral deposits, as well as the participation of Russian companies in the privatization process in Serbia.

Novak visited the oil refinery in Pančevo and announced continued investment in the second phase of its modernization next year.

He said this NIS refinery, "one of the best in Europe," received more than EUR 500 million in investments