Takeover of mine "would deal heavy blow to Kosovo talks"

Aleksandar Vucic says a unilateral decision of the Kosovo government to take over Trepca "would deal a heavy blow to the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue."

Source: Tanjug

According to Pristina-based daily Koha Ditore, the government of Kosovo adopted the bill modifying the law on public enterprises, paving the way for the Kosovo government to take over the ownership of the Mining, Metallurgical and Chemical Combine Trepca.

The presidency of the assembly of Kosovo decided - contrary to the rules of procedure - to debate the bill under urgent procedure at the session scheduled for January 19.

Commenting on the issue, Vucic stressed on Thursday that this is a matter of utmost importance for Serbia, which has now been raised due to internal problems in Kosovo, and expressed hope that the Serbian government will be able to resolve it.

If the bill modifying the law on privatization is adopted on Monday, it will pose a serious obstacle and a serious problem, said Vucic, adding that he already informed all Western partners about the issue.

"I have been working on this today, and I will be working on it tomorrow too. None of us will sleep until Monday," Vucic told reporters on his visit to Obrenovac.

Mining, Metallurgical and Chemical Combine Trepca is one of the most important Serbian enterprises in Kosovo and Metohija and one of tremendous value. It has been a point of dispute between Belgrade and Pristina ever since the ethnic Albanians in the southern Serbian province unilaterally proclaimed independence in 2008.

The Trepca combine has existed for over 85 years and it used to employ 25,000 people. Today it has some 2,500 employees, including 1,500 ethnic Albanians and around 1,000 Serbs.

The combine is divided into two parts - the southern (around 70 percent of capacities) controlled by Albanians, and the northern part (around 30 percent), run by Serbs.

Trepca was claimed by various 'owners' after the Interim UN administration mission had been established in Kosovo following the armed conflict in the province and NATO's bombing campaign against the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999.

However, in 2008, the international administration declared valid the old Trepca structure, based on which the Serbian government, through its development fund, owns a 66 percent stake in Trepca, while the rest is owned by shareholders, including employees.

In 2011, the Kosovo government announced the possibility of privatization of Trepca, and the government in Belgrade then said it will seek opinion on the issue from competent international judicial bodies.

The authorities in Belgrade hold the announced privatization of Trepca illegal and contrary to UN Security Council Resolution 1244.

On May 17, 2013, the Serbian government signed an agreement on technical and business cooperation between Trepca Mines and U.S. New Generation Power LLC that should bring new investments and increase and improve quality of production and open new jobs in Trepca.

Currently, Trepca is under a moratorium that was placed on it by the Special Chamber of the Supreme Court of Kosovo and it is run by the Privatisation Agency of Kosovo (PAK).

The PAK is preparing a plan for reorganization of Trepca based on which it intends to announce an international tender for the privatization of the mining complex.

Serbian Economy Minister Zeljko Sertic warned that the whole process of changing the ownership structure in enterprises in the province has been been conducted by the Privatisation Agency of Kosovo in an unlawful manner.

According to the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, the value of around 1,500 Serbian enterprises that have been privatized in Kosovo and Metohija exceeds EUR 1.2 billion.

Business & Economy

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