“24 privatization probes to be finished this year”

BELGRADE -- Serbia’s First Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić told B92 on Thursday that probes into 24 controversial privatizations would be finished this year.

Aleksandar Vučić (Beta)
Aleksandar Vučić (Beta)

“Serbia will in 2013 work on establishing the system and strengthening institutions for combat against corruption,” he pointed out.

According to the deputy prime minister, the investigations of privatizations of the Port of Belgrade and Veterinary Medicine Institute are almost done.

“Certain results have been achieved and it seems to me that we are starting to work seriously on the forming of the system and institutions. I want to inform the entire public that the biggest number of prosecutors and judges, people who should primarily work on the prosecution, are currently being trained abroad. Also, by adopting the changes to the Criminal Procedure Code and a new strategy for combat against corruption, that should be passed in March, we have it on the European map. I think we are achieving significant results and then it will no longer be important who holds which positions and which party they belong to,” Vučić explained.

When asked which five investigations have been completed so far, he said:

“Those are the cases of Delreal, Nuba Invest, Azotara Pančevo (artificial fertilizer plant)… I think we are in final stages of the Port of Belgrade investigation and it seems to me that the Veterinary Medicine Institute is almost finished. There are still some loose ends within those five privatizations. I think we will finish all 24 of them. There will be several more big cases we will try to solve, I expect probes from the Development Bank to the Capital Investment Fund but first things first. This task, that was and is a priority for us, will certainly be finished.”

“Small steps made in combat against corruption”

Combat against corruption and improving the situation in the judiciary will be one of the government’s priorities this year. These two topics will also be on the table when a decision on the beginning of Serbia’s EU accession talks will be made in mid-2013.

According to the current government, Serbia is finally focusing on both issues but analysts are not overly optimistic.

“I think there are some individual steps forward but the essential combat against corruption needs to be led by institutions and this is where we are the weakest,” Transparency Serbia’s Vladimir Goati has said.

He added that we had “courageous, brave and smart individuals” but that this was not enough.

Goati reiterated that influence of political parties on combat against corruption was very strong and that it usually started when “you find a skeleton in the closet in form of coalition partners”.

“The moment you run into your coalition partner or an important person from the coalition without whom you cannot form the government, the investigation stops. Maybe it won’t be this way but I am afraid that history will repeat itself. There are saints in politics as everywhere. Although, I still have not seen little white wings in anyone so far,” Goati underscored.

The biggest number of affairs that are currently investigated have been launched by the Anti-Corruption Council in the last decade. Goati stressed that four prime ministers and four different governments had been running Serbia since the first report had been submitted up until today but that none of them had even scratched the surface of some of the problems.