Shoigu: Montenegro, Serbia in customs union

PODGORICA -- Russian Minister for Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu says the customs union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan will expand to include Montenegro and Serbia.

The two are the only states in the region which Moscow has free trade agreements with, the minister said in Podgorica on Wednesday.

"This will be an additional incentive for investment because, apart from the existing market, that of the Customs Union will also be opened," Shoigu said during a meeting with Montenegrin Economy Minister Vladimir Kavarić, the Montenegrin government said in a news release, Beta news agency is reporting.

Shoigu and Kavarić discussed problems in the Podgorica Aluminum Combine, in which the Montenegrin government and the company of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska each own one third. It was indicated that "the issue of all issues" is the long-term supply of the company with electricity, on which the fate of the aluminum factory depends.

According to media reports, Shoigu arrived in Podgorica in order to request subsidies for electricity from the Montenegrin government. The state's aid in this form for the factory expires in spring 2012. The debt of the factory is worth more than EUR 50mn, and the state has so far issued EUR 132mn worth of guarantees for helping the aluminum factory.