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We will create a regional alliance with our neighbours: Djindjic

Brasilia - Belgrade, Jan 6, 2003 - Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic said in an interview for one of Brazil's most influential daily newspapers, O Estado De Sao Paolo, that "Serbia is looking to join the European Union, but it is first necessary to create a regional alliance with our neighbours in the Balkans."

Djindjic, who led a Serbian delegation to the inaugural ceremony of Brazil's newly elected president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, said that Serbia and Montenegro's objective before entering the EU is for the entire Balkans to become a single common market. "We believe that maintaining strict borders is irrational, as we'll all join the EU without borders in a few years' time," said Djindjic.

According to Djindjic, Serbia's economy has changed since the new reformist government took office two years ago. "During the ten years of Milosevic's rule, we had a recession, with the average monthly salary of $35. And now, just two years later, the average salary is $170. Moreover, the inflation rate was 130 percent, whereas today it stands at just 16 percent. The first step we took was to carry out macroeconomic reform; we insisted on financial discipline and tried to reduce business risks. We also paid much attention to social policy," said Djindjic.

The current unemployment rate in Serbia, according to Djindjic, is around 30 percent, with a large share of gray economic activity in the overall economy. "Still, we have people from neighbouring countries, such as Bulgaria and Romania, coming to Serbia to do certain agricultural work - which indicates that we don't actually have much available workforce."

It is very difficult for Serbia' products to get access to the European and American markets, said Djindjic. "However, a very large share of the overall world trade takes place outside those markets. For instance, we (Serbia) manufacture construction and civil engineering machinery and export it to the Russian market," said Djindjic.

Referring to the problem of Kosovo-Metohija, Djindjic said that there is almost no communication with the Kosovo Albanians. "Kosovo is now under the United Nations protectorate, and to resolve the problem it is necessary for us to talk. Two years ago, we offered a dialogue, but (the Kosovo Albanians) held that it was too early to talk. According to some information we have now, they will soon be ready for a dialogue," Djindjic.

Djindjic also told the Brazil's daily that he expected economic cooperation between Yugoslavia and Brazil to intensify as currently it is at a fairly low level. "It used to be much better in the past, but now there's only one significant product - coffee. In Yugoslavia, there's a widespread notion that Brazil invented two things - football and coffee," said Djindjic.

Pointing to the likeness between the Serbian government and Lula's administration, Djindjic said that the economies of the two countries are economies that are looking to the future. "As far as I'm familiar with the situation in Brazil, it seems that there will be a brand new start here. The Brazilian people expect much of the new government, just as was the case in Serbia two years ago," said Djindjic.

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