April 15, 2003

ERP KIM Newsletter 15-04-03b

If an additional 20 billion in state-owned property is taken from it by the Albanians, it turns out that Serbia has thrown billions down the river. No one normal in the world would allow this and neither will we, says Engineer Dragan Markovic, the long-term director of "Elektro Kosmet"

Vecernje Novosti Daily, Belgrade
April 13, 2003

By Dragan Damjanovic

(photo: the power plant in Obilic)

PRISTINA - "Tenders cannot be published for about 400 socially owned firms in Kosovo and Metohija until the expelled Serbs and Montenegrins who used to work in them return. No one, except the state, has the right to sell someone else's property as their own; consequently, UNMIK, KFOR and the Kosovo Government must stop the announced privatization of collectives in the Province." This excerpt from a letter from the world association of syndicate workers with over 130 million members was sent to the aforementioned Pristina addresses. Blazo Milosavljevic, the chair of the Union of Syndicates of Kosovo and Metohija, informed reporters in Kosovska Mitrovica of the fact, adding that representatives of the world syndicate would arrive in the Province next week.

UNMIK's decree on privatization legalizes the usurpation of Serbian firms in the Province. According to Goran Bogdanovic, minister in the Kosovo Government and member of the board of directors of the trust agency, so far 16 firms have been commercialized, including "Progres" in Prizren, "Sar" in Djeneral Jankovic, "Pivara" in Pec... where approximately 5,000 are employed, and not one Serb or Montenegrin.


In addition to the previously mentioned 400 socially owned firms and 75 corporations, Serbia contributed 60 percent of the total investment in the Fund for Underdeveloped [Regions] and Kosmet [Kosovo and Metohija]. Four years ago, these firms were turned over to UNMIK for administration, says Engineer Dragan Markovic, the long-term director of "Elektro Kosmet". At the same time, the state suffered damage because of the Albanians during the bombing of almost 30 billion dollars. If an additional 20 billion in state-owned property is taken from it by the Albanians, it turns out that Serbia has thrown billions down the river. No one normal in the world would allow this and neither will we.

An increasing number of Kosmet businessmen, Serbs and Montenegrins, as well as Bosniacs, Turks and Goranis, is convinced that the announced privatization is the product of "Steiner's haste" due to promises given to the Albanians, as well as deferment of accumulated problems. This would serve to fulfill at least part of what was promised to the Albanians, while the Serbs and Montenegrins, instead of talks on returns, need to be further subjected to this suffering, too.

"If Mr. Steiner's message is that it is too early to decide on the final status of Kosovo, while at the same time transferring some of his authorities to provincial provisional institutions, then it is not too early to begin defining what belongs to whom in this province," says Arif Sulja, a Gorani businessman from Prizren. Sulja, like other businessmen, believes that it would come as no surprise if other former republics of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as for "their piece of the pie" upon launching tenders in the province. Macedonia alone, for example, invested millions of German marks in the construction of a TE Kosovo block for the use of the Skopje steel plant.


(photo: Trepca smelting plant in Zvecan, near Kosovska Mitrovica)

Firms in the province were built by the former Yugoslavia; consequently, it is impossible to calculate at this time how much of the Yugoslav budget went into the Pristina till. Data indicates that Serbia earmarked a fifth of its foreign debt for a budget from which money was withdrawn for the construction of Kosmet firms.

"A lot was invested here. Instead of working in those firms, today Albanians are working in commerce: smuggling drugs, weapons, white slaves, various goods... Unemployment is close to 70 percent. The giant "Trepca", which once employed 12,000 people, has stopped all operations since it was taken over by KFOR on August 14, 2000. The same thing happened with "Feronikal" and other big firms," stresses Engineer Radomir Kilibarda, a respected businessman.

Stopping work at "Trepca" included stopping work at all 13 of its mines, the lead and zinc smelting plant and the battery factory in Kosovska Mitrovica.

"There are some indications that the English, who held Trepca prior to World War II, are interested in continuing its operations," emphasizes Engineer Branislav Kokeric, one of the former directors. He adds that there are also rumors that it has also attracted the attention of some businessman from Germany, so it's not hard to determine why the head of the UNMIK administration is hurrying into privatization.

Even though something huge is brewing in Kosmet, say the Serb and Montenegrin businessmen, it is nevertheless important that the representatives of the world syndicate have understood that state-owned property cannot belong to everyone, especially not those who worked on destroying the state and today seek in that state, on its territory and with its money to create their own state and fill their own pockets.


"Approximately 50,000 Serbs and Montenegrins formerly employed in Kosmet lack basic means of sustenance today. These are primarily heads of households where few people in the family are working," says Blazo Milosavljevic, the chair of the Union of Syndicates of Kosmet. He adds that some of the workers, thanks to the Serbian Government's assistance, are receiving part of their wages as if they were working, while many are considered to be temporarily laid off (na sistemu cekanja).


According to Goran Bogdanovic, in its plan UNMIK foresees the privatization of all 400 state-owned firms in the province which once employed 130,000 people. According to UNMIK, this change is to occur through transformation, redistribution of the means of production and reorganization.

Translation by S.L.


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