2018 – Year in Review

The famous British writer, C. S. Lewis said once:”Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different?” 

As 2018 draws to a close, here is our review of the year that, on the surface, wasn’t much different to the previous one and yet full of unexpected, interesting and surprising events.

JANUARY

PoliticsOn 16th January, unknown assailants shot Oliver Ivanovic this morning in Kosovska Mitrovica. He soon succumbed to injuries. Ivanovic, the leader of the civic initiative “Serbia, Democracy, Justice”, was killed in a shooting that took place at Kosovska Mitrovica around 8.15 am. To date, Kosovo or Serbian authorities failed to identify or catch the assassins.

EconomyFrench construction group Vinci Airports has been awarded a 1.5 billion euro ($1.8 billion) 25-year concession to run Belgrade airport, Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic confirmed. Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic said Vinci offered 501 million euro upfront, plus an additional 732 million euro in investment. Vucic said the firm would also pay the Serbian state between 4.3 million and 16 million in annual concessionary fees.

Culture & Society – The Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade has reached agreement with the artist Marina Abramovic to stage a retrospective exhibition of her works in 2019. The exhibition of the renowned artist will be opened in September 2019 and will last until January 2020, and will represent Abramovic’s return of sorts to Serbia, where she last exhibited independently in 1975

FEBRUARY

Politics – The City of Belgrade Electoral Commission has officially confirmed that a total of 24 candidate lists will participate in the 4th March election in Belgrade. The Commission said that a total of 1,606,693 voters are registered, and that there will be 1,185 polling stations in Belgrade. A total of 24 candidates would compete for the Belgrade Mayor position.

Economy – The Bulgarian fund River Styxx Capital won’t become the owner of Telenor Bank as the National Bank of Serbia (NBS) has refused to issue the fund with the permission to acquire a majority share in the bank. “The NBS did not give permission to the said fund to take over a majority share package in Telenor Bank, that is, it didn’t issue consent for acquiring an ownership in the bank, because it had determined from the submitted request and documentation that the company didn’t meet the conditions defined by the regulations of the Republic of Serbia”, the NBS said. Telenor has confirmed that permission for a strategic partnership with River Styxx Capital in Telenor Bank, which entails the takeover of 85% of the bank’s shares, was not given.

Culture & Society – One of the finest Serbian actors, Nebojsa Glogovac had died in Belgrade at the age of 49 after being been admitted to the Institute of Oncology in early February. One of his last roles was in the TV series “Nemanjici – Birth of the Kingdom” where he interpreted the role of Vukan, the eldest son of Stefan Nemanja. Glogovac won fame beyond the borders of Serbia. He was also well known in most of the former Yugoslavia.

 

MARCH

Politics – Preliminary results of the Belgrade election announced. A total of 1.185 polling stations were opened, and the voting took place between 7.00am and 20.00pm. Local elections were held also in Bor, Arandjelovac and Sevojno. 1,606,693 people had the right to vote, and according to the CESID, the turnout was 51%. According to the IPSOS polling agency, and on the basis of 90% of the sample votes, the candidate list “Aleksandar Vucic – Because we love Belgrade” won 45% of the votes, the candidate list “Dragan Djilas – Belgrade decides, people win” won 18.8%, “Aleksandar Sapic – Mayor” 9.2%, and the candidate list assembled around the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) 6.1%.

Economy – German company Continental opened its Research and Development Development in Novi Sad today, in the presence of the Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. At the opening, Vucic said that the centre was a leap ahead for the Serbian economy, and added that the German investment was a high quality one considering that the salaries of the centre’s employees would range from 850 EUR to 2,500 EUR, far above the Serbian average. The R&D centre will create solutions for vehicle interior and safety control systems.

Culture & Society – Film director Lazar Bodroza is the recipient of the Belgrade Winner Award for the Best Serbian Film at the 46th FEST for his film ‘Ederlezi Rising’. The jury said in their explanation that ‘Ederlezi Rising’ is a genre-innovative and courageous step in the Serbian film, precise in its realization, consistently and professionally guided from start to finish, and “the most complete Serbian film” at the Festival. Porn star Jessica Stojadinovic Stoya received the Best Actress Award for her role in ‘Ederlezi Rising’ for her “perfectly controlled acting” and “by managing to depict the lead female character of Nimani following the exact vision of the film director with a precise acting expression, personality and charisma”, the jury said.

APRIL

Politics – The offical visit of the Croatian parliamentary delegation to Belgrade was cut short when the leader of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS), Vojislav Seselj trod on a Croatian flag in front of the Parliament. “At the entrance of the (Serbian) parliament, Seselj desecrated the Croatian flag and then, passing by members of the Croatian delegation, insulted them,” read a statement by the delegation led by parliamentary speaker Gordan Jandrokovic. Security guards unsuccessfully tried to take away the flag. The Croatian delegates led by Gordan Jandrokovic looked on. Another SRS deputy joined Seselj in the incident.

Economy – It is now almost certain that Fiat will remain in Kragujevac after the expiration of the ten-year agreement with the Serbian government, but will, according to the Serbian state officials, operate under different conditions. “The new contract with the Turin company will, unlike the previous ones, be in the best interest of the citizens of Serbia”, said Prime Minister Ana Brnabic. More details about the new cooperation agreement are yet to be announced while the Vecernje Novosti unofficially learns that the main change refers to Fiat Chrysler Automobili (FCA) no longer receiving state benefits and the subsidies from the city of Kragujevac.

Culture & Society – According to the media literacy in Europe survey, conducted by the Open Society Institute in Sofia, Balkan countries are the most susceptible to fake news due to the government control of the main media, population being inadequately educated and a weak trust in the society. The survey, which encompassed a total of 35 countries in Europe, shows that, in the Media Literacy Index, Croatia ranked 24th, Serbia 29th, Montenegro 31st, Bosnia and Herzegovina 32nd and Albania 33rd. The worst situation in terms of media literacy is in Turkey and Macedonia. According to the 2018 index, Nordic countries are best equipped to resist fake news, mainly because of their high educational and media freedom scores.

MAY

Politics – The draft of the new seven-year budget of the European Union, covering the period from 2021 to 2027, was proposed only a few months after the adoption of the enlargement strategy for the Western Balkans, but although the author of the both documents is the same – that is the European Commission – they are not completely in agreement. In the strategy called the “A credible enlargement perspective for the Western Balkans and greater engagement of the EU in the region”, adopted at the beginning of February, the year 2025 was mentioned as an “indicative date” for the accession of Serbia and Montenegro, which have made the most progress in the European integration process. However, in the draft of the new budget, the item EU enlargement simply does not exist.

Economy – Minister of Finance, Dusan Vujovic has resigned from his government post. As Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS) unofficially finds out, he decided to resign for personal (health) reasons. As the Belgrade media report, Vujovic stated earlier that four years, which is how long he had been in office, were long enough for “to demonstrate how well someone did in public function” and that he resigned for health reasons. Following Vujovic’s resignation, Sinisa Mali, the then Belgrade Mayor, was appointed the new finance minister.

Culture & Society – After Zagreb, Zadar, Ljubljana, Vienna and Oman, the Museum of Illusions has opened in Belgrade too, and has over 70 exhibits. This is the sixth such museum in the world. The fascinating world of illusions, showcased at the museum, is designed to question the perception of the visitor’s senses and is intended for all generations, from the youngest to the oldest, because it has a multitude of didactic games, puzzles and brainstorming activities.

 JUNE

Politics – The US embassy and NATO have intensified their efforts to bring Serbia closer to the Western military alliance. Their goal is to establish the Club 100, writes Belgrade-based daily Vecernje Novosti. According to the newspaper, university professors and public figures would join Club 100 in order to openly promote a policy of abandoning Serbia’s current course of neutrality. As stated, the aim is to step up both the propaganda work, and operational field activities.

Economy – Protests against fuel price hike entered the third day with drivers continuing to block the roads throughout Serbia and the police trying to prevent them from doing so. The protest started on social media with the hashtag #nestalomigoriva and it was on social media that the protesters decided to assemble and start blocking the roads.After the first protest on Friday, the traffic was stopped for an hour in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Kragujevac, Zajecar, Nis, Pancevo, Sabac, Novi Pazar and several other cities with protests and blockades continuing across the country.

Culture & Society – After a four-year-long restoration, the National Museum in Belgrade is finally opened. Over 11,000 square meters of the Museum’s building have been renovated, and as many as 1,200 people of different professions participated in the restoration. During the four years, which is how long the restoration lasted, the people engaged in it had a difficult task of preserving the building as it was, which was built in 1903. The building was reconstructed just after the WWII since it was severely damaged in bombing of Belgrade and the Museum moved in in 1952. Another reconstruction happened in the 1960s.

JULY

Politics – The administration of US President Donald Trump has given the green light for the option of partitioning Kosovo, writes Gazeta Express. The Pristina-based newspaper reported this, citing unnamed diplomatic sources, and added that “there is a possibility that Trump agreed on this with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their recent summit in Helsinki.” According to the information obtained by the daily, the Trump administration, i.e., the foreign policy officials in the US administration, agreed that “Kosovo should give Serbia territory in exchange for recognition of its independence.” 

Economy – Serbian government launched a tender for selection of a strategic partner for Mining and Smelting Basin Bor (RTB Bor). As stated in the public call for submission of offers, eligible companies include local or foreign companies which have exploited or produced copper and other noble metals continuously in the past 10 years. The company must have operating revenues that exceed USD 500 million, and the bid submission deadline is noon of 20th August. Potential investors must also provide a banking guarantee in the amount of USD 1 million.

Culture & Society – The Serbian National Parliament on Tuesday adopted the Law on Human Cells and Tissues, and the Law on Transplantation of Organs. Members of the Parliament voted to pass this legislation that makes all citizens potential organ donors – unless they opt out by “expressly objecting to it, addressing the Administration for Biomedicine” – an institution that is yet to be established in Belgrade. Those who do not wish their organs to be harvested after death will have to state this decision “either in writing or verbally” to the said institution. 

AUGUST

Politics – After an impromptu meeting with President Hashim Thaci, Parliament Speaker, Kadri Veseli and Deputy Prime Ministers, Behgjet Pacolli, Fatmir Limaj and Dardan Gashi, the Kosovo PM, Ramush Haradinaj said that an agreement was reached that no land swap between Kosovo and Serbia would take place.

Economy The sale of the Agricultural Combine Belgrade (PKB), as well as the majority of privatizations carried out in the Serbian agriculture sector, have been carried out to suit the needs of well-known, most likely foreign bidders – the Vojvodina Research and Analysis Centre (VOICE) claims. The VOICE says that the terms and conditions of the tender for the privatization of PKB are such that even the Serbian tycoons like Petar Matijevic and Miodrag Kostic, who have so far, expressed the biggest interest in the company, cannot fulfill them. PKB was eventually sold to the UAE-based company Al-Dahra.

Culture & Society – The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), also known as Shanghai Ranking, for 2018, places the University of Belgrade between the 301st and the 400th spot, as per the organization’s website. Last year, the Belgrade University was in the 201-300 group. The Shanghai list, originally published by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University, is one of the most influential lists ranking the world’s universities

SEPTEMBER

Politics – Following the signing of an agreement, the political movement Alliance for Serbia was formed in Belgrade by 30 political parties and organizations including Dveri, the People’s Party (Narodna Partija), the Democratic Party, the Serbian Left (Levica Srbije), Healthy Serbia (Zdrava Srbija), for Serbia (Zajedno za Srbiju) , Pokret za Preokret, the Association of Serbian Trade Unions “Sloga” and the movement of Serbs from Kosovo called “Otadzbina”.

Economy – SPAR, one of the biggest supermarket chains in Europe, is planning to come to Serbia –  Bostjann Brantusa, SPAR’s expansion and development manager, has confirmed for B92.net. “Yes, SPAR has plans for Serbia,” Brantusa told B92.net on the margins of the CEE Property Forum in Vienna. According to him, after the stabilization of the market in Croatia, where they are now working intensively, the multinational retailer will move to the Serbian market. 

Culture & Society – The procedure pertaining to finalizing Serbia’s full-fledged membership in the European Organization for Nuclear Research (known as CERN) will have been completed by the end of September. Hence, at the end of September, Serbia could become a full member of the CERN. This is good news and the reason why Prime Minister Ana Brnabic visited this scientific institution at the beginning of the week since it gathers almost all countries in the world and is the leader in science, the development of cutting-edge technologies and computing.

OCTOBER

Politics – Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic said in Kazakhstan on that the elections in Serbia would be held in 2020 and that he hoped no one thought of taking the power by force. He was referring to the statements by Sinisa Kovacevic who said he expected that “Belgrade regime would change soon”. “Elections are will be held in 2020. I hope that no one thinks that they can use violence to take power. We will have local elections first”, Vucic told reporters in Astana.

Economy – “The Albanian Government’s position is simple and clear – Serbian businesses are welcome to Albania, but this is not our preference in strategic sectors like telecommunications,” Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama said at a press conference, following the allegations that the Albanian government did not support the idea of Telekom Albania, owned by German Deutsche Telekom, being sold to Telekom Serbia. Telekom Serbia, which is 58.11-percent-owned by the Republic of Serbia, confirmed at the end of September that they submitted a bid for the purchase of Telekom Albania, the second-largest telecommunications operator in that country.

Culture & Society – The great Serbian actress Milena Dravic had died at a Belgrade – the Association of Drama Artists of Serbia confirmed. Milena was admitted for treatment but her condition turned for worse two days ago. Two and a half years ago, she lost her husband Dragan Nikolic, also one of the great Serbian actors, and soon after his death, she fell ill.

NOVEMBER

Politics – The Kosovo Government decided to hike up the import tariffs on the goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina by 100%. Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj on Wednesday said he backed a call by Trade and Industry Minister Endrit Shala for the country to sharply increase taxes on Serbian and Bosnian imports from 10 per cent, as imposed on November 6th, to 100 per cent.

Economy – The Serbian Parliament adopted the Personal Data Protection Law, which is in line with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The Law is binding to both private and public sector. “The new regulation establishes a drastically higher level of responsibility for organizations that collect and process personal data. The law covers a variety of different situations, especially when the data is comprised (leaked).

Culture & Society – In the first nine months of this year, Serbia had 2,673,397 tourists, of which 1,326,350 were foreign tourists, the data released in November by the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia showed. Traditionally, the most visited places are the cities of Belgrade and Novi Sad and spa towns, which were visited by 491,377 tourists in the period from January to September 2018. Tourists were also most interested in visiting Vrnjacka Banja and Sokobanja, and the mountains Zlatibor, Kopaonik, Tara and Mokra Gora.

DECEMBER

Politics – A protest, under the slogan “Stop the Bloody Shirts”, took place in Belgrade on Saturday with several thousands of citizens gathering. The protest was over an attack on an opposition politician and the protesters also demanding policy changes by President Aleksandar Vucic and his ruling Serbian Progressive Party. Opposition official Borko Stefanović was attacked by a group of men wearing black clothing on November 23rd in the town of Kruševac and suffered injuries from being beaten with an iron rod. Protests are now being held regularly every Saturday with an increasing number of people joining in.

Economy – The new model to be produced at Fiat’s factory in Kragujevac will be a small off-road vehicle, and the annual production, which should start by the end of 2019, will amount to 50,000 cars. The Italian media specializing in the automobile industry have reported that the name of the model is not yet known, but other details are. The new model – a small SUV – dubbed “Panda on steroids”, will resemble Fiat Panda Cross, a small off-road vehicle produced in Italy.

Culture & Society – Antenna Group announced today that it has reached an agreement with entrepreneur Srdjan Milovanovic on the takeover of 100 per cent of the founding rights of the Antenna Group in Serbia and Montenegro. Antenna Group owns Prva Televizija (Prva TV), O2 TV, Prva TV Montenegro, Play Radio, six cable channels and three web portals: Prva.rs, O2tv.rs and B92.net. The acquisition value is EUR 180 million. Srdjan Milovanović is the former co-owner of Kopernikus Technology, the second largest cable operator in Serbia, which Telekom Srbija recently bought for around EUR 190 million.

 

 

 

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