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Serbia: Dinkić unhappy with Russia deal, wants changes

Although Serbia signed a landmark energy deal with Russia, one of its ministers is voicing dissatisfaction - according to local B92.

Economy Minister Mlađan Dinkić says the agreement, signed in Moscow Friday between the two countries’ top officials, envisages the sale of Serbia's oil monopoly NIS to Gazprom for an “unrealistically low price. It is quite clear that the €400 million (about $588.8 million) for NIS is an unrealistically low price and I will fight to change this part of the energy agreement, considering that it will only come into force once it is ratified,” Dinkić said. The leader of the ruling coalition’s junior partner, G17 Plus, also announced he will struggle to keep the state from handing over the majority control over NIS to the Russian oil and gas giant. The energy sector agreement proposes that Gazprom acquires a 51% stake in NIS for €400 million, with future investments through 2012 worth an additional €400 million.

The construction of a Russian trunk gas pipeline across Serbia and the building of an underground gas storage in Banatski Dvor, Vojvodina, was also thrown in the deal. Dinkić’s cabinet colleague, Infrastructure Minister Velimir Ilić (NS), has a very different view on the agreement this weekend, describing it as “the deal of the century” that will bring large investments to the country. The value of the South Stream pipeline construction works alone will reach €1.6 billion, the minister says. “This spells out thousands of new jobs. Besides, once we build this pipeline, we will employ our workers on long-term maintenance. Thirdly, our natural gas demand will be covered 100%,” Ilić was confident. But he also added there was “certainly still room for changes” to the agreement, “especially when it comes to the €400 million price tag.”

Meanwhile, Minister for Mining and Energy Aleksandar Popović (DSS), says the negotiations on the details of the energy deal will “take months. These documents will specify absolutely all of the energy and financial effects [of the agreement],” Popović reassured, and added the document, signed in Moscow Friday, will only then be sent to the parliament for ratification. (B92)