ECONOMY

Serbia aims for EU accession by 2012

BELGRADE (Reuters) – Serbia yesterday unveiled optimistic economic targets for the next three years, focusing on strong growth and lower inflation and aiming for 2012 as the year it will join the European Union. A 146-page Finance Ministry document submitted to Parliament pledged «macroeconomic stability, a stable dinar currency and limited inflation,» paired with 5 percent growth in 2006 and 2007 and 7 percent in 2008. Inflation was seen as declining steadily, from 9.3 percent in 2006 to 4.5 percent in 2008. This year, the economy is expected to post 5.1 percent growth, with inflation estimated at 15 percent. The consolidated budget surplus was forecast as growing to 2.8 percent of GDP in 2006 and 3 percent in 2008. «Many uncertainties and risks… are related to economic growth at home and abroad, the conclusion of the privatization process, the size of private savings and the foreign investment inflow,» the paper said. Belgrade will start formal talks next week on a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA), the first step to membership. It hopes to clinch the deal by end-2006. «The government will speed up the process of accession to the World Trade Organization and the European Union, with the aim to ensure WTO membership in 2008 and EU membership in 2012.» The paper did not lay out a strategy to tackle what many see as the country’s biggest problem – rising unemployment, which last year hit 18.5 percent according to the International Labor Organization.