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15.07.2011. / AKI

Serbian economists have expressed fear that Italy’s financial crisis may have adverse effects on the Serbian economy as the parliament in Rome was on Friday expected to approve over 40 billion euros of spending cuts over the next four years.
Meanwhile, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi cancelled at the last minute a visit to Belgrade on Friday amid increasingly strident calls by the Italian opposition for his resignation. Berlusconi said he wanted to attend the lower house of parliament debate and vote Friday on the austerity measures.

Italy is Serbia’s leading trade partner, with a total trade turnover of 1.75 billion euros last year and an increase of 25 percent in the first five months of this year. Italy is the top importer of Serbian goods, but the austerity measures were likely to slow down imports and Italian investments in the Serbian economy, economists said.

“Italy is one of our main trade partners and what is especially important is that exports almost equaled imports,” economist Zoran Ciric told media.

 “There is a risk that Italy’s demand for Serbian goods will be reduced,” he added.

Ciric’s views were shared by other economists who also expected a cut in Italy’s investments, which currently top one billion euros, and the likely pull-out from investment deals.

There are some 200 Italian companies doing business in Serbia, employing over 15,000 people. The biggest Italian companies in Serbia are Fiat automobile producer, Benetton clothing company and four banks, including Banca Intesa.

The government of pro-European president Boris Tadic has nurtured special ties with Italy, despite Rome’s recognition of Kosovo, whose majority Albanians declared independence in 2008.

Italian senate voted 161 to 135 in favour of a 45 billion euro austerity package on Thursday. The measures aim to prevent a major debt crisis and eliminate Italy's budget deficit by 2014 by combining cuts and revenue-raising measures.

Berlusconi's centre-right coalition has a slimmer majority in the lower house but is expected to prevail in Friday's vote, to be tabled as a motion of confidence in the government.

Berlusconi was widely criticised for spending Monday - amid market turmoil - in talks with his lawyers and family on how their Fininvest business empire would respond to a court order to pay a media rival 560 million euros in damages. He has not been seen in public for a week.

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