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Lavrov postponed his visit to BiH

Minister of Foreign Affairs of BiH Igor Crnadak confirmed that Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, postponed his official visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the new date for the visit having been set for September 21.

Lavrov planned to visit Sarajevo and Banja Luka, but the date had to be changed due to “sudden changes in minister Lavrov's agenda”. Minister Crnadak said that he had a yelephone conversation with Lavrov. As it was said, during the talk Crnadak noted the importance of good relations with the Russian Federation, as well as the visit of Minister Lavrov to Banja Luka, where he was supposed to attend the ceremony of laying the foundation stone for the construction of the Russian-Serbian cultural center.

The organizers decided not to wait the guest from Russia and the ceremony will take a place on Monday, September 17, as it had been planned. The Center will contain a big church, which will be constructed in Russian style. The whole complex of building will be erected as a sign of the gratitude to Russian Tzar, Nikolai Second Romanov, and his help to Serbs during World War I. On January 18, 1916, Nikolai sent a letter to the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, George V, and president of France, Raymond Nicolas Landry Poincaré, saying that the Serb Army needs help to cross the sea from the Albanian coast to Corfu Island, Greece.

"If the Serbian army is not urgently transferred from the Albanian coast to the Greek island of Corfu, Russia will leave Entente and sign a separate peace with Germany", stressed the Russian Tzar in the message, which was sent on the same day when he received the urgent help request from Serbian PM at the time, Nikola Pašić.

Lavrov was supposed to represent the Russian Federation at the ceremony but his decision to postpone it triggered various comments in BiH public. Several media published the opinion that Russian FM does not want to come before it is ensured that he will see the “black list of Russian citizens who are banned from entering BiH”, as it was the recent case with poet, Zakhar Prilepin.

Several analysts argue that it is possible that this important visit will be postponed for some date after the BiH General Elections, because Serb parties in BiH are arguing who called him first to come to BiH – RepublikaSrpska president MiloradDodik, leader of the Alliance of the independent Social Democrats (SNSD), or BiH minister Crnadak, who is member of the Party of Democratic Progress, which is SNSD's opposition at entity level./IBNA

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The “decision” of the EWG and the next day

Without any "objections" on the part of the technocrats was concluded the debate on Greece and the issue of pensions at today's EwG meeting. Following this development, the way is paved for a decision on the matter at the Eurogroup on December, when the Commission's report on the European Semester (November 21) will be released. On the same day, the Greek side will table the budget for 2019 in Parliament, given the non-cuts in pensions, but also the implementation of positive measures that will exceed 900 million euros.

As far as Germany is concerned, what Olaf Scholz has asked from the Greek side is a "convincing mix of measures" so that he can pass the issue from the German Parliament. The same information report that there is satisfaction within the Eurogroup that the Greek side did not move unilaterally but in cooperation with the institutions on the issue of the pensions.

The Greek side

According to a senior government official, there was no objection to Greece's suggestion and to the positive recommendation of the Commission. The EwG, after considering the Greek side's suggestion and the positive evaluation of the Commission, did not raise any objection to the draft budget for 2019, sources from the Ministry of Finance said, referring to the Greek side's proposal to cancel the pre-approved measure of the reduction of pensions. Regarding the amount of positive measures, the same sources pointed to the recent Prime Minister's statements for a EUR 900 million package.

It is recalled that Germany's Finance Minister, who met with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras earlier today, has rushed to say that "everything was done well, very wisely, and were prepared very seriously and through a dialogue with the European Union. We are just before these talks are completed, but we have not yet reached there (at the end)"./IBNA

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Turkey “votes”… electric locomotion

The World Bank supports Turkey with USD 200 million, with the aim of protecting the environment through the upgrading of public buildings and support for electric locomotion.

According to Fatih Dönmez, Turkey's Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, the municipalities and public institutions will use the long-term low interest rate financing offered by the IBANK banking group.

The aim is to limit the need to import hydrocarbons, necessary for the smooth operation of the domestic market and industry, in order to boost the country's economy, which has been under considerable pressure.

"In 2017 we saved USD 122 million through energy upgrade investments, which prevented gas imports worth USD 500 million", the Turkish official pointed out during his speech at the General Assembly of the Union of Energy Efficiency, which was held in Istanbul.

Turkey plans to make investments worth USD 11 billion to complete improved energy efficiency projects in all relevant sectors by 2023, in order to save, through a range of interventions, USD 30 billion by 2033, as is reflected in the national action plan to save energy, which was announced earlier this year.

"During Turkey's endeavor to embrace its energy efficiency targets, imported resources will be gradually reduced", said Fatih Dönmez, adding that "in this way money that we would have to pay to other countries will remain in their pockets our citizens".

Turkey seeks to "become a pioneer in the use of electric motors and hybrid cars", said the Turkish Energy Minister, "as the electrification solution is showing an upward trend."

Turkey is not considered a "rich" country with regard to the existence of energy resources in its territory, and any new energy imports burden the Turkish economy directly, and as Fatih Dönmez said, for this reason "we are targeting long-term solutions."

Turkey will have saved energy equal to USD 24 million tons of oil by 2023 thanks to its new energy planning./IBNA

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Cash still has a future, financial experts say

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the introduction of the Convertible Mark (BAM) as the legal tender in Bosnia and Herzegovina the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina (CBBH), in cooperation with the USAID, organized the international conference “The future of cash”, on Thursday in Sarajevo.

Recognized experts from Austria, Albania, Bulgaria, FYROMacedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina participated in the conference, to discuss cash and non-cash payments, digitisation and fintech. The fact that was pointed out is that, despite a significant technological progress achieved in financial mediation, the trend of a continuous increase of cash in circulation has been present since 2007, which is considered a direct effect of the global financial crisis.

Addressing the participants, Governor Softić emphasized that the convertible mark fully justified its introduction after 20 years of existence and that since then Bosnia and Herzegovina has recorded an exceptional financial stability and low inflation.

"We have done part of the work, established a reliable and solid framework, now all of us, not only the CBBH but also the executive authorities, need to implement structural reforms in order to accelerate economic growth, to reduce unemployment and to increase the standard of citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina", Softić said.

Deputy Director of the IMF for Europe, Jörg Decressin, said that the issue of digital payments has already matured, and they offer a variety of alternatives to cash.

“Yet, the cashless or less-cash society, as appealing as it may sound, has so far remained elusive. But, the tide could turn. Fintech innovations could provide ever more opportunities that favor digital payments”, said Decressin and added that the central banks should face the challenges brought about by private digital currencies and crypto-assets.

Belma Čolaković, the Chief Economist of the CBBH, emphasized that reliance solely on the level of registered and legal economic activity in the country can result in inadequately formulated economic policies. She added that, with the growth of the importance of fintech, the assessment of real demand for money is additionally complicated and consequently the measuring of economic activities in the country.

Director of the USAID Mission to BiH, Peter Duffy, said that USAID is very proud to support the Currency board and the Central Bank of BiH for the past 20 years, since the introduction of BAM, emphasizing that this support resulted in financial stability in BiH.

"This was possible to achieve to a large extent because the Currency board and the Central Bank of BiH were independent. Political calls to abolish the currency board do not take into account the current situation, or what might happen", Duffy told journalists at the conference.

When it comes to the age of digitisation in the financial sector, a strong impact of digital technologies on banking is something that is already happening, with great potential for further growth. Some of the participants of the conference forecast that in the developed countries, banking with citizens will be almost completely automated by 2020, and that automation will help banks to reduce their operating costs in some sectors by 30-40%.

In the conclusion of the conference, it was assessed that regulators will have to change their approach, to adjust the framework in which they operate, in order to follow along with market developments. Regarding the cryptocurrencies, it was mentioned that those are high-risk assets and investments, and not money in the standard sense, which include some underlying liabilities./IBNA

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Where did Gruevski pass through on his way to Hungary? 

The escape of former FYROM Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski to Hungary continues to be a mystery, while various scenarios are being voiced in Serbia as to how he reached Budapest.

Gruevski did not have a passport because it had been seized by authorities; the only way was to illegally cross the border (from an unguarded point) or use a forged travel document. Belgrade's Politika newspaper reveals that Gruevski crossed the FYROM – Albania border with a fake passport on Sunday night to reach Tirana. From there he found refuge at the Hungarian embassy and the following day he was led to the airport to board a Malev flight – Politika claims – to Budapest.

The Serbian newspaper even mentions that Gruevski was disguised, wearing sunglasses and a hat so that he would not be recognized by passengers or airline staff. The report, which is presented as an exclusive, does not site sources nor is it signed by an editor, thus raising many questions about its validity.

Malev – the airline Gruevski allegedly used – has not been in operation since 2012. A low-cost airline offers the Tirana – Budapest flight, at night, not in the morning as the Serbian newspaper reported. On the other hand, it would be absurd to try to escape through Albania, given that Gruevski did not have good political relations with Edi Rama, who he previously accused of interfering in FYROM politics.

Another version of Gruevski's escape is presented by the Serbian opposition, which is accusing Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic of helping his friend, the former FYROM premier, reach Hungary. According to this scenario, men from the Serbian Security and Intelligence Service (BIA) waited for Gruevski at some point on the border with FYROM and led him to the Hungarian border where he was handed over to Orban’s people.

An announcement by the PSG political group addresses the following questions to Serbia's Aleksandar Vucic: How is Belgrade involved in the escape of Gruevski? Did he, in violation of the law, order the BIA to help Gruevski pass through Serbia?

This scenario is not based on any evidence and is characterized by a strong partisan element. It is based primarily on the fact that Vucic has good political and personal relations with Gruevski and Orban, and therefore his involvement in the case is seen as reasonable./IBNA

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Greek PM to meet with Brnabić, Borissov and Birchall in Thessaloniki today

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will visit Thessaloniki this afternoon to participate in the third Thessaloniki Summit organized by the Association of Industries of Northern Greece.

The main focus of the summit and the debates organized as part of it is "European perspective and connectivity, industrial development and cooperation in the Western Balkans"; a subject of great interest to the business, economic, investment and political community of the Western Balkans and the wider region.

In this light, Alexis Tsipras will meet with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, and then at 18.30 he will address the Summit. Next to the Greek PM, the Prime Minister of Serbian, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and Romanian Deputy Prime Minister Ana Birchall will discuss regional co-operation as part of European integration.

The Prespes Agreement, bilateral and tripartite agreements on energy, transport and infrastructure cooperation, will also be on the agenda of the debate in Thessaloniki. Besides, on the initiative of Athens, cooperation between the Balkan states has been particularly strengthened in recent years.

Positive messages from Brussels

The Greek premier travels to Thessaloniki carrying positive messages from Brussels and the EuroWorking Group meeting. According to sources, the EWG is expected to give the green light for the adoption of positive measures and putting off pension cuts, especially after the release of data showing fiscal space available is worth around 900 million euros, almost 200 million euros above target./IBNA

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