EU to back Serbia`s difficult reforms: Catherine Ashton
Belgrade: The European Union will help Serbia`s new EU-hopeful government implement ambitious economic reforms, the bloc`s foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said Monday.
"The EU is determined to help and support Serbia in its efforts to ensure a strong economic path for its people," Ashton told reporters after meeting new Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, who was sworn in Sunday at the head of a centre-right government after a snap election on March 16.
Vucic, a former ultra-nationalist turned pro-European, sought EU assistance for the new government.
"We have asked for EU support for difficult economic reforms and the courageous measures that we will implement," he said.
He said Serbia expected to conclude a new deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) "in July at the latest".
Serbia hopes to get approval for a new loan to replace a previous billion-euro ($1.4-billion) credit that was frozen in 2012 because the government failed to meet IMF criteria.
Vucic said his government`s goal was to conclude EU accession talks by the end of his four-year mandate and bring the Balkan nation into the bloc in 2020.
Serbia -- the largest country to emerge from the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, with a population of 7.2 million people -- has to reform antiquated labour and other economic laws and cut down on bureaucracy.
More than 20 percent of the workforce is unemployed, and those with jobs struggle to survive on an average monthly salary of 350 euros ($480).
Serbia opened EU membership talks in January.
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