HOT TOPICS IN NOVEMBER: Slovenia appoints first female NATO chief-of-staff; Macedonia’s former PM flees to Hungary; Slovenes vote in local elections with few surprises; Serbia’s and Croatia’s economies expected to grow beyond earlier projections; Immofinanz expands further in the regionAdriatic Journal 29 November 2018
Slovenia appoints first female NATO chief-of-staff
"General Major Alenka Ermenc meets all the criteria, she has vast leadership experience, and has demonstrated resolute in conducting the duties required,",said Slovenia's president Borut Pahor
Slovenia’s government appointed Alenka Ermenc as Slovenia army’s chief-of-staff, making her the first woman amongst NATO countries to hold that post. Ermenc, who was the deputy head of Slovenian army before being promoted, is a veteran of Slovenia’s war in 1991. She has been employed by the army for 27 years and was promoted to the rank of major general a week before becoming the army’s chief-of-staff. In her military career, the 55-year-old Ermenc also served in Kosovo as part of KFOR from June to December 2009. She was promoted to the rank of brigadier in 2011, and in March this year she was appointed deputy chief of general staff. Slovenia’s president Borut Pahor, the commander-in-chief of the nation’s armed forces, said in a press release: “General Major Alenka Ermenc meets all the criteria, she has vast leadership experience, and has demonstrated resolute in conducting the duties required.” She will replace Alan Geder as the army’s head. Slovenia’s armed forces comprise a little more than 7,000 troops, one sixth of whom are women.
Macedonia’s former PM flees to Hungary
Macedonia’s former prime minister Nikola Gruevski fled the country after being sentenced to two years in prison for corruption. After failing to show up to serve his sentence earlier last month and disappearing for five days, Macedonian police issued an arrest warrant for Gruevski. He re-emerged in Hungary where he applied for and was granted political asylum. “Today the Republic of Hungary, an EU and NATO member state, responded positively to my previously submitted request to obtain political asylum due to political persecution in the Republic of Macedonia,” Gruevski wrote on his Facebook page. He added that the reason he applied for asylum was “because of being politically persecuted by the new SDSM-led government.” Macedonian government denied this, saying that Gruevski was never threatened or politically persecuted. In addition, his trial was public and transparent and he also had police protection to which he was entitled as a former prime minister, the government said. Macedonia has officially requested Gruevski’s extradition from Hungarian authorities
“We expect the authorities in Budapest to unconditionally accept the extradition request and enable the return of Gruevski to Macedonia to serve his prison sentence and answer for the other things he has been charged with”, the government stated in a press release
Whether Hungary will comply is unclear. Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, however, defended his government’s decision to grant asylum to Gruevski, saying he was an ally because of his help in stopping mass migrations through the Balkan region. He also accused Macedonia’s justice system of being part of political “games” that are taking place in the country, Reuters reported, quoting Orban from an interview he gave to the state radio mr1.
Slovenes vote in local elections with few surprises
In total, 157 out of 212 municipalities elected a mayor in the first round
After last month’s local elections in Slovenia, the capital city’s municipality will continue to be run by Zoran Janković, who’ll serve his fourth term as the mayor. Janković won comfortably in the first round with over 60% of the votes. In Maribor, Slovenia’s second largest municipality, the incumbent mayor Andrej Fištravec suffered a defeated, leaving the former mayor Franc Kangler and the entrepreneur Saša Aresnović in the second-round run-off on 2 December. Arsenović has a slight advantage after the first round, winning 38% of the vote compared to 31% won by Kangler. In Koper, Slovenia’s port city, the popularity of the incumbent mayor Boris Popović, who’s been at the helm of the city since 2002, seems to be waning. He has to go to the second round for the first time since 2002 and will face Aleš Bržan, an independent whose popularity in Koper is on the rise. In total, 157 out of 212 municipalities elected a mayor in the first round. In a nutshell, conservative parties gained more ground while centrist parties continue to lose voters, and independents popularity keeps increasing.
Serbia’ and Croatia’s economies expected to grow beyond earlier projections
Last month the National Bank of Serbia (NBS) announced that the Fitch rating for Serbia’s long-term foreign- and local-currency issuer default ratings (IDR) remains at ‘BB’ with stable outlook. This is based on the assessment that Serbia’s economic policy continues to strengthen macroeconomic fundamentals, improving the business environment and reducing public debt, NBS press release stated. Inflation remains low and stable, and Fitch expects it to move within the target tolerance band in the coming period, approaching 3% in 2019. In addition to price stability, Fitch also highlights improvements in the banking sector – higher asset quality and capital adequacy and the results achieved in terms of reducing NPLs which are currently at their lowest level since the monitoring of NPL ratio began. Serbia’s GDP growth in the first half of the year was better than expected – a 4.9% increase compared to the same period last year, driven by investment and consumption growth. This is why Fitch revised the country’s growth forecast for 2018 from 3.5% to 4.3%. It is also expected that Serbia’s public finances will remain in surplus this year. Fitch also expect that the reduction of public debt share in GDP will continue. Croatian economy is also expected to grow beyond projections, with the European Commission raising the estimate for growth this year to 2.8% from the previous 2.6%. The Commission also boosted the growth forecast in 2019 to 2.8% from the previous 2.5%. Hence, the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019 is expected to reach the pre-crisis level, while in 2020 growth could, however, slow to 2.6%. The Commission estimates the household consumption does not show any signs of slowing down, supported by positive trends in employment and wages.
Immofinanz expands further in the region
Austrian real estate investor and developer Immofinanz Group has bought eight retail parks in Slovenia, Serbia and Croatia for a total of EUR 90.5m, the company announced last month. With these acquisitions, Immofinanz’s “Stop shop” portfolio has expanded to a total of 80 locations in nine countries with over 567,000 sq m of rental space worth about EUR 800m. The newly acquired properties are rented at full capacity and generate an annual rental income of approximately EUR 7.2m, which represents a gross return of 8%, Immofinanz said in a statement. The seller of the properties in Serbia is MPC Group, while the properties in Slovenia and Croatia were bought from the MID Group. Acquisition in Serbia includes retail parks with almost 32,500 sq m of space in Subotica, Borča and Smederevo. In Slovenia, the acquisitions include three retail parks in Maribor, Krško and Ptuj with approximately 22,000 sq m of rentable space. The two retail parks purchased in Croatia with nearly 13,500 sq m of space are located in Osijek and Valpovo. Immofinanz said that further acquisitions are also under consideration. “These acquisitions will strengthen our position as the leading operator of retail parks in Europe, and the start of operations in Croatia will mark our entry into the new EU market, which is very attractive to our international leaseholders,” said Immofinanz operations manager Ditmar Reynald. He added the goal is to increase the number of “Stop shop” retail parks to more than 100.