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Serbia PM: Reform in the Balkans 'worse than hell'

Trying to push through reforms to boost competitiveness in the Balkans is "worse than hell", the prime minister of Serbia said, adding the necessary measures have been delayed for what seems like "centuries".

As Serbia sets its sights on EU membership, new privatization, bankruptcy and construction permit laws are set to be pushed through in order to revive the country's stagnant economy, Aleksandar Vučić told CNBC, adding that the lack of competitiveness is the country's "biggest problem".

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Suburban landscape in New Belgrade, Serbia
Koca Sulejmanovic | AFP | Getty Images
Suburban landscape in New Belgrade, Serbia

"It is not an easy situation. We have been delaying all reforms we dare to say centuries, but actually it is decades, and now we have to do almost everything to create better business environment," Vučić said.

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"Whenever you try to do any kind of reform in the Balkans, it doesn't matter whether that is Croatia, Bosnia or Serbia it's going to be worse than hell – very difficult of course, but I am absolutely dedicated to that, absolutely determined and I have no doubt we will be very successful," he said.

Serbia kept interest rates on hold this month, keeping its main interest rate at 8.5 percent after cutting interest rates the previous two months in a row, as record flooding hit the country's already weakened economy.

Serbia is at risk of falling into its third recession in five years after torrential rainfall caused severe flooding in the country devastated homes, businesses and land in the country.

Vucic has promised to make the country a more attractive place for foreign investors, and is set to include cutting the subsidies to nearly 160 state-owned enterprises in order to save Serbia from bankruptcy.

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"Yes we are on the EU path, but we need to do a lot more to make it more attractive place for foreign investors, from Western society and we are capable of doing that," he said.

Vucic said he was not going to wait for Europe to help resolve Serbia's problems, but intends on making fiscal adjustments that will be "very tough for the people".

Speaking on the country's close ties with Russia, the prime minister said Serbia is on a "very clear EU path".

"That is what I said to Putin two days ago, we do respect our friends from Russia, we have a very good co-operation and collaboration, but our main orientation, our goal is to be a part of EU. That is quite normal and very rational and dare to say very reasonable," he added.

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