The anticipated contract between Italy's
Fiat and the Zastava automobile factory
in Kragujevac has been the subject of
ongoing discussion in the Serbian media.
Many details remain unclear. In general,
the deal calls for Zastava to begin
producing an older model of the Fiat
Punto, as well as providing spare parts
for this automobile. Before that can
happen, however, Zastava must pay off an
11m-euro debt to Fiat.
Economists have mostly welcomed the
agreement, although they say it is long
in coming, having been delayed for years
by the conflict in the Balkans. "At this
time this is good news, although I
remember that in 1991 Fiat and Zastava
were ready to sign a contract for the
assembly of a Fiat model in Kragujevac,"
says Misa Brkic, a journalist for the
weekly Vreme. "Fourteen years
have elapsed and those talks are being
continued only now. Hence, so much time
has been lost, and for the people who
worked at Zastava all we see is an
enormous burden," Brkic adds.
At least two major benefits are
expected. To begin with, new workers may
be hired for assembling the Punto,
helping to alleviate unemployment in
Kragujevac. At the same time, new
technology will be introduced into the
antiquated Zastava factory. "During
technological innovation we had an
opportunity to take on production of
individual parts, both in Zastava, as
well as in companies across Serbia.
Considerable opportunities will be
created both for manufacturing and for
employment," says Zastava general
director Zoran Radojevic.