Bundestag MP: Lithium a chance for Serbia to show it wants to solve problems

NEWS 21.06.202414:02

Tilman Kuban turned 37 last month, he is a member of the German Bundestag Committee on European Union Affairs and Committee on Economic Affairs but, more importantly for Serbia, he is the CDU/CSU parliamentary group rapporteur for Serbia, said Forbes Serbia.

This is why on Tuesday he visited the country again, and met nearly the entire state leadership – Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Parliament speaker Ana Brnabic, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Sinisa Mali, Foreign Affair Minister Marko Djurics and opposition MPs. He also found the time to see the construction site of the Expo 2027 project in the Belgrade suburb of Surcin.

In an interview with Forbes Serbia, Kuban described his visit as productive. He said a reform agenda has been set in Serbia and that everything is on the right track.

If Serbia continues in this direction, it will be on a good path, and we will support it along this journey, he said.

Expo 2027 project

The German MP shows a certain level of understanding for the suspension of the application of the Public Procurement Law for the needs of the Expo 2027 project, but has a message for the Serbian authorities.

“Yes, we discussed this today. On the one hand, we would love to see not only the Chinese companies but especially also European or German companies in this huge project. On the other hand, I also got the point that it needs to be done in three to four years, this is not that much time, so you need to be fast on the one side, and on the other side you need to get as much opportunities for many companies. There might be a struggle between these two points but there are some opportunities,” said Kuban.

Responding to a remark that the project is not sufficiently transparent, he reiterated that, on the one hand, there is the pressure on the time schedule, and, on the other, not enough openness to engage more companies on the project.

“From a German perspective, to be honest, we would love to be in this project with our companies and I think there are some other opportunities around the area, like accommodation or other projects,”, Kuban said.

Asked if he thinks that German companies would be interested in participating in a project that is not sufficiently transparent, Kuban said he hasn’t spoken with the German companies yet, but that he will do that when he gets back and ask them if they see it as an opportunity that is worth pursuing.

Lithium mining

The atmosphere in Serbia is again heating up again regarding the Jadar project and lithium mining following the Serbian president’s statement to the Financial Times that a lithium mine could be opened in Serbia in 2028. Kuban, whose country is also developing lithium projects, was the most direct on this matter.

“First of all I can totally understand that, from the Serbian point of view, everything needs to be checked exactly, and fulfilled, but, in the end, I see that this is a huge opportunity, a big chance for Serbia to send a message towards Europe that we can count on you and that you don’t want to cause problems, you want to solve problems. This is the key message in this project and we would be very happy to have cooperation, with German companies investing over here, not only by using the raw materials but also to produce batteries,” said Kuban.

Asked if there have been any heated debates about lithium in Germany, Kuban was direct again and said: “We know that we need it.”

Dialogue in Serbia, European perspective

The German MP believes that there is a good internal dialogue in Serbia about economic and political issues.

He said he spoke with Serbian Parliament speaker Ana Brnabic and asked her to be in touch with the opposition and maybe take them on a trip to Germany and give them an opportunity to present their arguments and show that parliamentary democracy functions well in Serbia.

Asked if maybe Serbia has disappointed the EU with its lack of readiness to harmonize faster, of if the EU has disappointed Serbia by not providing any certainty of speeding up the accession process, Kuban replied:

“I am a young politician and I don’t like to look to the past. I want to look to the future. That is why I think that there were maybe some mistakes in the past from the Serbian side as well as from the European level, but let’s look to the future. I think that, if you see that 60 percent of foreign investments in the region are in Serbia, so you have the economy growing and there is a reform agenda set. If you follow your path, I’m pretty sure you will be the frontrunner in the region again.”

Asked if he can estimate the year of Serbia’s accession to the EU, Kuban said he is not setting any dates.

“If everybody from both sides is doing their homework, then it could be faster, but if you are not following the path or if we are not following the path from the European side, then it will take longer. So I don’t like to talk about dates,” said Kuban.