Last year the Government overseas trade agency Trade Partners UK convened a joint public/private sector task force to assess work needed for the reconstruction of Kosovo.
Following up on its successes, and in anticipation of the toppling of Slobodan Milosevic, TPUK called together a similar task force in September for Serbia and Montenegro.
It was clear from work with the Kosovo Task Force that real opportunities in Serbia would come once democracy was established. The country's infrastructure was either damaged or in need of modernisation.
Furthermore, Serbia is the geographic centre of the Balkans and the missing centrepiece of the Stability Pact, which envisages major infrastructure projects binding the Balkans together and linking them with Central Europe.
For these reasons, it was deemed desirable to expand the Kosovo Task Force to include Serbia and Montenegro. The European Commission is also now expanding the role of the European Agency for Reconstruction, set up specifically for Kosovo, to include Serbia and Montenegro.
At the first meeting of the Task Force, held in minister for trade Richard Caborn's office on 12 October, the following objectives were laid out:
to help the people of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia rebuild their country and economy to co-ordinate the approach of UK companies wishing to work in Yugoslavia to ensure that UK companies work with the European Commission, UK Government, Stability Pact, international funding institutions and other humanitarian agencies.
The Serbia & Montenegro Task Force is multi-disciplinary, drawing together civil, structural, oil and gas, petrochemical and electrical engineering, communications, manufacturing, procurement, agriculture, healthcare and banking expertise. It is now 30 members strong.
An exploratory visit has identified tasks for immediate attention.
A picture of projects to be undertaken in the longer term is emerging. A preliminary report back follows.
Chairman of the UK Government/private sector task force for Serbia and Montenegro, 2 November 2000