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Reports that Serbia may have to find millions of dollars to cover the cost of Vuk Jeremic's presidency over the UN General Assembly are stirring controversy in the crisis-hit country.
One of the tasks of Serbia's new government will be deciding how to secure funds from the state budget to finance the UN office of Vuk Jeremic during his presidency of the General Assembly, Balkan Insight has learned from the government.
The post is mainly of a technical nature but it still carries a certain degree of prestige and responsibility.
Last week, Serbia's outgoing government passed a regulation that envisions establishing an office for monitoring the activities of the General Assembly during Jeremic's presidency.
The problem is that under UN rules, published on the website of the world organization, the total cost of the presidency of the UN, including the chairman's salary, comes from his or her country of origin.
Jeremic: Figures are ridiculous
In a talk show hosted by Belgrade-based broadcaster Prva on Wednesday, Jeremic said that that the "figures that have appeared have nothing to do with reality" and that the budget for his office in New York was still in its draft phase, adding that it would be drafted by the new government.
"Serbia's chairmanship of the UN will undoubtedly be costly ... All the doors of the world, both political and economic ones, will be open to Serbia. This is an honor that has its price," Jeremic said.
Media have since reported that the amount that Serbia will have to stump up could exceed 7 million US dollars.
This has stirred controversy at a time when Serbia is facing a grave economic crisis, with an unemployment rate of 24 per cent and avarage monthly salaries of only 350 euro.
Dragan Djilas, deputy president of the Democrats, said it would be disgraceful for the government to approve 7 million dollars for the post at such a time.
"In a country in which there is not enough money even for the most vulnerable, and where incubators for babies have to be purchased through humanitarian actions, spending so much money for a year in New York is outrageous," Djilas told the daily newspaper Blic.
The Foreign Ministry has announced that final budget for the one-year chairmanship of the UN is yet to be defined and sent to the new government for adoption. The office would operate within General Secretariat of the Serbian Government.
During the election campaign in April, all major parties in Serbia advocated cuts in public sector and the closure of a number of government agencies.
Donors spent hundreds of thousands of euro building a new museum in Gjirokastra - but the results were questionable and it ultimately closed over an ideological dispute.