Strauss-Kahn relaunches finance career… in Serbia

The man unofficially known as "disgraced DSK" finally got his finance career back on track on Tuesday when the former IMF chief took up a new role. Strauss-Kahn, the former French finance minister is charged with helping Serbia turn its ailing economy around.

Strauss-Kahn relaunches finance career... in Serbia
DSK lands a new job, but he has some tough days ahead, facing trial for pimping. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

Disgraced former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn pledged Tuesday to do his best to help Belgrade revive its ailing economy as he began to advise the Serbian government.

"It's not going to be easy … There are some real problems but I think it's possible" to solve them, Strauss-Kahn said at a press conference held jointly with Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic.

Strauss-Kahn said that after a thorough analysis of the economic situation in Serbia his team "will see with the government what kind of advice we can provide."

But, the 64-year-old warned that the most difficult task was up to the government.

"It's always easier to be an advisor than to be the government" which has to undertake and implement decisions, said Strauss-Kahn who spoke in English.

The former IMF chief stressed that contact with the Serbian government was established through the head of the Arjil investment bank, Wladimir Mollof, who has a contract with Belgrade and who had asked him to "join the team".

Strauss-Kahn said that during the first three months of his collaboration with Belgrade he would work for free and added that later remuneration would be considered afterwards.

Asked by journalists whether Strauss-Kahn's involvement in alleged sexual scandals in the past could harm the Serbian government's image, Vucic said that the only thing Belgrade was interested in were his competences in economic issues.

Strauss-Kahn resigned from his IMF job following his 2011 arrest over an alleged sexual assault on a New York hotel maid, but eventually reached an undisclosed financial settlement with his accuser.

French prosecutors have said he will face trial on pimping charges along with 12 others over an alleged prostitution ring.

"We are not ashamed to say that he knows much more about economy than all of us … and that in his address book he has more contacts from the world of finances than all of us together" in the government, Vucic said.

Strauss-Kahn, who was once considered a serious candidate for the French presidency, has recently sought to return to public life, appearing at economic conferences in France and abroad and setting up an office in Paris.

But he said in July that his political career was over and he was instead working as an economic advisor.

International Monetary Fund experts believe the Serbian government needs to introduce severe budget cuts, including public administration costs and pensions.

Serbia's economy shrank 1.7 percent in 2012 while unemployment rose to 24 percent. Its growing public debt has already exceeded 60 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

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Why has Serbia pledged €1 million for Notre-Dame restoration?

Serbia on Monday said it will donate one million euros to help restore Notre-Dame Cathedral, after pro-government tabloids said the fire was "God's punishment" to France.

Why has Serbia pledged €1 million for Notre-Dame restoration?
French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Photo: AFP

The donation, equivalent to $1.1 million, “confirms our century-old friendship with the French people”, the Serbian government said in a statement.

Belgrade hopes “this symbol of French civilisation and the world will be rebuilt as quickly as possible.”

The gift comes after two tabloids, Alo and Informer, said the blaze was divine retribution after Kosovo's flag was displayed inside the cathedral during World War I centennial commemorations in Paris last year.

Serbia does not recognise the independence of Kosovo, a former southern province that broke away in a 1998-99 war.

The tabloid articles, entitled “God's punishment caught them”, were later removed, while Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic assured that “all citizens of Serbia are sad” about the fire.

The display of Kosovo's flag inside the church, alongside those of other foreign guests at the ceremony last November, was tweeted by Serbia's ambassador to Paris but never confirmed by the cathedral or French authorities.

It was met with outrage in Belgrade, which was already angry after Kosovo's president was given a more prominent position than Serbia's at one of the centenary's events.

Hundreds of millions of euros have poured in from around the globe to help rebuild the cathedral since it went up in flames last Monday.

French President Emmanuel Macron has set a five-year deadline to rebuild the cathedral, which took around 200 years to erect.