BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia is planning to set up a new agency to investigate disasters at sea, despite having no coastline of its own and little money to spare in the public purse, a government official said on Monday.
Under the draft law, to be sent to parliament for approval when it reconvenes in September, the body will be responsible "for investigation of maritime disasters, proposing measures for avoidance of such accidents and improvement of maritime navigation."
Serbia lost its access to the Adriatic Sea in 2006 when it parted with Montenegro, its smaller partner in the then State Union of Serbia and Montenegro. The EU applicant country has no maritime merchant fleet, but it does have merchant river ships that ply the Danube and its smaller rivers.
"True, Serbia has no seagoing vessels, but it has about 5,000 sailors working on foreign ships and the law must be adopted as part of our efforts to join the European Union," a government spokesman said. "If some day someone registers a ship under the Serbian flag we will be responsible for it."
Analysts were dismissive of the plan, saying it would place an added burden on Serbia's already strained public spending.
Danijel Cveticanin, a lecturer with the Belgrade-based Singidunum University, quipped that the state should set up a space agency as well.
"This is another useless institution that will be fed from the budget," he said.
Among the conditions for joining the EU, Serbia must reform its economy, improve the business climate and root out organised crime, corruption and red tape as well as mend ties with Kosovo its former ethnic-Albanian populated province.
(Reporting By Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)