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DAILY SURVEY 14.02.2018.
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SERBIA - CROATIA

VUCIC, GRABAR KITAROVIC ATTEND SERBIAN NATIONAL COUNCIL SESSION IN ZAGREB

ZAGREB, 13 February 2018 (Beta) - Attending a Feb. 13 session of the Serbian National Council in Zagreb, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said that he wished for "boundaries and barriers" between Croats and Serbs to be erased. The chair of the Council, Milorad Pupovac, said at the opening of the special session held at the Zagreb-based Vatroslav Lisinski hall, that "relations between Serbs and Croats, and Serbia and Croatia, must not be held prisoner, let alone taken hostage by the past." Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic said that she was pleased to have an opportunity to greet the Council members as their president, and expressed confidence that the Serbs and the Croats could work together, despite the fact that they couldn't agree on everything about the past. President Vucic said that the past three decades had been very difficult for the two countries, but that his mission was to erase "boundaries and barriers" between the peoples. He said that the European Union was a shared ambition, but that peace and stability were two other goals to strive for. President Vucic again thanked his Croatian counterpart for, as he put it, having the courage to invite him, adding that an invitation for her to visit Serbia would be sent shortly. The president also said that he expected that, during her visit to Belgrade, planned to take place in a few months, Grabar Kitarovic would be able to see a better position for the Croat minority in Serbia, as a result of presidential cooperation. "Long live Serbia and Croatia, long live the Serbian people, and I wish for a merrier welcome next time!" the Serbian president said at the end of his speech. Grabar Kitarovic said that a better relationship was in the best interest of Serbia and Croatia alike, adding that Serbia's membership of the EU would be good for Croatia too, and that she was confident that the two countries were able to resolve open issues without international involvement. Speaking in the overcrowded Lisinski hall, Pupovac said that, in return for what they had done over the past couple of days, the two presidents deserved gratitude and support to their actions and goals. Also present at the session were Croatian Minister of Justice Drazen Bosnjakovic, the Serbian construction and EU integration ministers, Zorana Mihajlovic and Jadranka Joksimovic, who accompanied Vucic throughout the visit, Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic, diplomats and religious leaders. Attendance at the Serbian Council's session concluded Vucic's two-day visit to Croatia, where he met with the country's top government officials and visited Vrginmost.

VUCIC IN VRGINMOST: SERBS, CROATS SHARE THE SAME PROBLEMS

ZAGREB, 13 February 2018 (Beta) - Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in Vrginmost, on Feb. 13, that Serbs and Croats shared virtually the same problems, which was exactly why they were easier to solve together. The president said that he could sense a genuine will for cooperation among Croatian officials, and that he would soon invite his Croatian counterpart, Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, to visit Serbia. Vucic visited a Serbian family of five that had returned to Vrginmost, and toured a primary school, to which he donated ten PCs. "This is a very nice school, but it would be good to have more children here. Clearly this is a big problem in both countries," Vucic was quoted as saying by the HINA news agency. The school headmaster, Barbara Ljubisic, said that there were 230 pupils back in 2002, but the number dropped to 93, 42 percent of whom were Orthodox children. The children attend classes together, but there are optional subjects, like Orthodox religious teaching, or Serbian language and culture, she explained. The Serbian president also visited a community center in Vrginmost, where he addressed some 200 minority Serbs and local officials. President Vucic thanked them for having stayed in the area despite difficult living conditions, adding that on his way to Vrginmost he could see the marks of wartime devastation, and how few people lived there. "I have come to Croatia to improve relations between Croats and Serbs, and build a relationship in which no one would humiliate or defeat, but rather a relationship of cooperation, in which the Serbs in Croatia could live a more peaceful life and enjoy a safer future," Vucic said. Vucic added that this was why he could not understand recent attacks against the Croatian president, reiterating that "despite different views on the past, the Serbian and Croatian interests are not that much different when it comes to the future." The Serbian president told the crowd that they should not hesitate to ask either Croatia or Serbia for help. "We will help as much as we can, because we want every Croat in Serbia to be proud of their Croatian names, not to be afraid of anyone, and say that they are Croats... Along these same lines, I want all of you Serbs here to be proud of your Serbian names and surnames, not to be ashamed or afraid of anyone," he said. Vucic said he had good talks with Croatian leaders. "While talking to Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, I could see a genuine will to cooperate and produce tangible results in a few months. I will invite her to come to Serbia shortly," Vucic said. The HINA news agency reported that the Vrginmost locals had shared their problems with the president, from unpaid pensions, through legal difficulties over tenant rights, to overall living conditions. Vrginmost is a community near Petrova Gora, renamed Gvozd after the Homeland War. The original name was reinstated in 2012, but the name of the Gvozd municipality remained the same. According to the 2011 census, the Gvozd municipality's 19 communities were inhabited by 2,970 people. The Serbs make up 66.53 percent of the population, and nearly one-third of the population is over 65.

SERBIA

DACIC, BRAATHU DISCUSS ACTIVITIES OF OSCE MISSION IN KOSOVO

BELGRADE, 13 February 2018 (Beta) - Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic met in Belgrade, on Feb. 13, with Jan Braathu, the head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Mission in Kosovo, to discuss the Mission's activities and the issues of relevance to monitoring the situation on the ground. The minister and the diplomat underlined the importance of the OSCE Mission in the context of its mandate and neutral status, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported. The two officials also pointed to a need for the consistent and systematic monitoring of human rights and communities, as well as strengthening the Mission's capacity in that regard.

LAVROV CONGRATULATES DACIC AHEAD OF STATEHOOD DAY

BELGRADE, 13 February 2018 (Beta) - Russian Ambassador to Serbia Alexandar Chepurin on Feb. 13 presented Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic with a congratulatory note from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the occasion of Serbian Statehood Day. The level of trust and the frequency of Russian-Serbian contact shows clearly that relations between our countries are continuously and productively developing. I am sure that the established several centuries-long tradition of friendship and mutual support, which remain fundamentally important, will contribute further to deepening bilateral ties in all areas, the note says. Lavrov added that this fully suited the interests of the peoples of Russia and Serbia and contributed to strengthening security in the Balkans. "I wish you health, well-being and success in your undertakings," the Russian foreign minister said. Dacic and the Russian ambassador discussed an up-coming visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Belgrade as part of marking 180 years since diplomatic relations were established between Serbia and Russia.

BRNABIC WITH ORESHKIN: RUSSIA RELIABLE PARTNER, TRADITIONAL FRIEND

BELGRADE, 13 February 2018 (Beta) - Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said at a Feb. 13 meeting with Russia's Minister of Economic Development Maxim Oreshkin that Russia had been a reliable partner and a traditional friend, as well as one of Serbia's most important economic partners. Oreshkin said that Russian capital accounted for a considerable part of foreign investment in Serbian companies, saying that this was a very good time for Serbian companies to penetrate Russian markets, especially the infrastructure sector. The two agreed that there was great potential for Serbian-Russian cooperation in high technology and innovation, as well as between research and education institutes, the Serbian government said in a press release. Speaking of bilateral relations, Prime Minister Brnabic said they were based on mutual trust and respect, as well consistent support in many areas. The Serbian PM said that the 180th anniversary of diplomatic relations would be celebrated later in February, when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was expected to visit Serbia. Referencing a free-trade agreement the two countries had signed, Brnabic said that it would be very important for Serbia if Russia continued the liberalization of Serbian imports. The government went on to report that the Russian ambassador, Alexander Chepurin, handed to the Serbian prime minister a letter of congratulations by her Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, on Serbia's upcoming Statehood Day.

MINISTER POPOVIC: SERBIA RELIES ON RUSSIA IN INNOVATION DEVELOPMENT, DIGITAL ECONOMY

BELGRADE, 13 February 2018 (Beta) - Serbian Minister of Innovation and Technological Development Nenad Popovic and Russian Economy Minister Maxim Orshkin met on Feb. 13 to discuss bilateral cooperation in the digitization sector. Popovic and Oreshkin underlined the importance of cooperation in developing "smart cities," a press release noted. Popovic was quoted as saying that Serbia relied heavily on Russia's experience in developing innovation and digital economy, and that he hoped that cooperation would grow. "I recently visited a technology park and the Skolkovo university in Moscow. This is an example for Serbia as to how to educate young engineers and make them successful young entrepreneurs," Popovic said. The minister added that Serbia wanted to attract as many Russian high-tech companies as possible, and that it was "prepared to offer them the best possible conditions to start a business here." Oreshkin also met Serbian Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications Rasim Ljajic.

DJURIC: SERBIA WANTS TO CONTINUE DIALOG, OBSTRUCTION COMING FROM PRISTINA

BELGRADE, 13 February 2018 (Beta) - Director of the Serbian government's Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric said on Feb. 13 that Serbia wanted the Brussels dialog to resume and added that any obstruction of the process was coming solely from Pristina, whose assembly "even formally decided to freeze dialog" over a year ago. "We have notified Brussels that we are ready to continue the dialog," Djuric said at a meeting with OSCE mission chief in Kosovo Jan Braathu. A statement issues after the meeting read that Djuric had told the OSCE official that Serbia would continue to politically, economically and in every other way help the Serb people in Kosovo and Metohija, and that it would continue to do so more intensely in the future. Djuric and Braathu discussed the political and security situation in Kosovo and Metohija, and the investigation into Oliver Ivanovic's murder. Djuric said that he was pleased that, though a month late, the first documents on Ivanovic's murder had finally begun to arrive from Pristina.

TURKISH AMBASSADOR: ECONOMIC RELATIONS WITH SERBIA CONTINUALLY IMPROVING

BELGRADE, 13 February 2018 (Beta) - Economic and trade relations between Serbia and Turkey have been constantly on the rise over the past few years, and trade exceeded a billion dollars, the Turkish ambassador to Serbia, Tanju Bilgic, said on Feb. 13. The ambassador said at a meeting with the chairman of the Serbian parliament's committee on foreign relations, Zarko Obradovic, that Turkish investments in Serbia were expanding, and that a wool factory was opened in Lebane in January. The minister and the Serbian parliamentarian discussed inter-parliamentary cooperation, and agreed it would be beneficial for the Serbian and Turkish chairs of foreign policy committees to meet.