DACIC, DANIELSSON ON EUROPEAN INTEGRATION
BELGRADE, 23 February 2017 (Beta) - On Feb. 23, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic met with European Director General for Enlargement Christian Danielsson to discuss Serbia's European integration and the regional situation. During the discussion Serbia's future in the EU was confirmed and both sides agreed that the reform process and activities that the Serbian government was conducting were heading in the right direction, the Foreign Ministry said. The Serbian foreign minister said that the approach that Serbia's progress in European integration was valued through the lens of progress in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina was unsustainable in the long-term. Dacic and the European Commission official talked about the situation in the region, especially in light of the fact that the Bosniak member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency Bakir Izetbegovic had filed a request with the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) for launching a revision of the court's ruling against Serbia. According to him, Serbia remains committed to regional cooperation and preserving regional stability, but also the need for other regional actors to act likewise. He also touched on the situation in Croatia and informed Danielsson that Serbia had been forced to react several times to evident attempts at revisionism of the Ustasha and fascist policy that was implemented in the Independent State of Croatia during World War II.
VUCIC ADVOCATES JOINT APPEARANCE OF SERBIA, MONTENEGRO, BOSNIA ON TOURISM MARKET
BELGRADE, 23 February 2017 (Beta) - Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic stated on Feb. 23 that Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina should appear together on the tourism market, and announced that 2017 would be the year of large and serious investments in spas in Serbia. Opening the International Tourism Fair in Belgrade, Vucic said that only through joint participation on the market and joint offers to tourists seeking new destinations, could Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Macedonia, accomplish an incomparably better result and profit from tourism. "We will also know how to preserve the most important thing - security, safety and peace in the Western Balkans. Foreign tourists seek new destinations and that is our best opportunity. This is the area they want to see and we guarantee them complete security and hospitality," Vucic said. He stated that Serbia, which had never achieved much in tourism since it did not consider it the most important developmental branch, still had 200 million euros more in profit than Montenegro, where tourism was the most important developmental branch. In his words, Serbia earned a record high of 1.42 billion euros from tourism last year.
VUCIC: I AM HOPING FOR AN AGREEMENT ON DIRECT FLIGHTS TO BEIJING
BELGRADE, 23 February 2017 (Beta) - Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic stated on Feb. 23 that he was hoping for an agreement with a private Chinese airline on the introduction of direct flights between Belgrade and Beijing. Vucic told reporters at the Belgrade Fair that Serbia's air carrier, Air Serbia, was unable to have direct flights to China. "That is why I asked Chinese companies to open direct flights between Serbia and China, and we are close to an agreement with a private Chinese company," Vucic stated. He added that the direct line from Belgrade to Beijing would result in many more tourists from China coming to Serbia, as well as businesses and tour operators. "After the good news about the flights to China, there will be some other good news from China," the prime minister announced, but declined to elaborate.
VULIN: AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT MALICIOUS, UNTRUE
BELGRADE, 23 February 2017 (Beta) - Minister of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy Aleksandar Vulin called on Feb. 23 a report by the Amnesty International human rights organization malicious and incorrect. "The report was composed with the goal of washing the consciences of big states which close themselves behind fences and borders and then accuse a small and humane country like Serbia that it was not successful in something or that it did not do enough in some way," Vulin told journalists on the sidelines of a gathering called The Social Situation of Refugees/Migrants in Serbia. He said that the headquarters of Amnesty International were in London and that London was protected by very high fences and very high gates placed on the border of Great Britain. "I will recall that migrants died trying to jump over the fence on these borders, died in trains trying to squeeze themselves underneath obstacles when they were traveling from France and I will remind you that that there are no migrants in Great Britain," Vulin said. He called on Amnesty International to use it extensive influence precisely in the case of the British government and that the 6,000 to 7,000 migrants who were in Serbia be transferred to Great Britain, where "they will surely be better and where their asylum requests will be processed better." Amnesty International said in its annual report that refugees and migrants blocked in Serbia end route to the EU lacked adequate protection and basic services.
DANIELSSON: SERBIA, EU PARTNERS ON SAME TASK
BELGRADE, 23 February 2017 (Beta) - European Director General for Enlargement Christian Danielsson said in Belgrade on Feb. 23 that Serbia and the EU were partners on the same task and that cooperation during the migrant crisis was an example of good cooperation. "We at the EU are impressed with the way that Serbia is solving the problem of the migrant crisis," said Danielsson, who handed over the keys to 82 vehicles to the Ministry of Interior Affairs along with 24 vehicles for the Commissariat for Refugees. He further said that the EU had donated EUR50 million to Serbia since the start of the crisis and added that the EU supported economic reforms in Serbia as well as reform in the education system and that it was the biggest donor in Serbia, having donated around EUR2 billion since 2007. Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said that the EU recognized Serbia's needs, where harmonizing standards prior to entering the EU were concerned, and that the Interior Ministry's priority was acquiring a fleet of modern vehicles.
Earlier on Feb. 23, Danielsson met with the minister in charge of EU integration, Jadranka Joksimovic, to talk about continuing Serbia's European integration, the reforms in the process, the situation in the region and relations with the EU. Joksimovic and Danielsson hailed the opening of two new chapters, 26 on culture and education and 20 on entrepreneurship and industrial policy at an EU-Serbia intergovernmental conference on Feb. 27. They said that the pace was solid and gave a positive signal for continuing reforms and Serbia's European path. Joksimovic said that membership in the EU was Serbia's strategic interest and that European integration was the best mechanism for developing the state, the Serbian government press service said.
MORE EU FUNDING FOR CROSS-BORDER COOPERATION
BELGRADE, 23 February 2017 (Beta) - The EU has designated EUR 284 million for the budget period from 2014 to 2020, for the cross-border and transnational projects in which Serbia can participate, the Serbian minister in charge of European integration, Jadranka Joksimovic, stated on Feb. 23. Speaking at the Fourth Regional Forum on Cross-Border Cooperation, she said this form of cooperation brought direct benefits to the population and resulted in an increase in popular support to European integration, but also contributed to the development of relations in the region. Capacities in state and local administration have to be increased in order for the funds to be used more successfully, Joksimovic said. The European Integration Office stated that around EUR 180 million had been designated in the previous seven-year budget period for the cross-border and transnational cooperation in which Serbia participated, of which around 80 million was used in Serbia. The money for this budget period is still being used. They explained that these were the amounts for whole projects and, considering that other countries participated in them, they had been divided depending on the projects and the countries' capacities to utilize the funding. The cross-border cooperation programs in the period from 2014 to 2020 are being carried out with Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Macedonia and, besides that, Serbia is participating in two transnational programs, the Adriatic Ionian Program and the Danube Program. The chief of the EU Delegation in Serbia, Michael Davenport, said that one of the indicators of this program's success was the fact that there were always many more applications than there were possibilities for financing.
A CENTURY OF DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS BETWEEN SWEDEN AND SERBIA
BELGRADE, 23 February 2017 (Beta) - Sweden is strongly supporting Serbia on its path to EU membership, and the two countries are starting the second century of diplomatic relations determined to continue the good cooperation and strengthen the stable relations even more, the Embassy of Sweden in Belgrade announced on Feb. 23, on the occasion of 100 years since the establishing of diplomatic relations between Sweden and Serbia. Ambassador Jan Lundin said that the two countries never stopped their diplomatic relations during the 100 years, through all the events that marked the 20th century. The ambassador said that relations between Sweden and Serbia were good and that he was convinced that years of excellent cooperation were yet to come. He added that he was pleased that last year's visit of the Swedish prime minister to Serbia had been returned by the visits of the ministers of European integration and internal affairs of the Republic of Serbia, who stayed in Stockholm at the start of this year. To mark a century of diplomatic relations, the Embassy will organize a series of events during 2017, within the program Swedish-Serbian 100. Within it, the program for master studies and grants Study in Sweden will be presented during the EDUfair 2017 education fair, while April will be dedicated to the issue of growing organic food in urban conditions and May will focus on culture for children. In autumn, attention will shift to contemporary Swedish film, literature and music. Since 2001, the government of Sweden has donated around 200 million euros to Serbia through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), and the planned donations for this year amount to 11 million, the statement reads.
CHEPURIN: RUSSIANS INTERESTED IN SPA TOURISM IN SERBIA
BELGRADE, 23 February 2017 (Beta) - Tourists from Russia are becoming more and more interested in spa tourism and visits to monasteries in Serbia, Russian Ambassador to Belgrade Alexander Chepurin stated on Feb. 23. Over the past few years, the number of tourists from Russia has grown in Serbia, as has the number of tourists from Serbia in Russia, Chepurin told reporters at the International Tourism Fair in Belgrade, where Russia is presenting its tourism offer for the first time. He said that between 50,000 and 60,000 tourists from Serbia visited Russia last year, as many as there were Russian tourists in Serbia, which was much more than two years ago. Chepurin also said that Serbia attracted Russian tourists because of Orthodox Christianity and tradition, and that the reason for more tourists was economic growth in both countries. "One should also consider the exchange of cultural programs," Chepurin said, adding that tourists who came to Russia were interested in visiting Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Sochi, Volga and Crimea.
WORLD BANK SUPPORTS OPENING OF 17,000 PLACES IN KINDERGARTENS IN SERBIA
BELGRADE, 23 February 2017 (Beta) - World Bank will provide EUR 47 million to support the creation of 17,000 additional places for children in preschool institutions in Serbia, the financial institution announced on Feb. 23. Assistance to Serbia was granted within the project Inclusive Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC), the purpose of which is to secure finance for increasing the number of preschool institutions and for the work of qualified staff, while certain municipalities will receive donations for accommodating children from vulnerable groups. "Serbia has joined global leaders in Early Childhood Development by investing in its children to support their success, drive the long term competitiveness of the Serbian economy, and create growth and jobs," reads the statement of the World Bank. World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said that the fact that 25 percent of children throughout the world did not have the opportunity to develop represented a global crisis, which threatened to "lock young people into poverty" even before they turned five. The World Bank stated that only one in two children in Serbia received preschool education, while that share in most of the EU countries was 85 to 100 percent, the statement reads. The World Bank is currently supporting inclusive development and the creation of new jobs in Serbia with around USD 1.6 billion.