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DAILY SURVEY 28.02.2018.
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SERBIA

FOREIGN MINISTERS OF ITALY, ALBANIA, SERBIA DISCUSS FURTHER CONNECTIONS

BELGRADE, 27 February 2018 (Beta) - The foreign ministers of Italy, Albania and Serbia met in Belgrade on Feb. 27 to discuss improving relations, regional cooperation, European integration and economic projects for more connections between these countries. Angelino Alfano, Ditmir Bushati and Ivica Dacic announced at a joint news conference after the trilateral meeting at the Peace Villa that in the coming period meetings that would envelop the NGO sector and businesses would be held and also announced "concrete steps" for student exchange. "We launched topics that include, among others, civil society and young people... To realize an experiment of sorts - Erasmus for the Western Balkans. The proposal is to give support to these three governments to be a kind of motivator where non-governmental organizations and businesses are concerned," the Italian foreign minister said. He said that Italy supported Belgrade's and Tirana's EU integration, and that Serbia had demonstrated courage where the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina was concerned, and Albania where the rule of law was concerned. Albanian Minister Bushati thanked Dacic for his reception and for organizing the trilateral meeting, and Alfano for Italy's support to Albania and Serbia which it had strategic partnerships with. "It is in our interest to expand the spectrum of trilateral issues. We talked about European integration and the EU's strategy for the Western Balkans. It is now up to us to work," Bushati said. He added that they had reviewed the region's progress as part of the Berlin Process, discussed events in the EU in 2018 and an upcoming summit in London and arranged several proposals for cooperating with the civil sector. Serbian Foreign Minister Dacic said that the strategic partnership with Italy was very important to Serbia and Albania, adding that Italy was one of the main advocates of EU expansion. "We are devoted to further advancing our relations, regardless of whether those are visits at the top level or searching for different interests in numerous areas, such as infrastructure projects and regional cooperation," Dacic told the news conference. The Serbian minister said that the next, fourth trilateral meeting would likely be held in Italy, and that they would also meet at the aforementioned upcoming summit in London, voicing the hope that the "positive course" set by the summit in Trieste would be continued, which, he said, had been one of the most successful summits. The first trilateral meeting of the foreign ministers of Albania, Italy and Serbia was held in January in Rome in 2015, where Bushati, Dacic and then Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni met. They held another meeting in Tirana the following year.

THE CZECH REPUBLIC MADE A MISTAKE WHEN IT RECOGNIZED KOSOVO

BELGRADE, 27 February 2018 (Beta) - The Czech Republic was wrong when it recognized an independent Kosovo, the republic's MP, Jaroslav Foldin, said after a meeting in Belgrade with Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, adding that his country was ready to assist Serbia in its accession to the European Union as a moderator. The Czech MP, head of a national delegation visiting Belgrade, said that the Czech Republic did recognize Kosovo's independence in 2008, but that "the authorities clearly made a mistake" as the parliament passed a document to support the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244. In other words, the government act was contrary to the parliament's, and even though he said it wasn't contrary to the law, it was by all means "something difficult to understand." Foldin, whose mother is Serbian, said that the same happened to his country in the last century, when it lost 15 percent of the territory after its border regions were annexed by Germany. The violation of international law led to World War II, Foldin explained, warning at what's going on in Barcelona, Crimea and elsewhere, and pinpointing the former Yugoslavia as the location where it all started. "The violations to international law began in the former Yugoslavia. It's all about the way Kosovo declared its independence in 2008, and how the EU states recognized it," Foldin said, adding that the Czech Republic would raise the issue as a moderator. "We will help you on your path to the EU as moderators," Foldin said, recalling that this year the two states would celebrate the 100th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

VUCIC: DIFFICULT ROAD AHEAD OF SERBIA, HANDLING REFORMS, RESOLVING RELATIONSHIP WITH PRISTINA

BERLIN, 27 February 2018 (Beta) - Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in Berlin, on Feb. 27, that there was a difficult road ahead of Serbia, as it had to carry out a challenging rule of law reform and resolve relations with Pristina. At a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Vucic said that Serbia was ready for a compromise if it meant that both sides would have to lose something, instead of making Serbia a total loser. President Vucic said he hoped a compromise for Kosovo would be reached with the support of Germany and the chancellor. Vucic also said that better cooperation between Serbia and Germany made him "immensely happy." The president also said he was proud that the two states had reached an agreement on war memorials in Serbia and Germany, leading to "ultimate political reconciliation."

MERKEL: GERMANY SUPPORTS, ENCOURAGES SERBIA ON ITS PATH TO EU

BERLIN, 27 February 2018 (Beta) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Berlin, on Feb. 27, that Germany supported Serbia's EU accession, encouraging the state to continue the reforms it had started. "We've been truly impressed by Serbia's progress on the reform path, as indicators of the fight against corruption have also shown. We are encouraging the Serbs to keep up, supporting Serbia's EU prospects," Mekel said at a press conference after a meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Merkel said that "the EU accession talks can be successful only if Serbia has continued reforms in the rule of law and the protection of fundamental human rights, alongside the efforts to reconcile with Kosovo." The chancellor explained that was the reason why one of the topics she had discussed with Vucic was how to reach a legally binding agreement with Kosovo. When asked if she expected the agreement to include a request for Serbia to recognize Kosovo, Merkel said she "isn't the one to prescribe what must happen." "We talked about what's desirable, what needs to be done, but Serbia is the one to make an initiative. The Serbian president is the major actor in that. We are talking about it, supporting when our support is needed, but I'm not going to give advice, especially not in public," Merkel said. The region was another topic of discussion between the two officials. "I respect Aleksandar Vucic's work to develop cooperation between the Western Balkan countries, and I wish him every success in the effort, which is not always simple," the German politician said. Merkel recalled that Germany was Serbia's important trade partner, with a series of direct investments and more than 40,000 employees in Germany's firms in Serbia. The German chancellor said she was pleased that today's talks "resolved the issue of war memorials," which she described as "the key point in bilateral relations, and a gift the Serbian president has brought."

JUNCKER SUPPORTS CONTINUATION OF BELGRADE-PRISTINA DIALOGUE, EXPECTS BOTH SIDES TO MEET OBLIGATIONS

BELGRADE, 27 February 2018 (Beta) - President of the European Commission (EC) Jean-Claude Juncker said at a Feb. 27 meeting with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic that he was pleased to see Belgrade and Pristina back at the negotiating table, expecting both sides to work to fulfill the obligations contained in the Brussels Agreement. In a press release, the Serbian government quoted Juncker as saying that a decision to continue resolving bilateral issues through regional talks was very important, not only because it was a condition for EU membership, but also because it was equally relevant for the citizens of Serbia and the region. The Serbian PM said that the Union's enlargement strategy was sending an encouraging message to the Western Balkans, and that it was very good that the region was back in the EU focus. Brnabic said that the upcoming conferences on the Western Balkans in Sofia and London, planned within the Berlin Process, were extremely important. Brnabic and Juncker agreed that the Multi-Annual Action Plan for a Regional Economic Area in the Western Balkans, endorsed at a summit in Trieste, was also a major step forward. The cabinet quoted the EC president as saying that one of the objectives was to provide stronger support to regional growth and cooperation, and underpin infrastructure links within. The meeting was also attended by the minister in charge of Serbia's EU accession process, Jadranka Joksimovic, who thanked Juncker for "the impulse he has provided for the enlargement policy, and for having recognized Serbia as the most serious candidate for EU membership."

BRNABIC, IRAN'S FOREIGN MINISTER DISCUSS CLOSER COOPERATION

BELGRADE, 27 February 2018 (Beta) - Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic met on Feb. 27 with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to discuss closer ties between the two states, primarily in economy and trade. Prime Minister Brnabic said that the two states' shared goal was to improve economic cooperation in many areas, as there was untapped potential in agriculture, construction, energy and tourism, as well as in the research and technical innovation sectors, the Serbian government said in a press release. The Iranian minister, visiting Belgrade together with a national business delegation, said that there was an increasing number of Iranians planning to visit Serbia, which a bilateral decision to lift visa requirements and Iran's promotion of Serbian and regional tourist potentials had contributed to. In the same context, Zarif said that a direct flight to link Belgrade and Tehran would be another important boost to the tourism sector. Brnabic thanked the Iranian foreign minister for his country's support to Serbia and firm position on Kosovo's unilaterally proclaimed independence. The two officials agreed that cooperation in education and culture had reached a fairly high level, developing through permanent cooperation between corresponding authorities. The Serbian prime minister promised that the state would continue to provide scholarships for young Iranians willing to study in Serbia, relying on the World in Serbia program.

GOJKOVIC, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER DESCRIBE BILATERAL RELATIONS AS FRIENDLY

BELGRADE, 27 February 2018 (Beta) - The Serbian parliament speaker, Maja Gojkovic, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Feb. 27 that the two states had developed a good and friendly bilateral relationship, and that they were prepared to make closer parliamentary and economic ties. The Serbian parliament reported that Gojkovic and Zarif had agreed in Belgrade that there was great potential for the development of economic relations, and that a decision that the Serbs and Iranians would no longer need visas to visit the two states opened a new door to cooperation in economy and tourism. The Iranian foreign minister also said that a direct flight between Belgrade and Tehran, reopening after 28 years on March 8, would be another boost to stronger ties in economy and tourism. Gojkovic thanked Iran for being very firm in respecting Serbia's territorial integrity and sovereignty, as well as in refusing to accept the unilaterally proclaimed independence of Kosovo and Metohija. The Serbian parliament speaker and the Iranian minister said a major breakthrough had been made in parliamentary cooperation, expecting trade and cooperation to grow in the IT sector, construction, medicine and other areas. The minister confirmed to the Serbian speaker that Ali Larijani, the speaker of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, had accepted her invitation to visit Serbia, and that that he planned to do so in the second half of the year. Zarif also thanked Gojkovic for her role in developing the bilateral relationship.

LJAJIC: PAYMENT TRAFFIC WITH IRAN TO BE ESTABLISHED IN THE FIRST HALF OF THE YEAR

BELGRADE, 27 February 2018 (Beta) - At a Feb. 27 Serbian-Iranian business conference in Belgrade, the announcement was made that payment operations between Serbia and Iran could be launched in the first half of the year, and a bilateral free-trade agreement would be discussed as well. Serbian Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications Rasim Ljajic said that setting up a payment system between the two states was vital to successful cooperation, and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif recalled that the first step to improving cooperation with Serbia was a move to lift visas, and that the second would be a direct Air Iran flight to Serbia, to be reopened after 28 years. "Cooperation between the banking sectors is the third step," the Iranian minister said, welcoming the idea of signing a free trade agreement. "We hope the final decision will be made at the 15th session of the Mixed Committee for Economic Cooperation, to be hosted by Serbia soon," the minister said. Ljajic said that "after eight months of negotiations on the payment system with Iran, Slovenia's exports soared, exceeding Serbia's eightfold." The Serbian minister added that Serbia had initiated a free trade agreement with Iran, which the authorities and business communities had already consented to. The Iranian foreign minister, heading the delegation visiting Serbia, indicated that Iran, too, was ready to sign the agreement, Ljajic said.

KOCIJANCIC: DIALOGUE PASSES IN CONSTRUCTIVE SPIRIT, NEW STEPS NECESSARY

BRUSELSS, 27 February 2018 (Beta) - The technical dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina on the Community of Serb Municipalities and other subjects in Brussels unfolded in a "constructive spirit" and "several issues and steps were jointly established which need attention to advance the application" of past agreements and the normalization of relations, European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said on Feb. 27. EU High Representative Federica Mogherini's spokeswoman said in a statement that the Belgrade and Pristina delegations headed by Marko Djuric and Avni Arifi, respectively, "reviewed the implementation of agreements reached by the two sides, as part of the EU-brokered dialogue" on Feb. 26-27. The delegations reviewed "above all agreements on free movement, integrated border management, the judiciary, the Community/Association of Serb-majority Municipalities, the bridge in Kosovska Mitrovica and energy," Maja Kocijancic said. The delegations of Belgrade and Pristina agreed to reopen a debate next month on implementing their agreement on free movement, integrated border management, the Community/Association of Serb-majority Municipalities, the bridge in Mitrovica and energy, Mogherini's spokeswoman said.

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