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DAILY SURVEY 23.02.2018.
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SERBIA - RUSSIA

DACIC, LAVROV: RUSSIA SUPPORTS SERBIA'S INDEPENDENT AND MULTI-DIRECTIONAL COURSE

BELGRADE, 22 February 2018 (Beta) - The foreign ministers of Serbia and Russia, Ivica Dacic and Sergey Lavrov, said in Belgrade on Feb. 22 that Russia supported the independent and multi-directional course that Serbia was taking, because Moscow was also guided by such principles in its foreign policy. Commenting on the statement of Hashim Thaci that Russia's recognition of Kosovo's independence would make Serbia abandon its "false mythology," Dacic and Lavrov stated during the joint news conference that Thaci's rhetoric would not change Russia's stand on Kosovo. "That will not change. Kosovo leaders should mind their own affairs because they have already been accused of war crimes. Unfortunately, colleagues in the world who protect the Albanian authorities are forgetting that," said the Russian foreign minister. In his comment on Thaci's statement, Dacic said that it would be more logical for the U.S. and Great Britain to withdraw their recognition of Kosovo's independence, than for Russia to recognize it, and added that the Greater Albania rhetoric was the biggest threat to peace and stability in the region. Lavrov said Russia adhered to international law in solving all problems, both in the EU and elsewhere, and that this also included the strict implementation of Resolution 1244 of the U.N. Security Council on Kosovo. "There is an unhealthy situation in Europe because of attempts of some EU and NATO members to incite confrontation, pushing NATO farther eastwards, with disregard of the opinion of the population, and that is referring to what has happened in Montenegro, what is now being attempted in Macedonia, and even in Bosnia and Herzegovina," Lavrov stated. He said that Russia adhered to all the agreements on Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that it would oppose any attempt for these agreements to be disregarded or violated. Lavrov said it was necessary for all issues in Bosnia to be solved on the basis of agreements between its two entities and three constitutive nations. Dacic once again expressed gratitude to Russia for its constant support to Belgrade, especially in connection with protecting its territorial integrity, that is Kosovo. Dacic said after the meeting with the Russian foreign minister that he was pleased with the two countries' relations, stating that the 180th anniversary of diplomatic relations was an indicator of truly friendly and brotherly relations between Serbia and Russia. "Our happiness is even greater because of the fact that this jubilee is being made even greater by the presence of my dear colleague and friend, Sergey Lavrov," Dacic said, adding that Lavrov was one of the greatest pillars and friends of Serbia in the world. He said that Belgrade and Moscow had a strategic partnership, not just on paper like with some other countries, but a true partnership, coupled with friendship, mutual understanding and support. Dacic recalled that Russia had vetoed the resolution on Srebrenica in the Security Council and that it had understanding for Serbia's stand on the unilaterally proclaimed independence of Kosovo. According to Russian Minister Lavrov, his talks with Dacic proved the broad congruity of stands regarding international issues, and they mainly discussed cooperation in international organizations - the U.N., OSCE and the Council of Europe. Lavrov said that the interstate commission for cooperation played an important role in the development of relations between Russia and Serbia, which acknowledged, recently in Sochi, the visible progress in the implementation of the agreements between presidents Vladimir Putin and Aleksandar Vucic, signed last year in Moscow.

LAVROV PRESENTS MEDAL OF FRIENDSHIP TO DACIC

BELGRADE, 22 February 2018 (Beta) - On Feb. 22 Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov handed a medal of friendship to Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic for his merits in strengthening the friendship and cooperation between the two countries. At the Russian Embassy in Belgrade, Lavrov said that Dacic had helped develop foreign policy cooperation between Serbia and Russia, as well as trade and economic cooperation and that it was a great honor to him to decorate Dacic in the name of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Dacic said that in the past several years he had done his utmost to always promote political cooperation between Serbia and its partners wherever he went, and especially friendly states like Russia. "I am very honored that Russia and its president Vladimir Putin, a proven friend of the Serbian people, recognize my work and efforts," Dacic said. Lavrov said that Dacic was a man who greatly contributed to developing contacts between people and wished his Serbian colleague lots of success in his work. Dacic dedicated the medal to his father who died on the day that it was announced that he would receive the medal. "I have dedicated this medal to my father and all the policemen and soldiers who fought for Kosovo like he did," Dacic said. He added that he was especially pleased to have received the medal from "a man who has objectively helped Serbia the most in the past several years."

LAVROV: RUSSIA HIGHLY ESTEEMS SERBIA'S COURSE TOWARD PRESERVING MILITARY NEUTRALITY

BELGRADE, 22 February 2018 (Beta) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Feb. 22 that Russia held Serbia's commitment to maintaining military neutrality in high esteem, adding that its bid for EU membership was not an obstacle to deepening the friendship between Serbia and Russia. At a lecture at the Belgrade University Rectorate, Lavrov said Serbia's military neutrality was the sovereign decision of the Serbian leadership which Russia respected. He said that Russia would continue to offer aid to Serbia in defending its rights stemming from the issue of the autonomous province of Kosovo and Metohija, based on U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244. Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said that Serbia and Russia had a centuries-long friendship and added that Serbia "has never, cannot and will not lead an anti-Russian policy." "Today, Serbia cannot defend its national and state interests without Russia's aid," Dacic said.

VUCIC, LAVROV ATTEND UNVEILING OF MOSAIC IN CHURCH OF SAINT SAVA

BELGRADE, 22 February 2018 (Beta) - A mosaic across the Church of Saint Sava's central dome, which is 65 meters high, one of the world's biggest undertakings, has been unveiled. The presentation of the mosaic was attended by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Vucic thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin in Russian for his "unconditional support" to Serbia in defending its state interests and his commitment to developing Russian-Serbian relations. He also thanked Lavrov for contributing to the grandeur of marking 180 years since diplomatic relations between Serbia and Russia were established. He thanked Gazprom for donating EUR4 million for the church. Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Irinej voiced his most cordial thanks to the brotherly state of Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin for his love for Serbs and all of the assistance offered in building the Church of Saint Sava. The central dome, which is decorated with the mosaic that weighs 40 tons, spans 1,248 square meters. It was fitted together in Moscow after which it was transferred to Belgrade. The installment of the mosaic was done by craftsmen from Russia, headed by academician Nikolai Mukhin, who is the author of the Ascension of Christ composition, which depicts Christ surrounded by angels. Below it and on the eastern side is the image of the Virgin Mary with two archangels surrounded by 12 apostles looking at Christ's ascension and testifying to it.

BRNABIC, LAVROV: ECONOMIC COOPERATION BETWEEN RUSSIA, SERBIA ON THE UPSWING

BELGRADE, 22 February 2018 (Beta) - Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov agreed in Belgrade on Feb. 22 that economic cooperation was on the upswing, especially in the area of energy, and that it was necessary to place an emphasis on projects that pertained to infrastructure, transportation and agriculture. A statement released by the Serbian government said that Brnabic had thanked Lavrov "for [Russia's] principled stance not to recognize the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo and the support that Russia gives Belgrade in the dialogue with Pristina." Lavrov, it added, said that it was necessary that Pristina fully implement the Brussels Agreement, especially the formation of a Community of Serb Municipalities. During the talk, the prime minister announced the completion of works on the Church of Saint Sava and its inauguration in 2019, which will be attended by Russian representatives, while Lavrov said that he had emotionally reacted to his morning visit to the church where a mosaic in the dome - a Russian present - was ceremoniously unveiled. Prime Minister Brnabic recognized a special potential in cooperating in the area of innovative technologies, science and education, saying that Russia, which had developed a network of technological parks, served as an example to Serbia, the statement said. Speaking about cultural cooperation, Brnabic announced firmer cooperation in the area of the film industry and a co-production for filming a movie about Nikola Tesla next year.

SERBIA

KUBUROVIC DISCUSSES CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES WITH FRENCH JUSTICE MINISTER

BELGRADE, 22 February 2018 (Beta) - On Feb. 22 Minister of Justice Nela Kuburovic met in Paris with her French counterpart Nicole Belloubet to discuss constitutional changes in the area of justice and cooperation in the fight against organized crime and corruption and the illegal arms trade. Minister Kuburovic said that the Ministry of Justice had composed a working version of amendments to the Serbian Constitution and that a public debate on the text was in progress, after which the harmonized draft version would be sent to the Venice Commission for an opinion. Kuburovic added that without a positive opinion from the Venice Commission the draft constitutional amendments would not be submitted for adoption. The French justice minister said that her country also faced constitutional changes toward enhancing the rule of law. Belloubet added that her ministry supported the Ministry of Justice of Serbia in its progress in meeting the objectives named in Chapter 23 and priorities such as constitutional change, the rule of law and fight against corruption. The two officials said that there was very good cooperation between France and Serbia in cracking down on organized crime, corruption and the illegal arms trade.

IMF: SERBIA SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETES THREE-YEAR ARRANGEMENT, REFORMS HAVE TO CONTINUE

BELGRADE, 22 February 2018 (Beta) - Serbia has successfully carried out the three-year arrangement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which expired on Feb. 22, but that is just the first step in building a strong and dynamic economy, capable of competing globally, reads the report of the IMF that was published on Feb. 22. The program was completed much more successfully than expected, surpassing many of the macroeconomic goals, said the IMF's chief for Serbia, James Roaf. He said that Serbia had managed to "get out of the hole" and, after a years-long stagnation in the period of the global economic crisis, was once again registering growth, with an increase in investment and employment. Many things have been started in transforming the country into a healthy market economy, and reforms should be deepened so that Serbia could reach its maximum potential, Roaf said. The IMF's report reads that it was commendable that Serbia had a budget surplus in 2017, that economic confidence had been restored and that there was a rise in domestic and foreign investments. The report also commended the stability of the banking system, the reduction of the level of bad loans and the decrease in unemployment.

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