DACIC, GREEK STATE SECRETARY DISCUSS DEVELOPMENT OF BILATERAL RELATIONS
BELGRADE, 25 February 2017 (Beta) - Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic met in Belgrade, on Feb. 25, with Greece's state secretary at the Ministry of the Interior, Maria Kollia Tsaroucha. The foreign ministry said in a press release that the two officials agreed that bilateral relations had reached a high level and that there was a traditional friendship between the two nations. The Serbian foreign minister and the Greek state secretary exchanged opinions on current foreign and internal political relations.
100TH ANNIVERSARY OF TOPLICA UPRISING CELEBRATED IN PROKUPLJE, ON FEB. 26
PROKUPLJE, 26 February 2017 (Beta) - In a memorial complex to the Toplica heroes in Prokuplje, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic and Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik laid wreaths on Feb. 26 in a ceremony attended by Serbia's ministers. The Toplica uprising was a Serbian rebellion against Bulgarian and Austro-Hungarian occupation in World War I, and was the only uprising in an occupied state until the end of the war. The uprising took place from Feb. 26 to March 25, 1917, and the main cause was a mobilization that the Bulgarian authorities had planned to carry out in the region of Toplica, Jablanica and Pusta Reka. The rebels were led by four dukes, Kosta Vojinovic, brothers Milinko and Tosko Vlahovic, and Jovan Radovic. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said at the ceremony that after everything it had suffered, Serbia was not done nor on its knees, and that the unstoppable Serbian heart was beating for Kosovo and Metohija. "Our Serbia is still standing, even stronger, fighting for every life, knowing exactly where it is going and what to do. More importantly, Serbia has learned all of the important lessons [in life], and knows only too well what divisions may lead to," Vucic said at the ceremony in the Prokuplje memorial complex.
VUCIC: REVIEW INITIATIVE IRRESPONSIBLE MOVE THAT SETS RELATIONS BACK
BELGRADE, 24 February 2017 (Beta) - Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic commented on Feb. 24 a request by Bosnia and Herzegovina for a review of the judgment in a genocide suit against Serbia, calling it an irresponsible move which has sparked a very bad atmosphere and set back the laboriously built relations between Serbia and Bosnia, but also shaken the stability of the entire region. In a press release, Vucic made the statement in talks with U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Kyle Scott, with whom he discussed bilateral ties, the situation in the region, Serbia's EU integration and other topics of common interest. Vucic said Serbia would always respect the integrity of Bosnia and stand for peace and stability, but that it would never let its national and state interests be threatened. The officials also reviewed the situation in the region and stressed the importance of promoting peace, stability and better mutual relations in the Western Balkans, and also common opportunities to speed up economic growth, expand trade and create new jobs. The Serbian prime minister pointed out that his proposal to establish a Customs Union in the Western Balkans would be one way of reaching economic progress for the entire region. Ambassador Scott said that the U.S. would continue to support Serbia in the process of joining the EU and the efforts that the government was investing to meet the criteria for membership. The two interlocutors also noted the good Serbia-U.S. cooperation in fighting terrorism through the anti-ISIS coalition. Ambassador Scott conveyed an invitation from U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to the Serbian cabinet for a ministerial meeting on the topic, planned to take place in Washington, in March.
GERMAN LEONI TO BUILD PLANT IN NIS, PRODUCTION TO START IN AUGUST
NIS, 24 February 2017 (Beta) - The German Leoni began building a factory in Nis on Feb. 24 for the production of automotive wiring - an investment worth EUR 22 million. In the initial stages, the plant will cover 15,000 square meters, while upon completion it will have 25,000 square meters and a 2,200-strong work force. The groundbreaking ceremony for Leoni's third plant in Serbia included Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, Leoni Serbia director Clemens Sachs, Leoni executive vice president Ralf Maus, German Ambassador to Serbia Axel Dittmann and Nis Mayor Darko Bulatovic. Vucic said he expected Leoni to hire 3,000 people in Nis and open a fourth factory in Serbia, in the Nisava County, which would provide the company with five percent higher incentives than for earlier investments. He said the Serbian government had given Leoni incentives to the tune of EUR 6.4 million to open the plant in Nis and expected it to begin to operate late in June, despite the delay in breaking ground. "We are able to give subsidies because the state of the budget is better than planned," said Vucic, adding that there would be no budget gap late in February, though it was planned to be at RSD 17 or 18 billion. He stressed that the "blood flow of the economy is good, VAT collection is up and expenditures are under control." So far, Leoni has invested EUR 70 million in Serbia and hired 7,500 workers, which, according to Vucic, makes it the biggest employer in the production sector.
SERBIA TO OPEN CHAPTERS 20, 26 ON FEB. 27
BELGRADE, 27 February 2017 (Beta) - On Feb. 27, Serbia will open two new chapters, 20 and 26, in negotiations on membership in the European Union. Chapter 26 is about culture and education, while Chapter 20 is about entrepreneurship and industrial policy. Serbia has opened six of 35 chapters in its EU membership talks, launched in January 2014. The first two chapters were broached in December 2015: 32, on financial oversight, and 35, on other matters, which, in the case of Serbia, pertain to normalizing relations with Kosovo. Two key chapters for the course of the negotiations, 23 - the judiciary and fundamental rights, and 24 - justice, freedom and security, opened in July 2016, after a brief delay due to Croatia's opposition and multiple additional conditions. In Serbia's bid to join the EU, Chapter 35 has the same weight, and progress in reaching and implementing agreements in the Belgrade-Pristina dialog, like the recently crafted deals on justice and telecommunications, is considered an important element for advancing in EU integration. Chapters 5 and 25, public procurement and science and research, were opened on Dec. 13. That is when the opening of Chapter 26, on culture and education, was expected too, but did not take place as Croatia blocked it.
VULIN, TURKEY'S AMBASSADOR DISCUSS MIGRANT CRISIS
BELGRADE, 24 February 2017 (Beta) - Serbian Minister of Labor, Employment, Veterans and Social Affairs Aleksandar Vulin met in Belgrade, on Feb. 24, with Turkey's ambassador to Serbia, Tanju Biglic, to discuss the migrant crisis and bilateral relations, Vulin's ministry reported. The minister and the ambassador talked about the consequences of the migrant crisis that the two countries had been dealing with. They decided that "successful cooperation between Serbia and Turkey" should be continued, and economic relations developed.
DJORDJEVIC: MIGRANT CRISIS CHALLENGE FOR BALKAN COUNTRIES
BELGRADE, 24 February 2017 (Beta) - Serbian Defense Minister Zoran Djordjevic said on Feb. 24 that the migrant crisis was a very sensitive issue for the leaders of Balkan countries, which is why Serbia advocates building cooperation with neighbors in this area. During an encounter with representatives of the French Institute for High National Defense Studies, Djordjevic said the migrant crisis was a social, humanitarian, financial and security challenge. Djordjevic stressed that the Defense Ministry had provided significant support to the government in achieving Serbia's foreign policy goals, advancing relations and cooperation in defense with all states and international organizations, in line with defined national interests. He said he was happy with the level of defense cooperation with France. Djordjevic briefed his interlocutors on the reform of the defense system and the activities of the Defense Ministry and Army of Serbia in the process of EU integration, cooperation within the Partnership for Peace Program and the current and future engagement of members of armed forces in multinational operations.
DANIELSSON: PACE OF SERBIA'S EU INTEGRATION DEPENDS ON SERBIA
BELGRADE, 24 February 2017 (Beta) - Serbia has made considerable progress in the economic reform process and accession talks with the European Union (EU), and the pace at which it will move forward in the integration process will depend on Serbia alone, Director General for Enlargement at the European Commission Christian Danielsson said on Feb. 24. "We always say there is no speed limit – it can go as fast as Serbia wants it to go", he said at a debate on Serbia's EU accession, recalling that the process did take time. Danielsson said that continuous progress in the rule of law, judicial reform, respect for the freedom of the media and fundamental human rights covered by Chapter 23 was vital, as in dealing with issues under Chapter 24, including police reform and migrations. The EU official believes that regional cooperation is important not only to overcome the past, but also to ensure economic growth and welfare, adding that the Union had supported regional ties through the Berlin Process, building infrastructure links through the projects worth close to a billion euros.
Danielsson met with Serbian Minister of Construction, Transportation and Infrastructure Zorana Mihajlovic on Feb. 24, to discuss Serbia's progress in adjusting to the European integrated transportation policy. Minister Mihajlovic briefed Danielsson about prioritized infrastructure projects designed for Serbia to build more effective transportation links with Europe, and the pace of the project which in collaboration with the European Commission had been recognized as a priority, the Serbian construction ministry reported in a press release. These projects include the reconstruction and modernization of the Belgrade-Budapest railway link, the Belgrade-Nis, Nis-Dimitrovgrad and Belgrade-Bar railways, the Nis-Merdare highway, continuing to Pristina, and a bypass around Belgrade, the ministry said. The high-priority projects also include works along the Danube and Sava rivers, the revitalization of the Djerdap lock, and the construction of a new port in Belgrade.