DACIC MEETS WITH GREECE'S PRIME MINISTER, FOREIGN MINISTER
BELGRADE, 31 January 2017 (Beta) - Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic had separate meetings on Jan. 31 with the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, and the country's foreign minister, Nikos Kotzias, sharing the wish to develop cooperation and discussing the situation in the Western Balkans and the migrant crisis. The Greek party reconfirmed their firm position not to recognize the independence of Kosovo, respecting Serbia's territorial integrity and sovereignty. The two top-ranking officials also reaffirmed the Greek support to Serbia's EU integration process, the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported in a press release. Dacic, Tsipras and Kotzias also underlined the shared intent to develop cooperation and materialize projects of mutual interest, primarily in the sectors of economy and infrastructure. They also noted the Greek-Serbian friendly relations, based on historical ties and solidarity between the two nations, confident that the meetings would contribute to a more active political dialogue between the two states. The ministers also exchanged opinions on the current situation in the Western Balkans, the migrant crisis and other international themes, the Ministry said in the press release.
NIKOLIC: WE ARE NEGOTIATING WITH PRISTINA TO THE BENEFIT OF ALL KiM CITIZENS
BELGRADE, 31 January 2017 (Beta) - Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic said on Jan. 31 that Serbia was continuing negotiations with the authorities in Pristina out of a wish for the lives of KiM citizens to be "normal and decent." During a discussion with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, he said that Serbia truly wanted to become a full member of the EU, the Serbian presidential office said in a statement. "We have done a lot, negotiated with Pristina honestly and we have talks tomorrow, out of a desire to make the lives of all of Kosovo's citizens normal and decent. Kosovo and Metohija is our territory and we can make a deal over it with Pristina. We have transferred a great deal of prerogatives [over to the Pristina authorities] aware that they de facto already have some prerogatives. We now expect Pristina to apply what was agreed in Brussels," Nikolic said.
Tsipras said that Greece wanted to help resolve the Kosovo issue and supported Serbia in connection to Kosovo, as well as in European integration, the statement said. "I want to emphasize that no one can pressure us. They can ask for something and try to convince us about something, but we are a sovereign state. We cultivate a sense of justice and that, on our part, is valuing cooperation and building peace and stability. We will preserve the stance that we have, looking back at historical relations is important, but we must build the future with more strength, especially concrete initiatives in the area of the economy and to advance and raise the rhythm of strengthening infrastructure and a larger number tourists in both countries," Tsipras said. The Greek prime minister said that the country supported Serbia's admission to the EU despite the difficulties that it was facing, adding that he was confident that full membership would help strengthen peace and stability in the Balkans.
SERBIAN, GREEK GOVERNMENTS TO HAVE JOINT SESSION THIS SPRING IN THESSALONIKI
BELGRADE, 31 January 2017 (Beta) - Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Jan. 31 that he was grateful to Greece for its support to Serbia in the EU accession process, and for not recognizing Kosovo's independence, but underlined that the friendship should be fortified with better economic relations, announcing a joint session of the two governments. Prime Minister Vucic said at a press conference after a meeting in Belgrade with his Greek counterpart, Alexis Tsipras, that Serbia and Greece had fostered traditionally good, friendly relations, but that over the past seven years the two states' prime ministers hadn't met, which should change. "We have arranged a joint session of the two governments in Thessaloniki, this coming spring, when specific cooperation measures will be defined, and teams set up with different assignments. We need to show the citizens what we can do for the benefit of both nations," Vucic said. The Serbian PM said it was necessary to expand economic cooperation, warning that trade between the two state had underperformed, amounting to 337 million euros last year. Vucic said that agricultural exports could increase in the future, and that it was also necessary to build a better railway line between Belgrade and Thessaloniki, allowing for cargo transports along the route to take "under 30 hours."
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said that the future of the Balkans should be built upon cooperation and mutual respect, and that Serbia was playing a key role for regional peace and stability, based, among other things, on a dialogue with Pristina. Tsipras told the press conference after the meeting with Vucic that Athens would actively support Serbia's efforts to join the European Union, and would not change its position on Kosovo. The Greek prime minister also said that a solution to the Greek-Macedonian name dispute hinged on a wish by both sides to find one.
VUCIC OFFERS GREEK INVESTORS FIVE PERCENT BETTER CONDITIONS THAN ELSEWHERE IN REGION
BELGRADE, 31 January 2017 (Beta) - Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic on Jan. 31 invited Greek businesspeople to invest in Serbia and offered them five percent better conditions that in other countries in the region. "Bring us the offer that you received in Bulgaria, Sarajevo, Macedonia, anywhere, and you will receive at least five percent better conditions here, because we have various incentives," Vucic told a Serbian-Greek Business Forum in Belgrade. Vucic also said he believed that Serbian investors in Greece would be greeted "with open arms" and added that Serbia was a place from where one could reach the markets of the EU, Russia and other European countries with over a billion people. "The Serbian market is set apart by the fact that with a customs duty of just one percent you can export goods to all of these markets," Vucic said. Greece is among the top 10 investors in Serbia. Greek firms in Serbia employ 20,000 people. The country's investment has exceeded 2.2 billion euros, mostly in banking, tourism, infrastructure, construction, telecommunications and energy.
TSIPRAS: RAILWAY CORRIDOR TO LINK THESSALONIKI AND BELGRADE
BELGRADE, 31 January 2017 (Beta) - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Jan. 31 that he had started talks with his Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vucic, on a new railway corridor to connect Thessaloniki and Belgrade. At a Serbian-Greek business conference in Belgrade, Tsipras said the agreement had been made to establish a council to boost cooperation between Serbia and Greece, expected to hold its first session this coming spring, in Thessaloniki. "I believe that economic, political and religious relations must constitute the foundation of a new economic architecture in the Balkans. The vision of the new architecture should improve the standard of living and expand economic cooperation," Tsipras said in his speech. The Greek PM added that Serbia and Greece shared the same values, describing the two states as the major links in economic cooperation in the Balkans. "I believe that our potentials exceed our achievements," the prime minister said, stressing that there was room for more active cooperation in the energy sector, transportation, construction, the financial sector and processing industry.
Serbian Minister of Economy Goran Knezevic stressed that, in addition to incentives, Serbia was offering Greek investors free zones for doing business, which were customs-free for imported equipment and raw materials. He added that at this time there were 167 companies ready for privatization, including 11 spas, the RTB Bor mine and smelter, Novi Sad port, Azotara and others.
Serbian Chamber of Commerce President Marko Cadez said that since the last Greek-Serbian forum two months ago a total of 20 contracts had been signed between businesspeople from both countries. An agreement on cooperation in the area of meat and cured meat products was signed by Serbia's Carnex company and Greek Creta on Jan 31.
MIHAJLOVIC: MORE EFFICIENT RAILWAY TRANSPORTATION IS A SHARED GOAL FOR SERBIA, GREECE
BELGRADE, 31 January 2017 (Beta) - Serbian Minister of Construction, Transportation and Infrastructure Zorana Mihajlovic met on Jan. 31 with the secretary general for international economic relations of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Giorgos Tsipras, to discuss cooperation between the two states in the transportation and infrastructure sectors. The minister and the Greek official agreed that Serbia, Macedonia and Greece should set up a joint committee to enable more efficient cargo railway transportation from the Piraeus port to Serbia, and further to central and eastern Europe, the Ministry of Construction, Transportation and Infrastructure reported. The working group is expected to ensure a better coordination of joint actions by the three states to modernize the railways, and reduce the time trains are delayed at borders, which in turn would cut the total duration of cargo transportation by Corridor X railways. "Apart from the completion of the Corridor X roads, the modernization of Serbian Railways is Serbia's infrastructure priority. Serbia and Greece should work even more closely to use the potentials the Corridor X can offer as a key transit route in the region," Minister Mihajlovic said. Tsipras said there was room for improvement in the Serbian-Greek economic cooperation.
MIHAJLOVIC MEETS AKTOR'S PRESIDENT TO DISCUSS CORRIDOR X WORKS
BELGRADE, 31 January 2017 (Beta) - Serbian Minister of Construction, Transportation and Infrastructure Zorana Mihajlovic met on Jan. 31 with the president of the Greek Aktor company, Dimitrios Koutras, to discuss the company's construction works along the Serbian route of Corridor X. The minister and the Aktor president analyzed the status of the four legs of the Corridor X East, 48 kilometers long in total, where the Greek company is the contractor, Mihajlovic's ministry said in a press release after the meeting. Koutras presented to the Serbian minister a new draft version of a very dynamic plan to complete the works, which the "ministry will analyze in the next seven days," the press relase says. The next meeting has been scheduled for Feb. 8, the ministry announced.
ROMANIA, BULGARIA MARK DECADE OF EU MEMBERSHIP
BELGRADE, 31 January 2017 (Beta) - The embassies of Bulgaria and Romania in Serbia held a ceremony on Jan. 31 on the 10th anniversary of their joining the EU, where the advantages of membership were presented along with the challenges in the process of accession. The reception, which was held at the Bulgarian Embassy in Belgrade in association with the EU Delegation, was attended by Serbian minister in charge of European integration Jadranka Joksimovic, Serbian Parliament Speaker Maja Gojkovic and Director of the European Integration Office Tanja Miscevic. Jadranka Joksimovic congratulated Romania and Bulgaria on the 10th anniversary of their membership and noted that the EU concept would not be complete without Southeast Europe, and that the economic and the EU political framework gave its members stability and safety and the process of reforms did not stop after a country gained membership in the Union. Head of the EU Delegation to Serbia Michael Davenport said that Bulgaria and Romania gave "a huge contribution to the EU project" and that total trade between the two countries with other member states had doubled over the past 10 years. Bulgarian Ambassador to Belgrade Radko Vlaykov said that joining the EU had enabled his country to become a part of the biggest trade bloc in the world - a single market with 500 million European citizens, and that the stability and safety of regulations and standards in the EU had created favorable conditions for the rise of foreign investors in Bulgaria's economy. Romanian Ambassador Oana Cristina Popa said that membership in the EU and its active participation in the decision-making process in Europe had marked "a final and lasting return to democratic values after decades of darkness" brought by communism and dictatorship. Bulgaria and Romania became the 26th and 27th members of the EU on Jan. 1, 2007.