DACIC, KURZ: SERBIA-AUSTRIA TIES AT HIGH LEVEL, STABLE AND COMPREHENSIVE
BELGRADE, 13 February 2017 (Beta) - Serbian and Austrian foreign ministers, Ivica Dacic and Sebastian Kurz respectively, on Feb. 13 assessed bilateral relations as high level, stable and comprehensive. Dacic thanked Kurz on his personal engagement in stepping up the procedure for the recognition of Serbian driver's licenses in Austria, which means no obligation for Serbia's nationals holding Serbian driver's licenses to take driving tests in Austria, according to a release from the Serbian Foreign Ministry. Kurz said that Austria backed the opening of more chapters in Serbia's accession talks with the EU, adding that it was important to keep up the pace in the process, both in terms of opening and closing chapters, the release said. Kurz also commended Serbia's efforts to manage the ongoing migrant crisis, noting that it was among the priorities during Austria's presidency of the OSCE. The two ministers also discussed the situation in the region and cooperation within the Berlin process initiative and the OSCE.
DACIC WON'T ATTEND CONFERENCE IN ZAGREB OVER CROATIAN MINISTER'S STATEMENTS
BELGRADE, 13 February 2017 (Beta) - Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic has canceled his attendance at an informal meeting of foreign ministers of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) in Zagreb, scheduled for March 3, over statements by Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Davor Stier. "In the light of the recent statements by Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Davor Stier, which do not correspond with the basic principles of honoring good neighborly relations and promoting regional cooperation, and which undermine the achieved level of trust and understanding of fundamental values of cooperation and respect for national integrity, the first deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Ivica Dacic, has canceled his attendance at the forthcoming meeting in Zagreb," the Serbian Foreign Ministry has said in a statement. On several occasions, the Serbian government and Minister Dacic have underlined commitment to the further development of cooperation and the preservation of stability in the region, but despite that, Croatia, which declaratively advocates EU integration of the region and the strengthening of regional cooperation, "with concrete action demonstrates the opposite aspirations," it said in the statement. "Serbia's role in that process has been assessed as crucial by the EU and numerous other partners, and on several occasions Serbia has been designated as an anchor of stability in the region," it said in the statement. The release further said that now, Croatia as an EU member country, unlike the time when it was in the EU accession process, is behaving in a way that is contrary to the fundamental values and principles of the EU.
PUTIN CONGRATULATES SERBIA ON STATEHOOD DAY
BELGRADE, 13 February 2017 (Beta) - Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated the citizens of Serbia on Statehood Day, and also wished his Serbian counterpart, Tomislav Nikolic, a happy birthday. With his message Putin has shared the conviction that Serbia and Russia will develop bilateral relations, and that the stability of the European continent will be solidified, the Office of the Serbian President reported. "I am confident that in a joint effort we'll develop an entire complex of bilateral ties, in the spirit of a strategic partnership, and for the benefit of the brotherly nations, bearing in mind the ultimate interest in strengthening stability and security on the European continent," President Putin said in a letter the Russian ambassador to Serbia, Alexander Chepurin, delivered to Nikolic on Feb. 13. Putin also wished a happy birthday to President Nikolic, who has turned 65, the presidential office added in a press release. "I wish you good health, happiness and success, and to your compatriots - peace and prosperity," Putin said in the letter. Nikolic has also received congratulatory notes from Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Sultan of Oman Qaboos bin Said, and the Republika Srpska speaker, Nedeljko Cubrilovic.
VUCIC: SERBIA HOME TO 6,600 MIGRANTS, 500 OUTSIDE MIGRANT CENTERS
BELGRADE, 13 February 2017 (Beta) - Serbia is hosting some 6,600 refugees and migrants, most of them in the refugee centers, while some 500 live in the center of Belgrade, where they can make contact with smugglers, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said on Feb. 13. After a meeting with Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, Vucic said at a press conference that 5,850 migrants and refugees were in Serbia's reception centers, where they could get regular meals, accommodation and other assistance. "There are slightly over 500 people who haven't moved to the refugee centers yet, and most of them live in the center of Belgrade, waiting for smugglers to take them to Croatia across the Danube river and farther on, to Western Europe," he said. Vucic said that 110 to 140 refugees come to Serbia every day, which is not a serious inflow. The Serbian PM said that 70 percent of refugees were coming from Bulgaria, and 30 percent from Macedonia. He also said that over 80 percent of refugees and migrants came from Afghanistan or Pakistan, while last year over 80 percent came from Syria. Families account for 10 percent of the refugee community, and young men aged between 16 and 30 for the rest. Vucic underlined that Serbia would do everything to keep Serbia from becoming a "parking lot" for the refugees and illegal migrants, and that in the context of the migrant crisis, it is able to preserve stability not only in Serbia, but in the region, too.
KURZ: AUSTRIA WANTS TO KEEP WESTERN BALKANS ON EUROPEAN PATH
BELGRADE, 13 February 2017 (Beta) - Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said during his visit to Belgrade on Feb. 13 that Austria would do everything to keep the Western Balkans, Serbia in particular, on the path to the European Union (EU). "Even though last year was a difficult one for the EU, our position remains the same - we want to keep the Western Balkans, Serbia in particular, on the path towards the EU, and will do everything to keep them going," Kurz said at a joint press conference after a meeting with Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic. In a comment on the situation in the region, Kurz said he wished to thank the Serbian prime minister for his "leading role in Serbia, and a constructive role in the entire Balkan region." "The Balkan region is still one of frequent challenges and tensions, requiring a reasonable policy and politicians that have the entire region in mind, working to ensure positive regional growth," Kurz said. The Austrian foreign minister said that there were strong political and human ties between Austria and Serbia, which were not only historical, but also focused on the future. Minister Kurz said that Austria's companies, the largest investors in Serbia, "owed gratitude to the Serbian government for the reforms it has been implementing, and for economic growth." The Austrian official is confident that many of those companies "will expand their engagement and continue to invest in Serbia." Kurz added that aside from political and economic cooperation, he had talked with Vucic about solutions to the refugee crisis, expressing his gratitude for "the support of Serbia and other friends in the Balkans to closing the Balkans refugee route." At the joint press conference, the Serbian PM thanked Austria for "considerable support" to Serbia on its way to the EU, which he described as a national strategic goal.
KURZ: IMPORTANT TO HONOR AGREEMENTS UNDER BRUSSELS DIALOGUE
BELGRADE, 13 February 2017 (Beta) - Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said on Feb. 13 that it was important to honor what had been agreed under the Brussels-brokered dialogue and also to continue the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. Asked whether Austria as an EU member state and the country currently presiding over the OSCE could exert influence on Pristina to facilitate the formation of an association of Serbian municipalities, Kurz replied that it was very clear that "what has been agreed has to be honored." "We are trying to contribute, both as an EU member state and now as the OSCE presiding country, to the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue being successful," Kurz said, adding that Austria would certainly do so. He further said that it was most important to continue the dialogue and thanked all those who are sincerely engaged in that effort.
STEFANOVIC, KURZ: JOINT EFFORT IN COMBATTING HUMAN TRAFFICKING
BELGRADE, 13 February 2017 (Beta) - Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic and Sebastian Kurz, Austrian foreign minister and OSCE chairperson-in-office, in Belgrade on Feb. 13 said that human trafficking was a crime being combatted jointly by the two countries. The two ministers attended a meeting of prosecutors and criminal investigators of Serbia, Croatia, and Bulgaria at the head office of the department for combatting organized crime, and the presentation of a donation - vehicles and IT equipment to the standing task force for combatting human trafficking. Kurz said that in curbing illegal migration, Austria needed partners like Serbia, adding he was grateful to Serbia for setting up a standing task force for combatting human trafficking, according to a release issued after the meeting. "Human trafficking is a crime on which criminal organizations often earn huge money, while the victims of trafficking are suffering and being exploited," Kurz said. Kurz said he was happy that he could assist Serbia and support it through the donated equipment, the Serbian Interior Ministry said in a statement. OSCE Mission to Serbia Head Andrea Orizio said that the mission was constantly supporting the Serbian state bodies in combatting organized criminal groups involved in the smuggling of migrants. The meeting was attended by State Public Prosecutor Zagorka Dolovac, who said that setting up the task force for combatting human trafficking was one of the most important points in developing cooperation between the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor's Office.
MINISTER: SERBIA, KAZAKHSTAN CAN FORM JOINT FUND FOR LARGER INVESTMENTS, TRADE
BELGRADE, 13 February 2017 (Beta) - Serbia and Kazakhstan could form a joint fund with the aim of increasing investments in both countries and also bilateral trade, it was said during a meeting on Feb. 13, by Serbian Agriculture and Environmental Protection Minister Branislav Nedimovic and representatives of the Kazakh holding, KazAgro. Nedimovic with the delegation of KazAgro, in talking about funding farmers, also discussed the possibilities to set up a fund, noting that such a model of cooperation had already been implemented between Kazakhstan and Hungary, according to a statement from the Serbian ministry. "It is a good model. Currently, the two countries are implementing some 30 projects," Nedimovic said, adding that he was very grateful to KazAgro representatives and the Kazakh ambassador for enabling Serbia to present its potential for exporting agricultural products. Nedimovic said that the meeting also discussed the transfer of know-how and technology, saying that these matters were to be discussed on Feb. 13, at the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, where an investment forum would be held, which would bring together companies dealing with planting materials and building storage facilities. "The idea is to transfer of know-how and thereby boost Serbia's exports to Kazakhstan," Nedimovic said, adding that a number of Serbian companies would visit Kazakhstan. KazAgro Executive Board Chairman Nurlybek Malelov said that he was very happy with the visit to Serbia and that the two countries had numerous opportunities for cooperation.
DJURIC BRIEFS CHINA'S AMBASSADOR ON BELGRADE-PRISTINA DIALOGUE
BELGRADE, 13 February 2017 (Beta) - Director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Marko Djuric met on Feb. 13 with the Chinese ambassador to Serbia, Li Manchang, to brief the Chinese diplomat on the status of the Belgrade-Pristina talks, placing heavy emphasis on the urgency of setting up the Community of Serbian Municipalities, in line with the arrangements made in Brussels, the Serbian government reported. Djuric drew the ambassador's attention to "the attempts to exclude Belgrade from the dialogue with Pristina, and to pressure Serbs in the province to accept solutions unfavorable to them." He described as "particularly dangerous" Pristina's efforts to set up an army, contrary to the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244 and the Kumanovo Military-Technical Agreement, which can scarcely contribute to regional stability. Djuric also warned that spreading information on politically motivated indictments against Serbs in Kosovo was "the most recent form of pressure against the Serbian people." Djuric thanked Ambassador Li for "support to Serbia's sovereignty and territorial integrity."