DACIC DISCUSSES STRONGER PARTNERSHIP WITH ERITREA'S FOREIGN MINISTER
BELGRADE, 7 March 2017 (Beta) - The Serbian and Eritrean foreign ministers, Ivica Dacic and Osman Saleh, agreed in Belgrade, on March 7, that the two states were friends already, but that political and economic partnerships had yet to be developed. At a joint press conference Dacic said that Serbia and Eritrea maintained good bilateral relations and had no problems, but that their cooperation was underdeveloped. Dacic said that a memorandum on political consultations between the two ministries would be signed on March 8, setting up a mechanism for regular ministerial meetings once a year, and for the coordination of international initiatives. Eritrea refused to recognize Kosovo's unilaterally proclaimed independence and voted against Kosovo's move to join the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and has maintained "a consistent, principled stand" on Serbia's territorial integrity and sovereignty, Dacic said. The Serbian foreign minister said it was "regrettable" that the value of bilateral foreign trade was EUR 12,000 in 2016. It was Serbia that imported Eritrean products worth that much, which also shows that Serbia appreciates friendly states, he added. Minister Dacic said that the two states could cooperate in the areas of agriculture, processing industry, mining, energy and medicine, and develop military cooperation, too. Dacic said that President Tomislav Nikolic had decorated his Eritrean counterpart, and that he would deliver the decoration during his next visit to Eritrea. Minister Saleh, Eritrea's first official to visit Serbia since the establishment of diplomatic relations, said that his visit to Serbia was an opportunity for the development of bilateral consultations aimed at strengthening cooperation between the two states.
DACIC EXPECTS A MORE BALANCED EU POSITION
BELGRADE, 7 March 2017 (Beta) - Serbian Foreign Minister said on March 7 that he expected the European Union to produce a "more balanced position," and help reduce instability in the Western Balkans. In a comment on a statement by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini after her regional tour that the situation in the region was tense and exposed to many challenges, Dacic said: "Good morning!" "She didn't have to come here to find that out. We warn about that every single week, urging Brussels to react, but it prefers to turn a blind eye to the problems and maintain a conspiracy of silence. Having this in mind, their surprise is only natural," Dacic said at a press conference after a meeting with his Eritrean counterpart, Osman Saleh. Dacic also said that the political situation in Serbia was stable, and that it would continue to be stable after the upcoming presidential vote, too. The Serbian foreign minister said he didn't know anything about EU ambassador Michael Davenport's departure from Serbia, reported by local media, and that there hadn't been any talks as to who might succeed him at the post. Comment on recent reports that the establishment of a Kosovo army was under way, Dacic said the initiative was contrary to the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244. "Serbia will do everything in a political context, but Kosovo makes unilateral moves, involving neither Serbia nor those sponsoring Kosovo all these years," Dacic said, adding that instability might be a logical consequence. Dacic announced that he would travel to Cuba on March 9 to attend a conference of the Association of Caribbean States, which in his own words would be very important in a vote on Kosovo's move to join UNESCO.
SERBIAN AMBASSADOR IN ZAGREB RECEIVES VERBAL PROTEST OVER MONUMENT TO MILAN TEPIC
ZAGREB, 7 March 2017 (Beta) - Serbian Ambassador to Croatia Mira Nikolic was summoned on March 7 to the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where she was given "a strong verbal protest" in the wake of the Serbian government's decision to raise a monument to national hero Milan Tepic, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic has said. Dacic said that Croatia had called it unacceptable and a gesture that was detrimental to bilateral relations "the construction of a monument honoring a man whose suicidal last stand caused the death of 11 Croatian defenders and an unknown number of Yugoslav People's Army recruits." "These actions on the part of the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs show that they are absolutely incapable of looking into their own yard," Dacic told a news conference and added that Ambassador Nikolic "absolutely rejected the criticism." Recalling that the former socialist Yugoslavia's presidency had declared Tepic a national hero, Dacic said that the Croatian government's "tragicomedy" revealed that Croatia could not seek what brought it together and not what separated it in its international relations, especially in bilateral relations with Serbia. "We are ready to develop cooperation and neighborly relations, but on the other side there is no condemnation of attempts to rehabilitate a fascist past," Dacic said. Last week the Serbian government decided to raise a monument in Belgrade to honor Tepic on the 25th anniversary of his death. Major Milan Tepic blew up a Yugoslav army warehouse in the barracks in Bjelovar, in September 1991, during an attack to keep the enemy from seizing the army's weaponry, killing himself and 11 Croatian soldiers.
STEFANOVIC, IRANIAN AMBASSADOR ON POLICE COOPERATION AND FIGHTING TERRORISM
BELGRADE, 7 March 2017 (Beta) - Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic met on March 7 with Iranian Ambassador to Belgrade Hossein Molla Abdollahi to discuss improving police cooperation and the devotion of both states to combating terrorism. An Interior Ministry statement quoted Stefanovic and Abdollahi as saying during the meeting in Belgrade that advancing police cooperation would help strengthen friendly relations between Serbia and Iran. Another topic of the meeting was bilateral cooperation in fighting cyber and other forms of crime.
TABAKOVIC: BAD LOANS SERBIA'S MAJOR PROBLEM
BELGRADE, 7 March 2017 (Beta) - The National Bank of Serbia (NBS) governor, Jorgovanka Tabakovic, said on March 7 that Serbia had maintained financial stability, restored confidence in the local currency, Serbs had saved EUR 9 billion, and that the problem of bad loans had to be addressed properly. Tabakovic underlined at the Kopaonik Business Forum that from early January to late February the dinar had lost 0.4 percent against the euro. In order to preserve the stability of the national currency, the central bank sold EUR 330 million in the interbank market until Feb. 28. The central bank governor added that last year the bank sold EUR 980 million, and bought EUR 820 million. Tabakovic pointed out that her next task would be to improve the quality of banking services, and reduce interest rates. She said that the share of bad loans in the total borrowing rose to an alarming 17 percent in December 2016.
LJAJIC, PINTER: SERBIA, HUNGARY TO CREATE JOINT TOURISM OFFER BY JUNE
BELGRADE, 7 March 2017 (Beta) - Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications of Serbia Rasim Ljajic and Hungarian Ambassador to Serbia Attila Pinter agreed on March 7 to complete a program for joint tourism offers between Serbia and Hungary by June this year. The Ministry said that Ljajic and Pinter had agreed to create a joint tourism offer primarily for the Chinese and overseas markets. It was arranged that tourists from these countries would be offered several programs, which would imply simultaneous visits to Serbia's and Hungary's tourist attractions. A working group which will soon be formed and consist of representatives from the relevant ministries, tourism organizations and tourism industries of both countries, and will define the program of the two countries' joint offer to third markets.
ROAF: REDUCED UNEMPLOYMENT RATES SERBIA'S GREATEST SUCCESS
BELGRADE, 7 March 2017 (Beta) - Head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Mission to Serbia James Roaf said on March 7 that reduced unemployment rates were Serbia's greatest success over the past two years. "For me, the greatest success within the program is a declining unemployment rate, with growing employment trends. Regardless of the cuts in the public sector, employment has continued to grow, which is very important," Roaf said at the Kopaonik Business Forum, cautioning that unemployment rates were still rather high. The IMF mission chief said that over the past two years incredible transformation had taken place in Serbia, and that the goal was to maintain the fiscal improvements. Roaf doesn't expect macroeconomic stability to be threatened in the coming period. He underscored that the development of the private sector was very important for Serbia, because the private sector was a driving force behind growth, and the place to generate revenue. "Serbia will succeed as a state only if it involves a larger section of the private sector," Roaf suggested, adding that Serbia had a good future if it succeeded in implementing structural and macroeconomic reforms.