-THE MEETING OF THE PRIME MINISERS OF WESTERN BALKAN COUNTRIES-
VUCIC IN SARAJEVO: UNIFIED MARKET FOR BIGGER ECONOMIC GROWTH IN REGION
SARAJEVO, 16 March 2017 (Beta) - Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said in Sarajevo on March 16 during a summit of Western Balkan prime ministers that the biggest advantage of creating a unified market in the Western Balkans would be better economic growth than the current one. He explained that a unified market meant 20 million people, consumers of commodities and services, which would be created out of small and unconnected markets. "We achieved important results through CEFTA, and this would be another, higher level of integration," Vucic concluded. In an interview with the Bosnian BN TV station, he said that it was difficult to unite the Western Balkans over political subjects, but that it was important that all sides agreed that the economy could move the region forward. After the summit Vucic met with RS President Milorad Dodik in East Sarajevo.
HAHN: FORMING OF COMMON WESTERN BALKAN MARKET SHOULD BE BASE FOR FUTURE EU ACCESSION
SARAJEVO, 16 March 2017 (Beta) - The European commissioner for enlargement, Johannes Hahn, on March 16 urged the Western Balkan leaders to seize the opportunity for establishing strong mutual cooperation and to work on forming a common market as one of the bases for future accession to the European Union. Now is the right time for the region to take the leading role, to overcome the problems that affect the internal situations in individual countries and to no longer miss opportunities for such strong cooperation, Hahn said at the meeting of the prime ministers of six Western Balkan countries in Sarajevo. Hahn called on the prime ministers of the region's countries to demonstrate the leadership of statesmen and use the "favorable wind," which was also in the interest of the EU. The region now has the opportunity to seize the moment when we will have positive messages, or we will simply shut the door because of bad messages, but we should not play with fire, we are all aware of that, Hahn said. The European commissioner said the EU as a whole completely understood the gravity of the situation in the region, that European leaders understood how important it was to cooperate with the Western Balkan countries, and that the European prospects of the region had been confirmed in Brussels. Hahn pointed out that the economic integration of the region and the creation of a common market was important for the process of EU accession. We are proposing the common Western Balkan market as the base for future EU accession. Our ambition is to remove obstacles and create a unified economic space, and the long-term goal is to integrate the Western Balkan market into the internal market of the EU, Hahn added.
WESTERN BALKAN LEADERS WANT A MORE ACTIVE EU IN THE REGION
SARAJEVO, 16 March 2017 (Beta) - The prime ministers of Western Balkan countries adopted a joint statement at their summit in Sarajevo on March 16, stating that European prospects were crucial for mutual cooperation and progress of individual countries in the entire region. The host of the summit, the head of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denis Zvizdic, said that the initiatives presented during the meeting of officials of Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo were partially formulated in the joint statement. "Our message is that we wish the European prospects to remain present, we want a more active and frequent presence of EU representatives and a greater volume of investments in the Western Balkan region," Zvizdic told a news conference after the summit's end. Zvizdic said that projects were proposed during the meeting, which should be realized in every country and in the region, primarily in the fields of transportation and energy, and that the EU should assist in their realization. In his words, the goal of the summit was to present and define joint interests and initiatives for the next Western Balkan summit in Trieste in mid-July. "This is a good message to the region and the EU, that we can talk and reach agreements on joint interests, for as long as European prospects exist for the region, which will continue to be the crucial base for the further development of cooperation, understanding and trust in the region," Zvizdic said. During the meeting, they also discussed European integration, economic cooperation, infrastructure projects, cooperation in education, the preservation of peace and stability. The participants of the Western Balkan summit in Sarajevo, which was hosted by Zvizdic, were the prime ministers of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic; Montenegro, Dusko Markovic; Macedonia, Emil Dimitrijev; Albania, Edi Rama; Kosovo, Isa Mustafa; and the foreign minister of Italy, Angelino Alfano.
MIHAJLOVIC: EXCELLENT COOPERATION WITH U.N. IN FIELD OF GENDER EQUALITY
BELGRADE, 16 March 2017 (Beta) - The deputy prime minister of Serbia and president of the Coordinating Body for Gender Equality, Zorana Mihajlovic, met on March 16 with the new resident coordinator of the U.N. in Serbia and resident representative of the UNDP, Karla Robin Hershey, and discussed the continuing of successful cooperation. A statement from Mihajlovic's office reads that she informed Karla Robin Hershey about priorities in the Coordinating Body's work, stressing the importance of passing the law on gender equality, social inclusion of the Roma, realization of the Action Plan and projects through the IPA pre-accession funds of the EU. "Over the past two years, we have approached gender equality as one of the priorities in structural reforms and in public policies of the state. We have adopted the National Strategy for gender equality, introduced the Index of Gender Equality, gender-responsible budgeting and prepared a new law on gender equality, which will be adopted soon," Zorana Mihajlovic said. She added that the Coordinating Body had established excellent cooperation with all state and local institutions, the civil sector and international organizations. "Cooperation with the U.N. and the support we are getting from you are particularly important for our results," Zorana Mihajlovic said. Karla Robin Hershey thanked the deputy prime minister for the Coordinating Body's support to the U.N. agencies in the field of gender equality, adding that cooperation would continue through various projects, IPA programs and the fulfilling of Agenda 2030.
MIHAJLOVIC, CHINESE AMBASSADOR: WORK ON BYPASS AROUND BELGRADE NEEDS TO START AS SOON AS POSSIBLE
BELGRADE, 16 March 2017 (Beta) - Minister of Construction, Transportation and Infrastructure Zorana Mihajlovic met in Belgrade on March 16 with Chinese Ambassador to Serbia Li Manchang and representatives of the Power Construction Corporation of China to discuss preparations for starting the construction of a bypass road around the capital Belgrade. A statement from the Ministry of Construction read that during the talks Mihajlovic said that the project of building a bypass road around Belgrade "is of immense importance" to the government, which she said wanted the works to "begin as soon as possible." The Chinese ambassador said that there was full support for cooperating with Serbia, especially in the area of infrastructure, as well as that it was in the interest of both sides for the project to begin as soon as possible. A commercial contract for continuing the construction of the bypass around Belgrade, worth EUR207 million, was signed with the Chinese Power Construction Corporation at the fifth summit of heads of government of China and 16 central and eastern European countries, held in Riga. The contract includes works on a road section from the Ostruznica bridge to Bubanj Potok, which is 19.5 kilometers long.
DJURIC: SERBIA WANTS A STABLE REGION
BELGRADE, 16 March 2017 (Beta) - The director of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija, Marko Djuric, said on March 16 that Belgrade wanted to continue the dialogue with Pristina because talks were the best guard against the escalation of inter-ethnic tension and a guarantee of security for the Serb people. In a meeting with Austrian Ambassador to Belgrade Johannes Eigner, Djuric said he was afraid that harsh political rhetoric and the damaging unilateral moves of Pristina, which were primarily caused by internal political reasons, could irreparably damage the process of normalization, and that the international community should react in order to prevent it. The statement of the Office reads that Djuric, while stressing that Austria was one of the biggest partners of Serbia in attempts to preserve stability in the region, warned that the bearers of the idea of Greater Albania had been attempting to destabilize the region over the past few weeks, in an organized and synchronized manner. Djuric said Pristina had generated an atmosphere of distrust by the campaign for the forming of the so-called army of Kosovo, attempts to usurp the property of the Republic of Serbia in Kosovo, by suspending the dialogue with Belgrade and by stubbornly refusing to start the process of forming the Municipality of Serb Municipalities. "What also contributed to the regression in Serb-Albanian relations is the latest campaign of pressure against the Serb political representatives in Kosovo and Metohija and the launching of absurd political processes against them," the statement reads.
ZAKHAROVA: FORMING OF KOSOVO ARMY IS AN ABSOLUTELY IRRESPONSIBLE MOVE
MOSCOW, 16 March 2017 (Beta) - The forming of the army of Kosovo represents an absolutely irresponsible move, which is extremely dangerous for the Balkans and for Europe as a whole, the spokesperson of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, said on March 16. At a regular news conference, Zakharova stated that the forming of the army of Kosovo was against Resolution 1244 of the U.N. Security Council, which envisages the deployment of armed forces in Kosovo solely on the basis of a decision of the U.N. Security Council. "We believe the transformation of the Kosovo Security Force into the real army of Kosovo, despite the stand of Belgrade and the Kosovo Serbs, is an absolutely irresponsible move. Moreover, it is extremely dangerous for the Balkans and for the whole of the European continent," Zakharova said. She further said that, in the context of the improvement of the security situation in Kosovo, one should bear in mind that Kosovo had become "a criminal enclave and a refuge for bandits and terrorists." Zakharova went on to say that the priority in Kosovo should be the fight against the spreading of radical Islamism. "A cause for concern is the fact that the territory of the province is being used for recruiting persons who participate in fighting in the Middle East on the side of the extremists and prepare terrorist attacks in various countries," Zakharova said.
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA TO BE PARTNER IN THIS YEAR'S AGRICULTURE FAIR IN NOVI SAD
NOVI SAD, 16 March 2017 (Beta) - Representatives of the Vojvodina administration and a delegation from the Bosnia and Herzegovina Council of Ministers agreed in Novi Sad on March 16 that at this year's agricultural fair in the city Bosnia and Herzegovina would be a partner state. According to the participants of the meeting, cooperation will be important for the volume of trade, possibilities for cooperation with third countries, especially Turkey, Russia and other countries with which Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have the requisite agreements. The management of the Novi Sad Fair, which is where the agricultural fair will be held also participated in the agreement. Representatives of the Vojvodina government and Bosnia and Herzegovina Council of Ministers also discussed cooperation in the area of IPA projects, and announced the intensification of cooperation between the chambers of commerce of both countries. "Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of Serbia's most important foreign trade partners and we will give additional incentives for that kind of cooperation, because we want many more of their investments and a lot more investments by our economic entities in Bosnia and Herzegovina," provincial government head Igor Mirovic said. He added that the upcoming agriculture fair in Novi Sad was a chance for all of Bosnia and Herzegovina's potentials to be showcased "and for them to connect to other potentials."
EU WILL GIVE NEW AID TO SERBIA FOR TENDING TO REFUGEES
BRUSSELS, 16 March 2017 (Beta) - The EU supports the Serbian authorities and praises them for their enduring efforts in dealing with the refugee crisis, and will offer Serbia additional help in caring for refugees, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides told BETA. Stylianides told BETA in an interview in Brussels that in this very sensitive political constellation of circumstances in the region, he would like to commend the Serbian authorities for resolving the ongoing crisis. It was necessary and very important that the Serbian authorities enabled accommodation and care for an increasingly large number of refugees, he stressed. He added that he had recently announced EUR6 million more in EU humanitarian aid to Minister Aleksandar Vulin, which he said, added up to EUR16 million in European humanitarian support for refugees. Stylianides thereby answered BETA's question of how he saw criticism, especially in Serbia and Macedonia, that the EU was not doing enough to secure a firm platform for resolving the European refugee and migrant crisis. He also said that overall the European Commission was the biggest donor with EUR52 million for meeting the growing needs for removing the aftermath of the refugee crisis. Humanitarian aid is distributed through key partners such as the U.N.'s agencies, the Red Cross and non-governmental organizations, and we stand by Serbia in this crisis, Stylianides said, remarking that this crisis was not on a European scale but a global scale. The commissioner added that the EU had provided humanitarian aid for 1,200,000 persons, which was the number of persons who passed through Serbia in 2015, adding that now the refugees and migrants were not just passing through, but were being accommodated for a lengthier stay.