Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press service
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DAILY SURVEY 05.02.2018.
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VIENNA, 2. Februaray 2018 (Beta) - Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen said on Feb. 2 that Austria was doing as much as it could to support the EU accession of the Western Balkan region and would continue to do so. EU enlargement into the Western Balkans is one of the priorities of the Austrian EU presidency, which the country will take over in the second half of the year, the Austrian president tweeted after a meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Vienna. At a joint news conference with Vucic the Austrian president said that Serbia was making good progress en route to the EU and that Austria fully supported it on that road. Van der Bellen went on to say that it was clear that some other reforms were necessary for Serbia to join the Union, but added that he was confident that it was possible for Serbia to meet all of its obligations in the time frame set by the European Commission, by 2025. The Austrian president also said there was great reservation in the EU over the "importing" of unresolved issues, mentioning the Union's negative experience with the problems of Slovenia and Croatia. That is why the EU is reluctant to accept new members with unresolved border issues, said Van der Bellen and added that he hoped constant dialog between Belgrade and Pristina would produce a solution.


VIENNA, 2. February 2018 (Beta) - Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and President of the Austrian National Council Wolfgang Sobotka said in Vienna, on Feb. 2 that Serbia's accession to the European Union was very important to Austria, which will continue to support Serbia's EU integration. According to a press release from the Serbian president's cabinet, Sobotka told Vucic that the Austrian parliament considered Balkan to be an exceptionally important political area that must be tended to. It is important to me that we have good contacts, because Serbia has a decisive role in the Balkans, said Sobotka, whom Vucic invited to visit Serbia soon. Vucic and Sobotka discussed bilateral relations and cooperation between the two parliaments, the situation in the region and the preservation of peace and stability in the Western Balkans.


VIENNA, 2. February 2018 (Beta) - Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in Vienna, on Feb. 2 that around 450 companies from Austria were operating in Serbia and voiced the expectation that their number would grow in the near future because Serbia was creating an increasingly better environment for Austrian investors. At a joint news conference with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, Vucic thanked Kurz for everything he had "done not only for Serbia, but for all of the Western Balkans," and urged him "to help Serbia on the path to the EU to the extent that he can in his foreign-policy purview." "I am grateful for the dedicated work and constant messages of support to Serbia and other countries in the region on the European path. We had the chance to work with Kurz on one of the most difficult issues for contemporary Europe -- the migrant crisis... He labored and worked night and day to see how he could protect European and Austrian national interests, and he helped Serbia in this hard work in that period," Vucic said. According to Kurz's knowledge, around 450 companies from Austria operate in Serbia and employ over 13,000 people, Vucic said. Vucic further stated that he had briefed Kurz about the talk he had on Feb. 1 with Austrian investors, who told him "they never had it better in Serbia than in 2017 and expect an even better 2018."



BELGRADE, 4. February 2918 (Beta) - Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic has announced that, in the course of an unscheduled inspection of diplomatic offices abroad, he would sack every diplomat under whose purview the probe uncovers irregularities. "Wherever irregularities are found, all those that are responsible will be sacked. There must be no negligence and thievery in embassies. They will have to be called to account," Dacic told the Feb. 4 issue of the Kurir daily. The Foreign Ministry is executing an inspection of all diplomatic offices, focusing on finances, security of buildings and personnel, quality of communication with the host country and expatriates, Kurir reported. "Nothing has been examined for over 20 years which is why we decided to sort out everything in our diplomatic offices. We have formed a team in charge of oversight, which will cover all embassies and consulates," the Serbian minister said. Foreign Ministry State Secretary Ivica Toncev is spearheading the team. He has said that after detailed checks of the embassies in Bratislava and Vienna, Serbia's diplomatic offices in Paris, London, Madrid, Beijing, Morocco and other countries would follow. Toncev said that "the heads and employees in diplomatic offices face serious sanctions, from diplomatic and misdemeanor proceedings to felony charges," but that diplomats could advance too, "because the oversight will show which offices are meticulously organized."


VIENNA, 2. February 2018 (Beta) - Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in Vienna on Feb. 2 that Serbia would aim to find a solution to the problems of Belgrade and Pristina, adding that this was attainable through mutual compromise, rather than through a solution whereby "one side gets everything, while the other loses all." Addressing reporters together with his Austrian counterpart Alexander Van der Bellen, Vucic said that Serbia would "do its best for a solution to appear" and pointed out that peace and stability were "the keywords for all of the Balkans," adding that he hoped there would be no tensions in other parts of the Western Balkans. Vucic recalled that Austria and Serbia had different positions, but added that he was grateful to the president "for having demonstrated patience and a desire and will to hear what Serbia's positions are." "I am grateful to him for the sentence... that if you want a compromise and a solution, one side cannot get everything while the other loses all, because then there is no solution. Both sides have to be a little bit dissatisfied or equally dissatisfied and a little bit satisfied for a solution to be found. If things are set up that way and if someone understands that Serbia has its own interests and cannot be forced to always accommodate others 100 percent while getting nothing in return, then there is a hope and a sliver of optimism in me that we may reach a solution," said Vucic. He also said he hoped that the currently frozen conflict would be resolved through mutual compromise and by looking to the future rather than to the past. "It is up to us to talk and to be brave, so that we do not leave that matter to our children or our children's children. It is important that we find a solution... and whether we will - it takes two to tango," said Vucic.


VIENNA, 2. February 2018 (Beta) - Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Feb. 2 in Vienna that Serbia's policy would be led by its own bodies, the government and president of Serbia, and certainly not by members of the Croatian government, and added that Serbia had chosen a policy of extending its hand and a policy of the future over the past. "Ours is a policy of extending a hand, ours is not a policy of the past, but rather a policy of the future. Those who wish to stay stuck in the past, we wish them all the best, so long as they do not bring us into the same story, because we do not want to stay in that kind of a story," Vucic told reporters after separate meetings with Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen and Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz. He said this in response to a request to comment on "the statements of Croatian officials ahead of his announced visit to Zagreb, that he should apologize for the Greater Serbian aggression." "All I can say is that Serbia's policy will be led by Serbian bodies, the government and president of Serbia, and certainly not by members of the Croatian government. We are the ones who will decide what to do and what kind of policy to lead," said the Serbian president. Croatian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Damir Krsticevic said on Feb. 1 that President Vucic was welcome in Croatia, but added that he should first apologize "for the aggression on Croatia and his statements" from the wartime 1990s. Prior to that, on Jan. 31, Vucic accepted an invitation from his Croatian counterpart Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic to visit Croatia on Feb. 12-13.


BLEGRADE, 4. February 2018 (Beta) - On Feb. 4 Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic congratulated Nicos Anastasiades on winning the presidential election runoff in Cyprus. "I would like to use this opportunity to congratulate you on winning the presidential election, the results of which have confirmed your reputation as an experienced and responsible politician," Vucic's congratulatory note reads. The Serbian president thanked Cyprus for its principled stance on respecting Serbia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as for supporting Serbia's path to the EU. "I assure you that Serbia will continue to be a responsible and reliable partner, with a desire to further strengthen bilateral, and particularly economic relations with Cyprus," the note states.


BELGRADE, 3. February 2018 (Beta) - Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin asked on Feb. 3 Montenegro not to send officers to "Kosovo" because it had not asked Serbia about it and because that would jeopardize mutual relations and the stability of the Balkans. The Defense and Security Council of Montenegro has defined a draft decision on the participation of Armed Forces of Montenegro members in the KFOR mission in "Kosovo". Two staff officers are to take part in the mission, one of whom would be at the Mission Command in Pristina, while the other would be at the Regional Command in Skopje. Answering a reporter's question on the subject, the defense minister said that he would "kindly ask the Montenegrin state and Montenegrin Ministry of Defense to reconsider and not send their army to Kosovo and Metohija." The Montenegrin authorities, Vulin said further, "know full well that Kosovo and Metohija is a part of the state of Serbia under U.N. Resolution 1244 and I will even remind them that during the NATO aggression they were a part of the same state and that Montenegrin citizens, too, were killed by the very same aggressor." The minister added that he would "indeed ask [the Montenegrin authorities] to refrain from [sending officers to Kosovo], to not make such moves without asking the Republic of Serbia, because if they do (send the officers), that certainly will not help the dialog (Serbia-Kosovo), it certainly will not help stabilization in our region and it certainly will not help improve (Montenegro's) relations with the state of Serbia."


BELGRADE, 3. February 2018 (Beta) - The Serbian negotiating team on Feb. 3 denied an announcement by the head of the "Kosovo" delegation in the technical part of the dialog with Serbia, Avni Arifi, that dialog would resume in late February. Members of the Belgrade negotiating team told Beta that "there certainly will not be any dialog in late February," because "we are still waiting for notes from the crime scene investigation after the murder of Oliver Ivanovic" in Kosovska Mitrovica, in mid-January. "We will not accept Arifi scheduling the dialog. He is new to the dialog and probably does not know and needs to learn how dialog is scheduled," the Belgrade team members said. Arifi, the chief of the "Kosovo" delegation in the technical portion of the dialog, told Pristina's Telegraf agency that "there is no exact date yet, but the Kosovo-Serbia dialog will begin in late February." Arifi has been in the position since mid-January and is also the head of "Kosovo" Premier Ramush Haradinaj's office. After a hiatus lasting almost two years, the dialog was supposed to resume on Jan. 16, but that did not happen because the leader of the Freedom, Democracy, Justice civic initiative leader, Oliver Ivanovic, was assassinated on the same day in north Mitrovica, followed by the Serbian delegation refusing to partake in the dialog. The political part of the dialog is supposed to be led by the "Kosovo" and Serbian presidents, Hashim Thaci and Aleksandar Vucic.


BELGRADE, 2. February 2018 (Beta) - Serbian Minister of Construction, Transportion and Infrastructure Zorana Mihajlovic met with Turkish Ambassador to Belgrade Tanju Bilgic on Feb. 2 with whom she discussed the construction of a highway bewteen Belgrade-Sarajevo. Mihajlovic said that the government would form a joint working group next week so the project can be executed as soon as possible, and stressed that Serbia was ready to build two sections of the highway from Belgrade to Sarajevo. "Serbia is ready to build two segments of the road, a 60-kilometer stretch from Pozega to Kotroman, which extends the existing route of Corridor 11, and a 21-kilometer stretch connecting Sremska Mitrovica and Bijeljina," the minister said. She said it was important that Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Turkey worked together to implement this important regional project, the ministry said in a press release. The first step in carrying out the project, she said, is to complete the project documentation, followed by talks on how to finance the works. Ambassador Bilgic announced a visit to Serbia by a technical delegation from Turkey next week to review the project documentation for the future highway and tour both sections so that further steps for implementation can be taken, the press release read.


NIS, 2. February 2018 (Beta) - U.S. Ambassador to Serbia Kyle Scott said on Feb. 2 in Nis that it was unacceptable for employees of the Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center to be granted diplomatic status. "It is difficult to explain why firefighters need diplomatic status - they are here to put out fires and do humanitarian work," Scott said in a lecture on the misunderstanding of U.S. policy in Serbia, which he gave at the University of Nis. Scott said that the diplomatic status would give the Center employees immunity and that the equipment they received would not be inspected. The ambassador said that he would not visit the Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center on Feb. 2, but that "a man" from the U.S. embassy would. "He will relay to me what he saw there. If I visited that center, some people would use that for certain purposes," said Scott. Scott underscored that the European Union and the U.S. were committed to Serbia's strategic objective of joining the EU. "Serbia's policy is stability and peace in this region, and that is our policy, too. That is why we should develop better relations between Serbia and the neighboring countries - Croatia, Bosnia and, of course, Kosovo," said Scott.


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