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DAILY SURVEY 02.03.2018.
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SERBIA

VUCIC DISCUSSES SOLVING HISTORICAL DISPUTE BETWEEN SERBS, ALBANIANS WITH THACI

SOFIA, 1 March 2018 (Beta) - Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has said that he met with Hashim Thaci in Sofia on March 1, with whom he discussed continuing the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and solving the historical dispute between Serbs and Albanians. "We talked about when to continue the dialogue in Brussels and how to try to solve the historical dispute between Serbs and Albanians and that is all that I can tell you," Vucic said in Sofia where he spoke with Thaci on the sidelines of a Western Balkans Six and EU leaders' summit. Vucic said that he frequently talked with Thaci because that was his job. "It is always better to talk than to do anything else that could be bad for Serbs and Albanians. That is my job, nor is Mr. Thaci overjoyed but that is our job and our obligation," he said. Vucic said that key theme of the summit with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker after his tour of the region, where he presented the EU's new Strategy for the Western Balkans, was further progress toward the EU. Vucic also said that solving political differences and border issues were discussed and added that it was no easy feat. According to the Serbian president, there was talk of establishing a regional economic zone and meeting 115 criteria which have "already been given to each country and territory" and that it was important to finish that before a summit in Sofia in May. He added that Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov had set the bar very high in terms of connectedness and developing regional infrastructure.

VUCIC: BELGRADE HAS BECOME PROFITABLE, RECOGNIZABLE BRAND

BELGRADE, 1 March 2018 (Beta) - Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on March 1 that Belgrade had become a profitable and recognizable brand which was attracting more and more investment and tourists. At the inauguration of the Hilton Hotel in Belgrade he said that in January the number of tourists had gone up 11 percent relative to the previous year and that the number of overnight stays had grown by 19 percent. The hotel's inauguration was attended by Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, Minister of Tourism Rasim Ljajic and U.S. Ambassador to Belgrade Kyle Scott. The construction of the luxury hotel began on April 17, 2016 when the cornerstone of the new hotel was laid down during a ceremony attended by then prime minister Aleksandar Vucic and U.S. Ambassador Kyle Scott. A total of EUR70 million was invested in the hotel which spans 32,418 square meters, has 242 rooms and apartments, an underground garage, eight stories and a restaurant at the top with an open balcony. Those who attended the inaugural ceremony were told that the hotel employed 160 people. The Hilton chain has over 570 hotels worldwide, and opened a hotel in Podgorica in October 2016.

JUNCKER IMPRESSED BY PROGRESS IN WESTERN BALKANS, BUT THERE IS STILL MUCH WORK TO DO

SOFIA, 1 March 2018 (Beta) - The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said in Sofia on March 1 that the EU remained dedicated to the European prospects of the Western Balkans. I wish to say what I told my friends during the visit to the region: that the EU remains dedicated to the European prospects of the Western Balkan countries, Juncker said after the meeting with the heads of state or government of the so-called Western Balkans Six. Addressing the media, in the presence of all participants of the meeting, Juncker said that during the visit to the region he had been convinced that all Western Balkan partners shared the same values. He stressed that countries of the region had made immense progress, which impressed him, but that none had yet fulfilled all the membership criteria and conditions. The participants of the meeting were the prime ministers of Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia - Edi Rama, Dusko Markovic and Zoran Zaev, the president of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic, Hashim Thaci, and the head of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dragan Covic. Other participants of the meeting, which marked the end of Juncker's several-day tour of the region, the aim of which was to explain the EU strategy for the Western Balkans in detail, were the European Union's representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Federica Mogherini, and the commissioner for enlargement, Johannes Hahn, while Boyko Borisov, the prime minister of Bulgaria, which is currently holding the EU presidency, presided over the meeting.

GOV'T ADOPTS THIRD VERSION OF PROGRAM FOR ADOPTING EU ACQUIS

BELGRADE, 1 March 2018 (Beta) - The Serbian government adopted on March 1 a third, revised version of the National Program for Adopting the EU's Acquis, the most important document in Serbia's European integration, the Ministry of European Integration has said. The program envisages the full harmonization of Serbia's laws with those of the EU by 2021, after which there will be a period of overseeing their application until accession. The objective of the government is to, in a technical sense, be ready for EU membership by the end of 2021 regardless of the date of the formal closure of negotiations and membership, the statement said. For the first time, the program obliges domestic institutions to strengthen their administrative capacities in the area of European integration. In association with the Ministry of Finance, a financial guidebook has been composed for monitoring the financial effects of the program. The state administration's institutions now have the obligation of responsibly and sustainably planning budget funds for meeting obligations that are part of European integration as a strategic priority of the Serbian government, the statement read.

VULIN: POLITICAL RELATIONS BETWEEN SERBIA, BELARUS ARE EXCEPTIONAL

BELGRADE, 1 March 2018 (Beta) - Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin said on March 1, during a meeting with the ambassador of Belarus in Belgrade, Valery Brilev, that political relations between the two countries were exceptional. Vulin handed the ambassador the invitation for Belarus' Defense Minister Andrei Ravkov to visit Serbia. "We appreciate the support of Belarus, which is reflected in the principled policy to support Serbia in solving open issues in the southern Serbian province - Kosovo and Metohija, by peaceful and political means, while we are attempting at the same time to preserve and defend the sovereignty and integrity of our fatherland," Vulin said, as conveyed by the Defense Ministry. The minister pointed out the forthcoming mutual opening of defense representative offices on a residential basis and the realization of the Slavic Brotherhood exercise which will, besides Serbian and Belarusian, also include Russian soldiers.

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