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Serbia welcomes Turkey’s cooperation in Balkan region

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The Speaker of the Serbian Parliament praised Turkey’s cooperation in the Balkan region in various economic activities, including a historic highway project that will connect the region.

“The highway project between Belgrade and Sarajevo is one of the main axes of our cooperation and we expect a lot from it,” Ivica Dacic told Anadolu Agency, during her official visit to Ankara, the Turkish capital.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic “support this great regional project, which will undoubtedly increase the economic capabilities of the entire Balkans and will also be a great symbol of connection in our region,” Dacic added.

“We believe that Turkey will be an important partner of Serbia, as it was before, in the economy but also in all other areas, because we still have a lot to offer each other,” he said. He underlines.

Relations between Serbia and Turkey are “very close these days, our relations have prospered in a few years,” Dacic said, adding: “We in Belgrade are happy about this, as are our friends from Ankara. I am convinced that the citizens of our two countries want constant growth in our relations because we live in the same region and share a lot of mutual culture and history.

“In addition, our two countries recognize good opportunities for economic cooperation,” he also said.

“Turkey and Serbia are constantly increasing their trade, it now amounts to around 1.3 billion euros per year and we want to reach two billion,” he added.

“This is entirely achievable, as there is still plenty of room for trade and investment on both sides, and our job as a state representative is to help realize these ambitions as much as possible “, explained Dacic.

Investments in infrastructure, agriculture and energy

Noting that in the past, “only a few Turkish companies did business in Serbia,” Dacic said: “There was a lot of caution towards Turkish investments in Serbia and it was mainly our fault, in Serbia. »

“Fortunately, this has changed, because we have done a lot to attract Turkish companies and offer them good business conditions,” he said.

“Since 2015, we have a rapid growth of Turkish investments in Serbia, but also a growth of the participation of Turkish companies in various projects, mainly in the field of infrastructure, and all this together is measured in hundreds of millions of dollars,” he explained.

Serbia is an “excellent investment destination that can confirm all Turkish businessmen operating in Serbia,” Dacic emphasized, adding: “There are many investment opportunities, mainly in the areas of infrastructure, agriculture, energy and high technologies. technologies.”

Stressing that these are the most dynamic sectors in Serbia, he expressed hope that Turkish companies will recognize them as an opportunity for their business development.

Dacic also said: “It is very important that the issue of increasing economic cooperation is the most important topic of the frequent meetings of our government officials, especially those between Presidents Vucic and Erdogan. »

“This ensures that we will have more and more good joint projects in the future,” he added.

Regarding the TurkStream project, Dacic said that from the beginning of the project, they were “interested in being part of it.”

“Not only because it is necessary to guarantee the supply of our growing gas needs, but also because it would be a good chance to make a good profit for our country as a transit point.

“Unfortunately, in the past there were political obstacles to these types of projects, mainly the limitations imposed by the EU. However, Turkish Stream has shown that bureaucratic obstacles should not stand in the way of economic interests,” he explained.

Noting that Serbia is “a European transport and energy hub, especially if we consider connecting Turkey with Western Europe as the largest economic entities in our environment,” Dacic said, and added : “We must use this position as an opportunity to multiply our capabilities too.

The TurkStream project includes two lines with a total capacity of 31.5 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year. The first line will transport 15.75 billion cubic meters of Russian gas to Turkish consumers annually, and the second will transport another 15.75 billion cubic meters from Russia to Europe via Turkey.

‘No one can get everything’ on Kosovo-Serbia negotiations

Regarding the negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia, Dacic said his country was “very interested in the success of this process and has been working on it patiently and responsibly for years.”

“Unfortunately, the other side, the authorities in Pristina, do not behave in this way and, because of their obstructions, this process often stops. This is still the case today,” he added.

“We want the dialogue to result in a global compromise and decisions that will not fully satisfy us or Pristina,” he explained. “We are acutely aware that no one can get everything and that concessions are inevitable.”

“If we weren’t aware of it, there would be no reason to talk about it. Only a compromise will resolve this problem in the long term and allow Kosovo Serbs and Albanians to look to the future and live in peace,” he said.

“I was involved in these negotiations from the beginning and, as Prime Minister, I signed the Brussels Agreement eight years ago, but unfortunately some of its articles are not yet implemented to this day, notably the agreement on the creation of the Union of Serbian Nations. Municipalities of Kosovo and Metohija.

“We are accomplishing everything we agreed, but you can see that Pristina is not doing the same,” Dacic noted.

Dacic also called on Western mediators, first and foremost the EU and the United States, “to influence the authorities in Pristina to continue this process, above all to be constructive in finding a solution, which is not not the case currently, but also to realize what it had been signed.

The Speaker of the Serbian Parliament also spoke of “unresolved border issues with our neighbors, mainly Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina”.

Describing it as a “technical” rather than political issue, Dacic said: “I am sure these issues will be resolved through bilateral negotiations. »

“As for Serbia and I think our neighbors think the same thing, these problems do not weigh on our relations and we are ready to resolve them with our best intentions,” he explained.

Stressing that “the border crossing regime at our border in the region is increasingly relaxed”, he said: “Our citizens cross more easily than before to other countries and we will continue to work in this direction” .

“The removal of border barriers, mainly for goods and services, is the essence of the “Open Balkans” initiative, launched at the initiative of Serbia with Albania and North Macedonia.

“We want our region to be a place without any economic barriers, because that is the only way we can encourage our trade and economic growth,” he added.

Addressing the tension between Montenegro and Serbia regarding the enthronement ceremony of the new Metropolitan of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, Dacic said: “Montenegro is going through an internal crisis and the turbulence present there has nothing to do with it. see with Serbia, and we have no relationship with Serbia either. influence them. »

“This is exclusively an internal issue of Montenegro and they must resolve them themselves, not through violence, as has been the case recently, but only through dialogue and the political process,” he said. he adds.

“What concerns us, and no one can blame us, is the situation of the Serbian people in Montenegro, who represent a third of the population, as well as the situation of the Serbian Orthodox Church, which is seriously threatened. by certain legal solutions, which were changed after many efforts and protests,” he also said.

Serbia wants Serbs in Montenegro to “enjoy equality and the same rights as all other countries, but unfortunately this has not been the case for a long time,” the Serbian politician added. “Serbs have been discriminated against in various areas and this is unacceptable in a country that claims to be democratic.”

“This includes the right to religion, which is entirely threatened by the strong pressure on the Serbian Orthodox Church,” he said.

“EU membership remains our priority”

Regarding Serbia’s relations with the EU, Dacic said his country “has progressed on the path to EU membership, even more in its internal reforms than the official result shows through the number of negotiating chapters open”.

“So we can do it much faster, but the problem is with the EU, which is resisting further enlargements for its own reasons,” he added.

“We cannot have much influence on this, but EU membership remains our priority and we continue to meet the membership criteria.

“But this does not mean that we will sit back and wait for the EU to change its mind regarding enlargement to the Balkans,” he stressed.

Serbia continues to strengthen its economy “to eliminate barriers” with its neighbors, Dacic said.

“As for NATO, there is no public interest in Serbia to join this alliance, nor is it among our priorities,” he noted. “We pursue a policy of military neutrality towards all military alliances, including NATO, in order to be open to cooperation with everyone, to the extent that it suits our defense interests.”

“We are satisfied with the level of cooperation we have with NATO, we carry out joint exercises and other forms of cooperation and NATO is also satisfied with that,” he said. “Regarding our neighbors, who have already joined the Alliance, this is their sovereign decision and it does not affect our good neighborly relations.”

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