Serbian parliament speaker welcomes Turkish cooperation in the Balkans
The Serbian parliament speaker praised Turkey for its plans in the Balkan regions, including economic interactions and a historic highway project that will link 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 (AA) agency during her official visit to the Turkish capital Ankara. .
Turkish President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄan and his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic support this regional project, “which will undoubtedly increase the economic capacities of the whole Balkans and will also be a great symbol of connection in our region”, added Dacic.
“We believe that Turkey will be an important partner of Serbia, as before, in the economy but also in all other areas because we still have a lot to offer,” he noted.
Relations between Serbia and Turkey are “very close these days, our relations have blossomed in a few years,” Dacic said, adding: “We in Belgrade are happy about it, as are our friends in Ankara. I am convinced that the citizens of our two countries want a constant growth of our relations because we live in the same region and share a lot of mutual culture and history.
“In addition, our two countries recognize a good chance for economic cooperation,” he also said.
“Turkey and Serbia are constantly increasing their mutual trade, it is now around 1.3 billion euros ($ 1.53 billion) per year, and we want to reach 2 billion (euros),” he said. -he adds.
“This is very achievable, as there is still plenty of room for trade and investment on both sides, and our job as a representative of the state is to help achieve these ambitions as much as possible. “, explained Dacic.
Investments in infrastructure, agriculture, energy
Noting that in the past, âthere were only a few Turkish companies doing business in Serbia,â said Dacic: âThere was a lot of caution with regard to the arrival of Turkish investments in Serbia and c t was mainly our fault in Serbia. “
âFortunately, that has changed, as we have done a lot to attract businesses from Turkey and offer them good business conditions,â he said.
“Since 2015, we have a rapid growth of Turkish investments in Serbia, but also a growth of participation of Turkish companies in various projects, mainly in the field of infrastructure, and all this is measured in hundreds of millions of dollars”, he explained.
Serbia is an âexcellent investment destinationâ and all Turkish entrepreneurs operating in Serbia can attest to this, Dacic stressed, saying: âThere are many investment opportunities, mainly in the areas of infrastructure, agriculture. , energy and the field of high technologies.
Describing these sectors as the most dynamic in Serbia, he said he hoped Turkish companies recognized the opportunities for business development.
Dacic also said: âIt is very important that the issue of economic cooperation be the most important topic of the frequent meetings of our government representatives, especially those between Presidents Vucic and ErdoÄan. “
âThis ensures that we will have more and more good joint projects in the future,â he added.
Regarding the TurkStream project, Dacic said they were “interested in being a part of it” from the start.
âNot only because it is necessary to secure the supply of our growing gas needs, but because it would be a good chance for a good profit for our country to be a transit point.
âUnfortunately, in the past there were political obstacles for these kinds of projects, mainly limitations imposed by the EU. However, the Turkish Stream has shown that bureaucratic obstacles should not stand in the way of economic interests, âhe explained.
Noting that Serbia is a âEuropean transport and energy hub, especially when we have in mind to connect Turkey to Western Europe as the largest economic entities in our environment,â said Dacic: “We must use this position as a chance to multiply our abilities as well.”
The TurkStream project comprises two lines with a total capacity of 31.5 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year. The first line will transport 15.75 Gm3 of Russian gas to Turkish consumers each year, and the second will carry an additional 15.75 Gm3 from Russia to Europe via Turkey.
Kosovo-Serbia talks: “No one can get everything”
Regarding the negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia, Dacic said his country was “very interested in the success of this process and had worked patiently and responsibly for it for years”.
âUnfortunately, the other side, the authorities in Pristina, do not behave in this way and thanks to their obstructions this process is often stalled. This is still the case now, “he added.
“We want the dialogue to lead to an overall compromise and to decisions that will not fully satisfy us or Pristina,” he explained. “We are very aware that no one can get everything and that concessions are inevitable.”
âIf we didn’t know, there would be no point in talking. Only a compromise will resolve this issue in the long term and allow the Serbs and Kosovar Albanians to look to the future and live in peace, âhe said.
âI have been involved in these talks from the start and as Prime Minister I signed the Brussels Accord eight years ago, but unfortunately some of its articles have not been implemented to date, mainly the agreement on the creation of the Union of Serbs. Municipalities of Kosovo and Metohija.
“We are fulfilling everything we agreed to, but you can see Pristina does not do the same,” Dacic noted.
Dacic also called on Western mediators, mainly the EU and the United States, to push the authorities in Pristina to continue the process and to work not only to find a constructive solution, but also to respect what had been agreed.
The speaker of the Serbian parliament also referred to âunresolved border problems with our neighbors, mainly with Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovinaâ.
Describing it as a âtechnicalâ rather than a political issue, Dacic said, âI’m sure these issues will be resolved through bilateral negotiations. “
“Regarding Serbia and I think our neighbors think the same, these problems do not weigh on our relations and we are ready to resolve them with our best intentions,” he explained.
Emphasizing that crossing the border in the region is becoming easier and easier, he said: âOur citizens are crossing more easily than before to other countries and we will continue to work there.
âThe removal of border barriers, mainly for goods and services, is the essence of the ‘Open Balkans’ initiative which was launched at the initiative of Serbia with Albania and North Macedonia.
“We want our region to be a place without any economic barriers, because it is the only way to encourage our trade and our economic growth,” he added.
Referring to the Montenegro-Serbia tension over the enthronement ceremony of the new Metropolitan of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, Dacic said: âMontenegro is going through an internal crisis and the turmoil there has nothing to do with the Serbia, neither do we influence them.
“This is exclusively an internal matter in Montenegro and they have to resolve them by themselves, not by violence, which has been the case recently, but only by dialogue and the political process”, a- he added.
âThe things that concern us, and no one can blame us, is the situation of the Serbian people in Montenegro, which represents a third of the population, as well as the situation of the Serbian Orthodox Church, which was seriously threatened by legal solutions, which have been changed after a lot of effort and protests, âhe also said.
Serbia wants Serbs in Montenegro “to enjoy equality and the same rights as all other nations, but unfortunately this has not been the case for a long time,” added the Serbian politician. âThe Serbs have been discriminated against in various fields and this is unacceptable in a country that claims to be democratic.
âThis includes the right to religion, which is entirely endangered by strong pressure on the Serbian Orthodox Church,â he said.
“EU membership remains our priority”
Regarding Serbia’s relations with the EU, Dacic said his country “has made more progress on the path to EU membership, even more in its internal reforms than the official result shows through the number of open negotiation chapters “.
“So we can do it much faster, but the problem is the EU, which is resisting further enlargements for its own reasons,” he added.
âWe cannot have much influence on this, but EU membership remains our priority and we continue to meet the membership criteria.
“But that does not mean that we will wait for the EU to change its mind about enlargement to the Balkans,” he stressed.
Serbia continues to strengthen its economy “to remove barriers” with its neighbors, Dacic said.
âAs far as NATO is concerned, there is no public interest in Serbia joining this alliance, nor is it one of our priorities,â he noted. “We are pursuing a policy of military neutrality, vis-Ã -vis all military alliances, including NATO, so that we are open to cooperation with everyone, to the extent that this suits our defense interests . “
“We are satisfied with the level of cooperation we have with NATO, we have joint exercises and other forms of cooperation and NATO is also happy with that,” he said. “Regarding our neighbors, who have already joined the alliance, it is their sovereign decision and it does not affect our good neighborly relations.”