Serbia, Macedonia have "only two open issues"

SKOPJE -- PM Ivica Dačić stated on Monday in Skopje that there were "only two open issues between Serbia and Macedonia".

Dačić honors the Macedonian flag, accompanied by Gruevski (Tanjug)
Dačić honors the Macedonian flag, accompanied by Gruevski (Tanjug)

Speaking after his meeting with Macedonian counterpart Nikola Gruevski, the Serbian prime minister specified that the two countries had different stands on the Kosovo issue, and regarding the relations between the Serbian Orthodox Church and the canonically unrecognized Macedonian Orthodox Church.

Dačić also stated that he asked his Macedonian colleague "to remain neutral" when it comes to Kosovo - "while the Belgrade-Priština dialogue is still underway, because that would be his contribution to the dialogue".

Serbia and Macedonia have a common interest embodied in EU membership and in both countries wishing to be given a date for the start accession talks as soon as possible, he added.

"We want a date for accession talks to be set as soon as possible both for Serbia and Macedonia and we want all the countries in the region to become EU members," Dačić said.

"There is no danger from the north regarding Macedonia's survival and identity and Serbia can provide political assistance if needed," Dačić noted.

He underscored that Serbia expects Macedonia's attitude toward Serbia to be marked by friendship "because the two nations are friends".

The Serbian premier also told reporters that his talks with Gruevski also covered joint projects such as road and railway sections of Corridor 10 and gas lines between Serbia and Macedonia.

The Serbian prime minister noted that it is important for the two countries' companies to maintain good cooperation and pointed out that major projects cannot be discussed unless they are regional projects, noting that the Morava channel should be built that would connect Serbia with Thessalonica.

The project is over 100 years old and it should be examined whether its construction is justified because if proven positive, it would be one of the major projects in Europe of late, the prime minister said.

"For now this is only an idea, roads need to be built first," Dačić noted.

Dačić and Gruevski agreed that the issue of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) and the Macedonian Orthodox Church was "not in the area of state issues", but they both expressed their willingness to provide assistance in order to reach a solution as soon as possible.

In this context, Dačić mentioned the issue of the SPC property.

Dačić said that he informed Gruevski about the talks with Priština and proposals that Serbia made in the dialogue so as to reach a compromise because Serbia wants peace and stability in the region, and added that the two countries' cooperation can serve as a major contribution to this.

The Macedonian prime minister said that the ties between Serbia and Macedonia were "exceptionally positive" and that there were few open issues between them - one related to the churches.

When it comes to the EU, Gruevski agreed with Dačić that reforms need to continue and expressed the expectation that both countries would get the date of accession talks at the forthcoming EU summit.

"This will be an assessment of our efforts and an encouragement for continuation of reforms we launched on our EU paths," the Macedonian prime minister said.

Dačić is in Skopje on a two-day visit and will later on Mondayc meet with Macedonian parliament Speaker Trajko Veljanoski.

The Serbian prime minister will also lay a wreath at a memorial honoring the fallen heroes of Macedonia.

Dačić, accompanied by Justice Minister Nikola Selaković, started his visit on Sunday.

The prime minister stated that his country "had no pretensions" toward Macedonia, and that the Serbian people wished to nurture "even friendlier relations" with their southern neighbor.

He attended an event in Skopje dedicated to Serbian St. Sava - as the Macedonian government declared January 27 a national holiday of Serbs living in that country.

Addressing the event, Dačić stated that "while Serbia and Macedonia may have had some unresolved issues", he was "certain that there is more understanding in Macedonia than anywhere else for the common problems faced by Serbs and Macedonians".