Presidents praise "long Serbian-Czech friendship"

BELGRADE -- Serbian and Czech presidents Tomislav Nikolić and Miloš Zeman have said that relations between the two countries are marked by a long-standing friendship.

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Addressing a joint news conference after their meeting in Belgrade on Tuesday, Nikolić noted that it was "particularly important to Serbia that Prague supports the Belgrade-Priština dialogue and opposes further conditioning of Serbia along the EU path."

"Bilateral relations are at a high level, and political, economic and cultural ties - strong. Serbia is willing to deepen cooperation and intensify a dialogue between the two countries. We do not agree with certain moves of the Czech Republic such as the recognition of the unilaterally proclaimed independence of Kosovo, but that does not stop us from building friendly ties," Nikolić said.

Underscoring that "Serbia is the Czech Republic's most significant partner in the Balkans," Nikolić said that much attention was dedicated to prospective investments, greenfield and others, and noted that the country had invested EUR 30 million in Serbia since 2005.

He thanked the Czech Republic on the strong support to Serbia's EU integration.

After the formation of a new government, we will embark on reforms, continue the dialogue on Kosovo, and ensure an environment that would be more conducive to investment, Nikolić said.

"Turbulent times are behind us. Serbia is a reliable partner in the world and region," he added.

Zeman said that there was a long-standing friendship between the two countries and confirmed unconditional support to Serbia along its EU path, singling out a drop in unemployment or job creation as the most important aspect of future cooperation.

In that context, he mentioned the railway corridor from Niš to Dimitrovgrad, thermal power plant Štavalj and expansion of the mine of the same name.

"Unemployment constitutes, above all, a loss of human dignity and every country should advocate for measures that would help create jobs," Zeman said.

"Last to agree"

Miloš Zeman said on Tuesday that his country was the last member NATO to agree with the bombing of Serbia, adding that it was done under the condition that the operation only targeted military facilities, but that this condition "was not met."

"The Czech government was the last one to agree with the bombing. The condition for the consent was for the bombing to be used against military targets alone. That was what they promised but this condition was not met," said Zeman when asked by journalists to comment on the 15th anniversary of the NATO bombing, considering that he was in power at that time.

At a joint press conference after his meeting with Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić, Zeman recalled that as the prime minister he rejected the proposal of the then Czech president to decorate the NATO commander U.S. General Wesley Clark with the Order of the White Lion, the highest decoration of the Czech Republic.