Russian president to visit Serbia on October 20

BELGRADE -- Tomislav Nikolić has announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Belgrade on October 20.

Nikolić addresses the donor conference in Brussels on July 16 (Beta)
Nikolić addresses the donor conference in Brussels on July 16 (Beta)

“Putin will come to Belgrade to celebrate with us the day when Belgrade was liberated (in 1944),” the Serbian president told Radio Television of Serbia (RTS) late on Thursday, adding that the Russian leader will arrive here on his invitation.

Nikolić revealed that he also received an invited to come to Russia for the 2015 celebration of Victory Day over Fascism.

Touching on the Ukrainian crisis, Nikolić said that the EU and Russia were on opposing sides of the issue, and Serbia was friends with everyone.

“Had we taken sides with any of the two, we would have lost a friend,” Nikolić said.

Nikolić also told RTS that the donors' conference in Brussels was successful, adding that it showed that Serbia has friends around the world and that the world trusts Serbia, which is also good news for investors.

"It is the result of a policy that was pursued not only by the current government, but by generations before us,” Nikolić said.

The donors' conference held in Brussels on July 16 gathered the representatives of 60 countries and 23 international organizations, who jointly collected EUR 1.846 billion to aid Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina after the devastating floods that hit the two countries in May.

Out of this sum, EUR 995 million will be allocated to Serbia and EUR 809 million to Bosnia-Herzegovina, while EUR 42 million have been raised for cross-border projects mainly for the development of flood and natural disaster prevention systems.

Out of the total funds raised for Serbia, EUR 115 million are grants and EUR 880 million are highly favorable loans.

Nikolić explained that the aid does not consist of grants alone, but also loans redirected from international funds which Serbia would otherwise not have the right to use.

“These are cheap loans that we have never been able to take out. They can be regarded as a gift because the loans we normally raise have higher interest rates," the president said, adding that this is far more than Serbia expected.

All international organizations assessing developments in the country have shown the entire world that they have faith in Serbia, Nikolić said.

He underlined the EU's decision to grant Serbia EUR 80 million as a clear signal that Serbia remains firmly on its EU track.

"I think that the response of other countries is also a clear sign that they understand the aspiration of Serbia to be a part of the EU without disrupting good relations with non-EU states," the Serbian president said.

According to the first official report on flood damage and loss estimates, Serbia needs EUR 1.5 billion to rebuild, said Nikolić, pointing out that the assessment was conducted in line with the international norms and accepted as realistic.

"A major task has been completed, but now all of us will be put to a test," the Serbian president said, adding that good organization of flood damage repair and the control of spending should be top priority.

Nikolić added that a new conference will be held in six months to establish how the relief funds are spent and how much more money is needed for Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina to recover from the disaster.