"Serbia wants to be sincere and open partner"
Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić traveled to Germany on Monday and addressed a panel discussion on Serbia's path towards the European Union.Source: Tanjug
The event was organized by the Serbia-Germany Forum and the German Foreign Policy Council.
Serbia wants to be a sincere and open partner to the international community, in particular by fulfilling all the promises it makes, Vučić said, noting that his country aims to complete all its tasks on the path towards the EU and that it will then be up to the EU to assess its achievements.
The new beginning is about a sincere relationship, Vučić said at a press conference during a panel discussion on Serbia's new beginning towards Brussels and its European pathway.
"It is a new beginning because I know that many countries have had enough of us saying one thing and doing another," he said.
To make a new beginning is to do and think what we say - it is a new beginning in Serbia's relations with everyone in the world, said Vučić, explaining the motto of the event.
"In other words, if a pledge is made to inquire about the gas price in Moscow, it will be done, because such an honest and responsible approach, without hidden messages and bad intentions, is very important for Serbia," he said.
If Serbia does its homework and what is ahead of it, then we will request from Germany and other partners in the EU to assess, in late 2018, in 2019 or 2020, whether Serbia has done its job, Vučić said.
Serbia wants to open the new chapters in the negotiations with the EU in the autumn - thanks to Germany, it expects to open the negotiation chapter 35, which deals with financial control, he said.
Early next year, it should also open chapters 23 and 24 - meanwhile, with 18 screenings completed, the huge technical work for the 35 chapters is already done, Vučić said.
Opening chapters 23 and 24 will improve the efficiency of the judiciary, Vučić reiterated, noting that the Belgrade government has zero tolerance for corruption.
Serbia awaits Brussels' opinion on the whistleblowers act, Vučić said, adding that it is one of the best in the region.
To illustrate that Serbia is a good place to invest in, Vučić quoted figures indicating that trade between Serbia and Germany totalled EUR 3 billion in 2013 - a 14-percent increase compared to 2012 - adding that imports and exports both increased, with the rise in exports mostly due to products made by German companies operating in Serbia.
That shows that Serbia is a good place for German companies to invest in, he said.
Exports rose by 21 percent in the first quarter, totalling EUR 343 million, while imports increased by 13.3 percent, amounting to EUR 443.9 million, Vučić said.
Germany has invested EUR 1.35 billion, but with investments by Austrian-based daughter-companies included, the figure is nearly EUR 1.7 billion, he added.
"Serbia has tried to ensure the best possible conditions for investors, but there are still many improvements to be made to ensure the best conditions for investments by German companies and to make those companies feel at home," Vučić said.
The last attempt to adopt a modern labor law fell through in 2002, said the prime minister, who announced that the new labor bill will be tabled to parliament this week, adding that it will be one of the most modern laws.
"Over the past 12 years, almost no one has come up with the idea to liberalize the labor market, but we have made the decision to go towards a more flexible market and become more attractive to investors," he explained.
Announcing the adoption of the laws on privatization, bankruptcy and planning and construction, Vučić said that those, too, will be in line with European laws.
In conclusion, describing the Serbian-German relations as better than ever, Vučić expressed Serbia's readiness to always accept different types of objections from the bigger partner, to listen and to correct what is wrong on its side.
At the same time, we are particularly appreciative of Germany's readiness to always listen to Serbia and see which political and economic interests are the priorities for us, he said.
"Politically, Serbia will be a stability factor in the region and I am confident that we will not let the German partners down," Vučić said, noting that his recent visit to Berlin was well received in Serbia, and that he personally is very satisfied with his discussions with Chancellor Angela Merkel.