"Serbia has major opportunity, is on right track"

Serbia has a major opportunity, German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said in Belgrade on Monday.

Source: Tanjug

He added that the path Serbia wants to take is the right one and that Berlin will justify the great trust Serbia has in the partnership with Germany.

"We are ready to offer a fair partnership to Serbia and the Western Balkans, and there is a lot that can be done," Gabriel said addressing a joint news conference with Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić, and added that German companies believe that investments in Serbia do pay off despite the numerous problems.

Gabriel expressed the belief that the EU path is difficult, but he also noted that Serbia has a major opportunity to complete it successfully.

The reform process demands much from Serbia and we support everyone on this path, Gabriel said and expressed surprise by the power of the prime minister who is able to deal with all these problems.

He said that the most important matter at this point is for Serbia to launch the EU accession talks, adding that the question as to which chapters would be opened first is not as significant.

"It should not be debated which chapter would be the first to open in the accession talks," Gabriel said and recommended that Serbia should start with the most useful chapters and avoid any blocks in the process. He underscored that from the standpoint of businessmen, most important chapters comprise Chapters 23 and 24 that cover rule of law and legal state.

Gabriel underscored that Europe needs Western Balkans and Serbia, and added that peace and stability on the continent can be secured only through unity.

According to him, the Serbian government is convinced that Serbia's place is in the EU and that this decision was not brought against another country, including Russia.

Gabriel added that the Ukraine conflict was difficult, but that a way out "must be found":

"We must not give up on a European Russia. That idea might look far away and risky now, but Europe is not against Russia - but it looks at the solution to the conflict differently than what the Russian government has in mind."

"It will always be important for the region outside the EU to have especially good relations with their neighbors and I can give the advice that nobody should ask countries to choose in favor of the EU, and against somebody else, because that is not a wise alternative," he was quoted as saying.

Serbia is not asking Germany for money, but for investments and support that will enable it to become a normal, modern and developed country as soon as possible, Aleksandar Vučić said on Monday.

Serbia is facing the big and important task of creating better conditions for business, Vučić said, thanking the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Monetary Fund, Germany and other international financial institutions and countries that support the reforms in Serbia.

At Monday's business forum, our German friends made specific proposals for improving the business environment in Serbia, Vučić noted.

"We are not asking for money, but for help in developing our country," Vučić said, adding that Serbia's goal is for its citizens to work hard and comply with the rules, which will make it a modern and developed country.

Trade between Serbia and Germany amounts to around EUR 3 billion and is growing constantly - even in 2014, when Serbia was hit by catastrophic floods, the growth continued and Serbian exports grew by more than 6 percent, while imports rose by more than 8 percent, and the trend is expected to continue, Vučić explained.

Efforts are underway to secure an investment by Germany's biggest meat producer Clemens Toennies, and we want to see companies and further cooperation in the IT and automotive sectors, Vučić said.

We want to see other companies as well, but we also want those who are already here to expand their operations, Vučić said.

Serbia is grateful to Germany for the backing it has given to it on the European path, said Vučić, adding that, in the EU accession talks, Serbia wants to open the most difficult negotiation chapters first.

Those are Chapter 32, related to financial control, Chapter 35, related to Kosovo and Metohija, and chapters 23 and 24, which deal with the rule of law, Vučić said.

Those are the most difficult chapters and we want to deal with them at the beginning, rather than leave them for the end, Vučić said, adding that, at the start of its term, the government itself immediately introduced reforms and the toughest measures because it is the only way to achieve results.

"Nothing to add"

German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said in Belgrade Monday that the construction of the South Stream pipeline was an important project for Europe and diversification of gas supplies was in the best interests of the EU.

Europe has a great interest in diversifying its situation with gas. The plan is for gas to be delivered through Azerbaijan, rather than Russia, Gabriel said in a joint press conference with Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić following talks they had in Belgrade.

Gabriel said that there was a conflict in connection with the adjustment of investment plans for the South Stream project with the formal part of European funds.

The European Commission seeks to overcome the existing difficulties concerning the supply of gas, said Gabriel, observing that it was in the interest of the EU to have a diversified gas supply chain and that to carry out with the plan made great sense.

Vučić said that he fully agreed with Gabriel and had nothing to add to what the German vice-chancellor had said.

Vučić, however, pointed out that the agreement with Russia on the construction of the pipeline was "good for Serbia - but Serbia certainly could not be the first country to begin the works as Bulgaria needed to start first."


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