Vucic says his reaction was "harsh but right"

Aleksandar Vucic says he would continue to cooperate with the head of the EU Delegation Michael Davenport, "because it is his duty as prime minister."

Source: Beta, Tanjug
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"I had a regular meeting with Davenport; not that it matters very much, but at his own initiative this time," the Serbian prime minister told a news conference on Tuesday, and added:

"It was a fair meeting, we agreed that the year 2015 was crucial for Serbia and its progress, not only in the context of European integration, but also its regional, political and economic stability."

He said his statement that Davenport and the EU "were giving money to the journalists of the Balkans Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) to write against the Serbian government" was "harsh - but fair, just."

"I meant everything I said, and I never reacted abruptly or on the spur of the moment. They, alone, said they were paying them...'We are paying them, but we do not influence their editorial policy.' Had I said that same thing, you would have laughed. I am not laughing, I believe them," the prime minister said, apparently in reference to a statement issued by the EU Delegation on Tuesday.

"They (the EU) are proud of paying them... they say they were paid EUR 200,000, pretty much for the job," Vucic said, the Beta news agency reported.

Vucic thanked the World Bank for a comment on the selection of a firm to drain the Tamnava coal mine, saying that it was in line with the regulations. The prime minister said the World Bank's view was "more brutal" than his own.

Commenting on the EU Delegation's statements, which said a country cannot join the EU without guaranteeing freedom of expression, Vucic said Serbia guarantees full freedom of expression, of the media, and of criticism, "but that the government also has the right to challenge untruths with arguments."

He added that he supports the journalists' "right to write what they want," adding that he was "ready to listen to any kind of objection and to have any omission pointed out to him," but stressed that he should be allowed to speak his mind as well, Tanjug reported.

Lapses

During the same news conference, held after his meeting with Serb Republic President Milorad Dodik, Vucic said Serbia wanted successful cooperation with Croatia, refusing to react to "deliberate lapses" by Croatia's newly-elected president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic.

The prime minister also congratulated her and Croatians on her victory.

Grabar-Kitanovic said in her first speech as president that she would fight for the right of minorities in Croatia and insist they should be as broad as possible, but that she would ask no less for "the Croats in Serbia and Vojvodina and other neighboring countries."

"My response to some well-intentioned people who want a strong reaction to a deliberate lapse is that there will be none," Vucic said, adding that "Serbia wanted successful cooperation with Croatia, and that turning a deaf ear to or failing to react to provocation reflected Serbia's strength, rather than its weakness."

"This is a reflection of our responsibility, rather than the lack of it, and of our wish to have the best possible relations in the region," Vucic said.

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