Statement by First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia Ivica Dacic at the opening of the Working Meeting, organized by the Slovenian Business Club, on “Political and Economic Cooperation between Serbia and Slovenia and the Situation in the Region”:
“Your Excellency, Mr. Gasparic,
Esteemed members of the Slovenian Business Club,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to have an opportunity to address you this evening.
The job of every Foreign Minister is to develop close and comprehensive relations with as many countries as possible, spanning from the immediate neighbourhood to a wider environment and the relations with great powers. If circumstances so permit, this job can be pleasant to a greater or lesser extent, but it is always, without exception, a very responsible one.
I am delighted that there are no open issues between our countries and there is also a long-standing positive trend in our cooperation, which is getting more successful and becoming closer and more diverse with each year passed. This was affirmed during my official visit to Ljubljana on 22 February this year as well as in the meetings I had with my dear colleague and friend Karl Erjavec on the fringes of numerous international and regional events, most recently in New York and before that in Bled, the venue of the most successful meeting of the Bled Strategic Forum so far.
Besides the political one, our economic dialogue is advanced as well: the Joint Committee on Economic Cooperation convenes regularly – its 7th session was held in Lubljana, on 25-26 January 2017. It is well-known that Slovenia is one of Serbia’s most important trading and economic partners and, at the same time, one of the major investors in Serbia with investments amounting to over one billion euro. Owing to the successful business by more than 600 Slovenian companies, over 35,000 persons in Serbia were able to land jobs. In addition to Serbia being the key investment destination for Slovenian companies, we are particularly encouraged by the positive rising trend when it comes to Serbian companies’ investments in Slovenia.
Trade in goods, as one of key indicators of the level of economic relations, has also recorded a steady growth: in the first eight months of 2017 trade reached EUR 672.3 million, with exports from Serbia amounting to EUR 327.3 million (an increase of 16.9%) and imports amounting to EUR 345 million (recording a 2% rise). Considering that the trade between us amounted to EUR 910 million in 2016, a projection that it could reach one million euros this year appears to be justified – which was a goal set by the last joint session that the two Governments held so far.
The practice of holding joint sessions of the two Governments has proven to be highly useful and a pillar of relations between Serbia and Slovenia. The third session was held in Belgrade on 23-24 October 2016, followed by a Business Forum which gathered approximately 120 entrepreneurs from the two countries. Not only that the joint sessions of the two Governments have contributed to the strengthening of high-level political dialogue, but these also present an excellent opportunity to jointly consider what was achieved until that point and to agree on new concrete projects in the fields of economy, tourism, agriculture, energy, infrastructure and many more.
Taking into account the mutual commitment to the expanded and strengthened cooperation, I am certain that the next, fourth, joint session of the two Governments, planned for early 2017 in Slovenia, will garner even more success than the previous ones.
All of the above clearly indicated that the overall relations between Serbia and Slovenia have reached a level that can serve as an example of successful good-neighbourly cooperation – which is rarely the case in our region where some still tend to breathe new life into relics of the past.
As regards Serbia’s attitude towards the current developments in the region, I would like to point out that our vital interest is to maintain regional stability and intensify cooperation in all areas. We are aware that only such a region can ensure a sustainable development of Serbia itself. For its part, Serbia has contributed and will continue to contribute to the best of its abilities and in a constructive way to all the processes aimed at the strengthening and enhancement of cooperation.
The European integration process and processes of strengthening regional cooperation and good-neighbourly relations as well as carrying out reforms in the Western Balkans are largely complementary. Sadly, in the past years, concurrently with these processes, in certain countries of the region retrograde processes have been gaining momentum as well – those of insistence on fulfilling individual interests to the detriment of other states and cooperation in general, but also at the expense of regional stability. Attempts at imposing such solutions are, with almost no exceptions, aimed directly against the interests of Serbia and Serbian people in the region and in a way contrary to the spirit of reconciliation.
Recent years we have witnessed the overall security and political situation at the global and European levels becoming increasingly complex. The refugee and migrant crisis, the uncertainty brought about by Brexit, and also the dilemmas raised through the discussion on the future of the EU are unprecedented challenges facing the European Union. Against this backdrop, it comes as no surprise that the EU enlargement policy is being marginalized. However, it needs to be said that all of the aforementioned worrying developments within the EU, particularly those clouding the membership perspective of candidate countries, inevitably result in the surge of nationalism and the radicalisation of the political arena in many countries of the region and also overall worsening of the security and political situation in this part of Europe.
Despite all of these serious challenges, Serbia continues to do everything in its power to maintain and strengthen the positive processes in the region. Through its measured and constructive approach, Serbia has contributed and continues to contribute to the relaxation of relations, which was particularly important in the past year or year and a half, in which period elections were held in many countries of the region – both parliamentary and presidential, often characterized by the growing nationalist rhetoric.
When it comes to the relations in the region, Serbia has developed a profile of a responsible, reliable and predictable partner with no “hidden agenda”. Serbia is well aware of the very serious and difficult lingering problems of the past, hence its commitment to resolving all open bilateral issues through dialogue with its neighbours, giving priority to our common future.
Distinguished guests, dear friends,
I would like to convey my true and strong faith in the bright future of relations between the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Slovenia. I am confident that we will together succeed not only in contributing to the well-being of our peoples and states, but also in encouraging others in the region to direct their energy and efforts towards building a better future for all.