Statement by First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia Ivica Dacic at the China – CEEC Think-Tank Symposium, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS):
Mr. Tsai Fang, Mr. Liu Haising,
Distinguished representatives of Chinese institutions, and members of the diplomatic corps,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am greatly pleased and honoured to have the opportunity to address the highest academic institution in China – the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, which is hosting this high-level meeting of reputable experts in China – Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC) international relations. I particularly wish to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China for its overall contribution to the efforts aimed at increasing the visibility of the CEEC region and presenting it as the new generator of regional cooperation in the framework of the 1+16 mechanism. At the same time, I believe that cooperation between China and the CEEC countries constitutes an important segment of an extremely significant global process – the great “Belt and Road” intercontinental strategic initiative.
It is my pleasure also to note that the relations between the Republic of Serbia and the People’s Republic of China are excellent, the best in the history of our countries. President of the PR of China Xi Jinping paid a historic visit to Serbia last June, raising the mutual relations to the level of a comprehensive strategic partnership. The visit of a Chinese President to Serbia after 32 years is of greatest importance not only for the bilateral relations between our two countries, but also for the entire CEEC region, as it reflects the importance that China attaches to this part of Europe. On that occasion, in addition to the Joint Statement on the establishment of comprehensive strategic partnership, the Agreement on the 46-million-euro investment by Chinese Company Hesteel in the Smederevo Steelworks was also signed, as well as a large number of other agreements, serving as a driver for our future all-round cooperation. In order to further enhance our relations, the Government of the Republic of Serbia concluded with the People’s Republic of China the Agreement on Mutual Abolition of Visas, signed last month at the China – CEEC Summit in Riga, while establishment of direct flights between the two countries has been set as one of the priorities.
The China – CEEC cooperation mechanism is naturally fused with the Belt and Road concept. In addition to China, the concept includes 11 European Union Member States and five countries in different phases of the EU accession process. In its five-year existence, the mechanism 1+16 opened up significant new horizons and many areas of cooperation. We can note with pleasure that highly diversified ties and meaningful relations have been established in a number of areas, including, in addition to cooperation in the areas of economy, infrastructure and energy, also the areas of health, media, culture, science, education, sports, tourism, regional and town cooperation, inter-party cooperation, mutual cooperation and support in international organizations and forums, etc. I wish to take this opportunity to recall that the Third Meeting of Heads of Government of PR China and CEEC was held in Belgrade, on 16-17 December 2014, and underline that it was the major foreign policy event that our country has hosted in the last several decades.
Energy and transport infrastructure projects worth more than 2 billion dollars in terms of investment have made Serbia European leader in the implementation of infrastructural projects with China. Mihajlo Pupin Bridge, formally inaugurated by the Prime Ministers of our countries, Li Keqiang and Aleksandar Vucic, in 2014, is the first Chinese bridge in Europe, built on the Danube, the longest European river, connecting several countries of this region. The implementation of projects on the rehabilitation and construction of “Kostolac” Thermal Power Plant (with an overall value of more than 1 billion USD) and the construction of a number of motorway sections through Serbia, are in progress, and we are particularly proud of the project on the modernization and construction of the Belgrade-Budapest railway, as the major project in the region. At the Riga Summit last November, Serbia and China signed agreements valued at 734 million euro. The said projects testify to the vast potential of cooperation in this area. We therefore expect the establishment of the Association for transport and infrastructure which will, I am confident, enable even more intensive project cooperation, including a larger number of participants.
The model for all-round connectivity, communication and integration of different development strategies within “The Belt and the Road”, provides us with an additional platform for cooperation. The Belt and the Road Concept is a strategic project defining the positioning of PR China and the main directions of its global action, particularly in Eurasia. The basic postulates are the cooperation and networking that bring benefits to all participants, according to the “win-win” principle. We believe that the Concept is useful and acceptable for R. Serbia, because it has a huge development potential, particularly in the sector of infrastructure development, increase in the volume of investment and expansion of the total volume of trade. We on the “Belt and Road” map have an opportunity to become one of the most important regional hubs for trade in this part of Europe. Therefore, the Belgrade-Budapest railway project, as part of the rail corridor from Piraeus, will contribute to this initiative in the realization of the transport networking, while keeping in mind the potential of the Danube River, too. For all of us this should be a development opportunity and encouragement to unite as a common economic area. And within this area to contribute to the flow of people and goods, stimulate the creation of logistic routes and distribution centres, transfer of know-how and technology, and in the long run to devise ways to provide access to new markets and create jobs.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Serbia is an anchor of stability in the region. Our citizens have elected the European path and embraced reforms as the only way to make their economy competitive and achieve the European standard of living. We have policies designed to attract investment, skilled labour and favourable trade arrangements with many countries to which we can export our goods without tariff or other barriers. We are proud of the fact that investors choose to invest in Serbia, and a large number of European companies decides to expand production in our country. I think it is an advantage for this region and that Serbia demonstrates in this way to be a credible partner.
As a candidate for EU membership, in the context of this strategic objective does not neglect relations with its neighbours in Southeast Europe. I believe it is the right time to encourage investment and to put any form of cooperation at the service of building trust and establishing a guarantee for a safe environment and the preservation of regional peace and stability. The region is of immense importance for Serbia. Turning to each other creates the opportunity for business people in the region to establish a network of contacts and build relationships that encourage economic integration, a guarantee of regional peace and stability. I am confident that we are on the right track to make this area become an economic gateway of Europe, through synergy on projects of infrastructure, energy, tourism, development of industrial parks and modern technologies. Serbia fully supports all initiatives and processes aimed at strengthening cooperation, peace, development and stability in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as at our close proximity.
I would like to take this opportunity to re-emphasize the principled support of the People’s Republic of China to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Serbia. China is committed to achieving a mutually acceptable solution based on the UN Charter and Resolution 1244 and welcomes the commitment of R. Serbia to the dialogue with Pristina. For its part, the Republic of Serbia is consistent in supporting the policy of “one China”. We sincerely look forward to the development achievements of China both in internal and foreign policy.
In conclusion, allow me to wish you productive work and a fruitful exchange of views.
Thank you for your attention.