Following is the statement made by First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia Ivica Dacic at the First Conference of the WBF Foreign Ministers.
“Dear fellow Foreign Ministers,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased that we have gathered here today at Bled, to announce the launch of the full implementation of the Western Balkans Fund Agreement. Through a new regional institution, we as Ministers of Foreign Affairs are thus paving the way for the first time in recent history of our region, to cooperation among civil society organizations on culture, science and research, youth exchanges, and on strengthening sustainable development.
Like with the Regional Youth Cooperation Office, this project, too, is a groundbreaking undertaking involving all signatories from the Western Balkan region, shaped after the model of the already very successful International Visegrad Fund.
Owing to a swift ratification process in its National Assembly, the Republic of Serbia has demonstrated that it is focused on genuine reconciliation and development of the entire region, since the WBF Agreement is the first agreement that Serbia has co-signed under the provisions of the Arrangement on Regional Representation and Cooperation with other WB participants.
Moreover, Belgrade has paid the agreed financial contributions for the first, and soon after, for the current year. We are ready to consider, in agreement with other contracting parties, an increase in contributions, so that the Fund, like the Visegrad Fund, could develop its full capacity and meet the goals set at its inception. National Coordinators, together with the Acting Director, and from now on the Executive Director, have done an excellent job, and let me stress it, by harmonizing the texts of the Fund’s internal regulations, and I am therefore impatient to witness the first calls for projects that will interconnect civil society sectors, local communities and individuals from all the six contracting parties to the Agreement. Thanks to the successful launch and further operation of the Fund, we the Ministers of Foreign Affairs from the Western Balkans, will have a special and effective “lever” to encourage and further develop regional cooperation.
Finally, I would like to highlight, and I believe that all of you present here share my view, the persevering and consistent support of the V4 countries. Allow me to commend their sustained efforts and financial contributions, as well as the unselfish sharing of the invaluable experience gained by the International Visegrad Fund, the absence of which would have rendered our today’s event impossible, while our Fund would not have evolved in the same way.
To the WBF Director, Mr. Gjergj Murra, to the staff of the Fund, to the National Coordinators and to all of us, I wish successful work and development of this important new institution, which will serve to bring the citizens of the Western Balkans closer together, and assist the regional EU integration process.