President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, friends,
Allow me to wish you a warm welcome to the Kremlin.
I know that you are here on what is really a private visit, but it is a business visit too, related to the investment forum organised by the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
There is no need for me to describe our relations. They are not simply friendly and strategic, but have a truly special character. This special quality has come about through our peoples’ efforts over not just years but centuries.
Russia remains one of Serbia’s main trade and economic partners today. True, our trade turnover has seen a slight drop over the last year, but this year’s dynamic gives us reason to hope that the difficulties are now behind us.
It is therefore very timely that you have come to take part in the event organised by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. I was told that our Serbian friends have presented a large number of investment projects that come to a very solid figure, several billion dollars.
President of Serbia Tomislav Nikolic (translated from Russian): Mr President, thank you for this chance to meet again. I wanted to come to this investment forum even though this is not an official visit. I wanted to bring business partners from Serbia and Russia together.
Let me say that this is the first time we have come fully prepared, with a big catalogue of the projects that Serbia plans to undertake. We have never presented such a catalogue at any previous forum.
Our bilateral cooperation has picked up this year and we have made up for the negative balance that we had last year. I hope we will not have any more such falls, and there are no reasons for this to happen.
Our relations are developing well overall, but there some problems. These problems are essentially on the Serbian side, and we are resolving them.
There are people who do not support our good cooperation with Russia. Sometimes even members of the government do not take a sufficiently responsible attitude towards adopting government resolutions. There is the problem of our gas debt, which we need to resolve. But I am genuinely pleased with the business success of [oil company] Naftna Industrija Srbije (NIS), because this company has really become a giant in the Balkans region.
Vladimir Putin: Its contribution to budget revenue has increased by 37 percent too. It paid 690 million euros in taxes into Serbia’s budget over the January-September period.
Tomislav Nikolic: Yes, I think that NIS accounts for around 10 percent of our budget now. This is enough to silence many opponents of such investment, because what they cite is the time when the actual agreement was concluded, but not the business results that NIS has achieved.
The government approved a resolution that needs to be changed, because it contradicts the agreements that we reached and essentially contradicts our relations.
Vladimir Putin: Mr President, we are not about to make a drama out of anything. We will look for solutions as friends usually do together. Overall, we have a decent level of investment: we have invested $1.2 billion in the Serbian economy. Like any investor anywhere in the world we hope to find good conditions for our investment. But despite our special relations, we do not lay claim to any special conditions in our economic ties.
Tomislav Nikolic: Mr President, I hope that we will soon be investing in the South Stream project.
Vladimir Putin: Carrying out this project will bring Serbia’s economy another 1.9 billion euros.
Tomislav Nikolic: I must say that the conditions your side is offering Serbia are more than decent. And we will carry out everything. There are still some problems to settle regarding land use in the Vojvodina region. This is about getting the needed permissions for land use, but we will get this permission soon.
Vladimir Putin: This is just bureaucracy. We encounter this sort of thing here too.
Tomislav Nikolic: I hope it will be settled even by December. In any case, we will be able to start construction in December.