President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, ladies and gentlemen,
I have just ended talks with the President of the Republic of Serbia, Mr Nikolic. This was our third meeting and I am happy to say that our dialogue is producing more results with each meeting. By signing the declaration on strategic partnership, we are affirming our countries’ desire to take our cooperation to a new level. I am sure that this declaration will give a big political boost to developing our ties in all different areas.
Looking at our economic cooperation, our bilateral trade dropped slightly in 2012, but it was already back up by 11.2 percent in the first quarter of this year.
We place great importance on energy sector cooperation, including construction of the South Stream pipeline. Construction is scheduled to start at the end of this year and will involve a total cost of 1.7 billion euros, with Russia taking on all of the financing obligations. We are working together with Serbia’s biggest oil company [Naftna Industrija Srbije – NIS].
Russia has already invested more than 1.5 billion euros in NIS since 2009. I informed Mr Nikolic that the Russian investor company plans to invest another 1.5 billion euros over the next few years. We are working together in the financial sector, in tourism, and in the metals industry too. We will continue to encourage and develop investment in the Serbian economy.
We will continue providing loans and financial assistance to our Serbian friends. In January 2013, an agreement was signed to grant Serbia an export credit worth $800 million. This is a targeted loan that will be used for a major infrastructure project in Serbia to build and modernise railways.
Russian Railways is taking on these obligations on the Russian side. I remind you that in April this year, we concluded an agreement on a preferential state finance credit of 500 million euros.
We continue our cooperation in the humanitarian sector. The Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Centre plays a unique part in this work. We will continue to develop our cultural and education ties and increase contacts between youth organisations.
In this area, I think that Russia’s help in rebuilding Orthodox holy sites in the Serbian Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija is of symbolic significance and underscores the spiritual bonds we share. This work is being carried out with UNESCO’s support and is close to completion. We are also looking at other possible projects in this area.
A date of particular importance for our countries is approaching – the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One. We are ready to examine the options for restoring the unique Russian necropolis at Belgrade’s new cemetery.
We will continue developing our cooperation on international issues. We discussed the settlement process in Kosovo of course. Our principles and policies are well-known. We want to see the parties concerned reach a viable and mutually acceptable solution based on Resolution 1244 of the UN Security Council. Of course we support our Serbian friends as they carry out these difficult negotiations with the Kosovars through the EU and Brussels’ mediation.
Let me finish by thanking the President for this frank and trusting discussion. I am sure that today’s meeting marks a big milestone in developing Russian-Serbian relations.
Thank you for your attention.
President of Serbia Tomislav Nikolic (translated from Russian): Ladies and gentlemen,
This is a big day for Serbia. We have now given the official seal to our longstanding brotherhood and friendship with Russia. The declaration we signed will enable our countries to make use of the great cooperation potential that we have, especially in trade and the economy, science and technology, education and culture.
We have established closer cooperation in meeting challenges such as terrorism and financing of terrorism, organised crime, drug trafficking, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, environmental pollution, climate change, emergency situations, and social and economic backwardness and poverty.
Serbia and Russia have friendly, diverse and rich relations that go back centuries. Our political, economic, cultural and scientific cooperation is exceptionally positive and is growing all the time. This is reflected in our frequent visits and contacts at the highest political levels, which have produced numerous joint projects.
The Republic of Serbia and I personally place great importance on the Russian Federation and President Vladimir Putin’s contribution to developing and strengthening our peaceful cooperation and friendly relations. We have expressed this gratitude by awarding President Putin the Order of the Republic of Serbia of the highest degree for his services. It will be my great pleasure to present this decoration to you in Belgrade.
Russia’s support in settling the issue of Kosovo and Metohija is extremely important for us, especially Russia’s view that what is good for Serbia is good for Russia too. Serbia has put a lot of effort into resolving the Kosovo and Metohija issue, taking on the responsibility for finding a solution through negotiations at the highest political level with Pristina and adopting the resolutions that come out of these negotiations. Reaching and implementing agreements that are in the interests of both sides will help to strengthen peace and stability throughout the entire region. We hope for continued support of work to resolve the Kosovo and Metohija issue.
Serbia places great importance on carrying out the South Stream gas pipeline project. As a way of giving the project special support and speeding up its implementation, Serbia has passed a law that declares construction of the South Stream pipeline a project of particular state importance.
We are very keen to further develop our economic cooperation with the Russian Federation. There is big growth potential here, and this is in both countries’ interests. Agriculture is a particularly promising sector, given the demand and size of the Russian market. The Serbian authorities are working hard to make the national economy healthier and encourage foreign investment, in order to make the economy more competitive and able to produce enough goods to supply a big market like Russia.
Let me take this opportunity to invite Russian businesspeople to join in this process and seize the opportunities and advantages that the signing of today’s declaration opens up, as well as making use of all the other agreements that our two countries have concluded.
Mr President, on behalf of all of Serbia’s people, let me thank you for the generous support that you give our entire country.