President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Esteemed Mr President, ladies and gentlemen,
Talks with the Serbian President took place in an open and friendly atmosphere as always, and they were extensive and productive. We discussed in detail the entire range of bilateral cooperation and exchanged views on current international and regional problems.
This is our first meeting since Mr Vucic became Serbian President. But I would like to note that we met before more than once, in particular when Mr Vucic was Prime Minister.
We share the desire of the Serbian leadership to maintain an intensive political dialogue and steadily develop our interstate relations. Literally in a few months, in February 2018 our countries will celebrate the 180th anniversary of diplomatic relations.
During the talks, the bulk of our attention went to economic cooperation. This year bilateral trade has seen confident growth. In January-September trade went up by 26 percent to reach $1.5 billion.
Mutual investment is also on the upsurge. Serbia has accumulated over $4 billion of Russian capital. In turn, our Serbian partners invested about $500 million in the Russian economy.
The intergovernmental committee on economic, scientific and technical cooperation is looking closely at ways of deepening our investment cooperation. It will hold a regular meeting in the near future.
The intergovernmental declaration on cooperation in economic modernisation will facilitate the committee’s work a great deal. We hope the declaration will facilitate the implementation of new joint projects and the development of industrial cooperation and high-tech production.
Energy remains a priority area between us. Our country almost fully meets Serbia’s natural gas needs – by over 90 percent. This year our supplies increased by a quarter to exceed two billion cubic metres of gas. By 2022 this figure will be brought to 3.5 billion.
Apart from being a large market for Russian natural gas, in the long term Serbia may become an important link in its transit. The issue of involving our Serbian partners in Gazprom’s project to build a new route for energy supplies – the Turkish Stream – is being considered.
Other Russian companies are also successfully operating in the Serbian market. Gazprom Neft continues upgrading the region’s largest holding, Petroleum Industry of Serbia, which provides 11,000 jobs and has already invested over $3 billion in it.
LUKOIL has a network of 115 fuel stations and two oil plants.
Silovye Mashiny [Power Machines] is upgrading the Djerdap hydroelectric power station and is ready to start technical re-equipment of other power plants in Serbia.
Cooperation in the area of transport infrastructure is growing stronger. Russian Railways is implementing a programme for comprehensive development of railways in Serbia and upgrading its rolling stock. The project is funded from a Russian state loan in the amount of $800 million.
We intend to enhance cooperation in the credit and banking area. Sberbank and VTB are operating in Serbia. They are guiding the investment activities of Russian and Serbian companies and offer a broad range of services for individuals.
The creation of a free trade area between the Eurasian Economic Union and Serbia would create new opportunities for developing business ties. This issue is already being discussed at expert consultations. We hope they will produce a mutually beneficial agreement on a free trade area.
During the talks, special attention was paid to cultural and humanitarian cooperation. A mosaic on the dome of St Sava’s temple in Belgrade has been installed with Russia’s help. This November, the Alexandrov Ensemble of the Russian Army performed in Serbia, and I thanked the President of Serbia for his decision to name a park in the centre of Belgrade after this army ensemble to honour the tragic deaths of its members in an air crash last December.
Interest in the Russian language has been coming back in Serbia, and close educational ties are maintained. We have agreed to continue promoting contacts between people, including expanding tourism exchanges and creating favourable conditions for Russians to stay and work in Serbia and for Serbians in Russia.
A memorandum of cooperation in tourism and an agreement on social insurance have been signed following negotiations to resolve these issues.
We have discussed the current situation in the Balkans. Russia is interested in the region’s stabilisation and in the development of mutually beneficial ties with the region’s countries. I reaffirmed to President Vucic that Russia would continue supporting Serbia in terms of sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Regarding Kosovo, we believe the situation should be settled by political means, based on dialogue between parties in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244. We will support any mutually acceptable decision Belgrade and Pristina come to.
In conclusion, I would like to thank President Vucic once again for a comprehensive and constructive conversation. I am convinced that the agreements we have reached today will serve to further promote the progressive development of our bilateral relations.
Thank you for your attention.
President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for your attention.
First, I would like to thank you for a very warm reception and your hospitality. With your permission, I will make part of my statement in Russian and part in Serbian.
Allow me on behalf of the Republic of Serbia to express our special gratitude for the Russian Federation’s support in, as you said, preserving Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. Russia has always been Serbia’s friend and we Serbs have always seen this. Today, we notice the difference in Russia’s attitude to our country before Vladimir Putin entered office and after.
Serbia has never interfered in Russia’s internal affairs, nor will it ever do so. As a representative of a small but proud and dignified people I would like to tell the friendly Russian people that Serbia greatly appreciates the hand of friendship extended to us by President Putin.
I would like to wish him success in the forthcoming [presidential] election, so he could continue to pursue his policy of further strengthening relations between our two countries. In political terms, Serbia will always be grateful to President Putin for many things of importance for us but I would like to specially emphasise three of them.
First, on July 8, 2015, Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution, thereby sparing the Serbian people, who were hit hardest, of being branded with the shame of genocide. It is only thanks to the Russian veto that the Serbian people do not have the stamp of genocide on their foreheads.
Second, it is only thanks to Russia’s support and Mr Putin’s efforts that Serbia still has the opportunity to stand up for Kosovo and Metohija – of course, by peaceful means and by pursuing an earnest and responsible policy.
Third, as all of you know, Serbia is moving towards European integration but it is a neutral state and it is not seeking membership in military alliances, NATO included.
Owing to the support and gifts sent to us by President Putin, we managed to partially restore our aviation and thus preserve the status of a militarily neutral state in the future.
We have signed several agreements today. I consider most important the agreement on increasing gas supplies to the Serbian market in the forthcoming period. The fact that we are using more gas is important both for Serbia and Russia. This is evidence of our country’s steady industrial progress.
I am grateful to Russia and President Putin that Serbia had no problems buying and receiving gas for its consumers. I would like to emphasise for the Russian side that Serbia is complying with its commitments unlike seven, eight and ten years ago.
As President Putin has already said, our trade is growing with every year. This year trade was much higher than last year. President Putin and I believe that we have many opportunities to increase our trade to three or three and a half billion.
As a militarily neutral state, we spoke about our continued defence industry cooperation. The Republic of Serbia needs more transport helicopters and we hope to reach agreement with our Russian colleagues on this issue.
As I said more than once, Serbia is a small country in terms of its population and territory but we are one of the few nations that behave fairly and honestly towards our Russian friends. I know this is not very important for Russia but it is my duty to emphasise again that the proud Serbian people have never imposed and will never impose any sanctions on Russia and that we will do everything to preserve our sincere traditional friendship with the Russian people. I am convinced that it will work out for us because the policy pursued by the Serbian leaders is honest, independent and responsible.
I would like to wish the Russian people and all citizens of the Russian Federation a happy New Year and Christmas. I want relations between our countries and peoples to be even deeper and stronger.
(Retranslated) I would like to tell the citizens of Serbia that President Putin met with me and our delegation in a restricted format, one on one, as well as in the expanded format. These meetings were very intensive and constructive. We talked about all aspects of life and work. We have developed our relations and have improved and strengthened our friendship and trust.
I am sure that we will attain the best results in culture, sports and in all the other spheres. Next year we will mark 75 years of the Battle of Stalingrad. Serbian top-level officials will attend the celebrations of this battle in which 1.2 million Russians died.
Serbs are among the few nations that did not take part in that battle on the side of Nazis. On the contrary, we are proud of our anti-Nazi tradition. I expressed gratitude to President Putin and invited him to Belgrade, because we plan to open the St Sava Temple in 2019 to mark the 800th anniversary of the autocephaly of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
We expressed gratitude to Russia for its assistance to Serbia. We also discussed all the important economic issues. Nearly half of the Serbian Government has come to Russia. We have coordinated ways to settle problems within the framework of the international community as an institution.
We also discussed the further development of our economic cooperation to improve living standards in Serbia. I hope, moreover, I am sure that this will also help improve life for the citizens of Russia.
I congratulate President Putin on Security Agency Worker's Day, which will be marked tomorrow. I know about the importance of this day for the President and Russia. I wish all the best to the President and to Russian citizens.
I would like to tell Serbian citizens that we have had good, very good talks and I expect to have fruitful and successful cooperation with the Russian Federation and President Putin.