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Statements of Foreign Minister Lambrinidis and his Serbian counterpart, Vuk Jeremic, following their meeting in Belgrade (7 September 2011)

Wednesday, 07 September 2011

Mr. Jeremic: It is with great pleasure that we welcome Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis to Belgrade today. We discussed our region’s issues, Balkan issues, as well as international issues in general, particularly in light of the major economic crisis.

I have the honor of underscoring that there was a great degree of understanding and consensus on the issues we discussed today. In our region, we are facing a number of problems, both political and economic, but we have a vision and we have no doubts as to the road we need to follow to resolve these issues. We will continue our close contacts in the context of the international organizations and on all the issues that are a common challenge for us today.

This afternoon, Mr. Lambrinidis will have the opportunity to meet with the President of the Serbian Republic, and the two of us will continue our talks tonight at a working dinner, where we will discuss the strategy and steps we are going to follow.

This is the Minister’s first visit to Belgrade since he took up his new duties, but I am sure it will not be the last. I hope that there will be many more meetings so that we can discuss many issues of interest to both our countries.

Once again, I welcome you to Belgrade.

Mr. Lambrinidis: Dear Vuk, it is a great pleasure to be here and I really thank you for the warm welcome.

Serbia has made impressive progress – and I stress ‘impressive’ with no reservations – on its European course. It deserves to be granted accession-candidate status this coming December, and we will do everything in our power to promote this vision of yours, which we share. That is the main message I want to convey here in Belgrade today.

There is the Kosovo issue, which I am aware of. I know and agree that it is a very important issue for you, just as you know what Greece’s position is. This position is firm. At the same time, I want to stress that Kosovo is a European issue and requires a European solution. We welcome the dialogue that has started under the auspices of the European Union. This is the right direction. We are investing a lot of hope in this process, and I congratulate you on last week’s success in the talks. Europe must recognize Serbia’s extremely constructive contribution to these talks.

The last point I want to raise is that of the economy. As you know, Greece is mounting a huge effort to make changes domestically. This effort has not impacted our international presence and presence in Serbia. If anything, it has intensified it. The internationalization of the Greek economy, which has brought so many jobs and so much excellent cooperation between us in recent years, will increase rather than decrease.

Vuk, the Thessaloniki International Fair is opening this week, and Serbia is the honoured country. In October, within the “Go International” programme, which is under the aegis of the Foreign Ministry – in collaboration with chambers of commerce and a major Greek bank – we will be holding a major business forum here in Belgrade, with hundreds of entrepreneurs. I hope a lot of creative discussions and collaborations arise out of this. Greek-Serbian cooperation has great potential, the ties between us are strong and longstanding. We are friends not just because history says we are. We are friends because we know each other well and choose to be friends.

Thank you, Vuk, for this excellent welcome.

Journalist: The first question is whether you think Serbia will get candidate-country status in December. And the second is what Mr. Jeremic thinks about your travelling on to Pristina after your visit here.

Mr. Lambrinidis: I can give you some data. At the EU Foreign Affairs Council about a month ago, the vast majority of Foreign Ministers praised the moves Serbia made and the arrests of those wanted by the International Criminal Court, stressing that this was its obligation: This is what Europe asked for, and Serbia complied.

Obviously, there is still a long and difficult road ahead of us, but if you ask me about December, I think – and Greece will work toward this – that candidate country status should be given, and I hope that will be the end result. I assure you that is what I want, and we are working intensively in that direction. The importance of this is not restricted to Serbia. It is important for the stability of the region, and I think that all the European leaders see this.

Mr. Jeremic: I can’t talk in terms of probabilities – what might happen. Recently, we have done a lot things and met all the conditions for becoming a candidate country for EU membership. We will do what we can to become a candidate in December. I don’t want to talk in terms of probability, but there is a big chance we won’t get candidate status in December, but such things happen.

But I would like to stress that if we don’t get candidate status, there won’t be an eclipse of the sun, we won’t stop living. We will continue our lives as usual. We will continue to conduct ourselves in accordance with our values. I think that recently everyone has realized what our goals are and what decisions we have taken, how we will conduct ourselves and what our values are. And as such, we will not change our conduct. I hope that we become a candidate for membership in the EU, but if it doesn’t happen, we will continue on our course.

As for my very good friend the Greek Foreign Minister’s visit to Kosovo, Mr. Lambrinidis is a very good friend of our country, of Serbia, so he can go to any region of our country, including Kosovo.

Journalist: If Skopje agrees to name their country “Northern Macedonia”, would you accept their language as the “Macedonian language” at the UN?

Mr. Lambrinidis: To my mind, such discussions cannot take place in public. A name with a geographical qualifier of the term “Macedonia” is something that Greece has said is necessary if there is to be a compromise. And it will also have to be a name used in relation to everyone, erga omnes; that is, we won’t have a country being called one name by a certain country and another name by another country. This is a reasonable compromise and I hope there is a willingness for such a compromise on the part of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

And this is the matter that is expressly designated as the subject of the discussions under the auspices of the United Nations. The other issues you mentioned are not within that framework. I want one thing: I want us to see that we are at a crossroads – a crossroads of great hope for good neighbourly relations and development in our neighbourhood. We can choose to make history if we abandon the desire to rewrite other people’s history. If the government in Skopje shares this view, we have reason to hope we will find a solution.

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