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Statement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Dendias, following his meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia, Nikola Selaković (Belgrade, 5 April 2021)
Dear Minister, good day and thank you very much for your hospitality. Dear Nikola, it is a great pleasure to be in Belgrade again.
A city that has been linked to Greek history through Rigas Feraios, and I was very pleased and grateful to hear your proposal, dear Minister, dear Nikola, for renaming a street in Belgrade for Ioannis Kapodistrias. This is a great pleasure and honour for us. As you know, Ioannis Kapodistrias, like me, was from Corfu, where he was born. The “island of salvation,” an island inextricably linked to Serbian history, hosting the Serbian government in exile during World War I, along with a large portion of the Serbian army.
I am here in Belgrade to deepen the excellent relations between our two countries.
The fact that our delegation is large – including the Minister of Rural Development, Mr. Livanos, who is in meetings as we speak, and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Economic Diplomacy, Mr. Fragogiannis – shows exactly how important this visit is to us.
The priority for us is the implementation of the Joint Declaration that was signed in the context of the 3rd High-Level Cooperation Council, which took place in December 2019, in Athens. Unfortunately, the pandemic blocked its full implementation. But we look forward to implementing it as soon as conditions allow.
And I think that here, on the subject of COVID-19, I should mention that I was instructed by the Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, to congratulate you, Minister, and the Serbian Government, the President and Serbia on the excellent progress your country has made with vaccinations. It is exemplary.
And I would also like to take this opportunity to say that it will be a great pleasure to welcome our Serbian friends to Greece this summer, based on the agreement reached recently, during Tourism Minister Harry Theocharis’ visit to Belgrade. And I also thank you warmly for the clarifications you gave me for facilitating our Serbian friends who want to visit Greece. Of course, this also means the facilitation of Greeks coming to Serbia.
We also talked about Greece’s significant economic presence in Serbia. Greek investments in Serbia are between 2.5 and 3 billion euros, but that is the foundation. After the 10-year crisis, Greece is returning to our region, to the Balkans. We want Greek enterprises to come and invest here in Serbia. I am told that Greek investments have created 25,000 jobs. We want to reach a point where we have created 100,000 jobs in Serbia.
We want our economic and trade relations to grow and deepen, along with our cooperation in important sectors such as energy and defence. Regarding energy, we discussed how to enhance connectivity between the countries in the region. And with regard to transport, I proposed – and I thank you for accepting this – a trilateral meeting between us and North Macedonia to discuss connectivity in our region.
Concluding on the bilateral dimension, I would like to thank you and President Vučić, whom I will be meeting with later, for your gesture of accepting a number of unaccompanied minors from Greece. We appreciate it very much.
In the context of the European perspective, I would like to reiterate Greece’s undivided support for Serbia’s European perspective. We are fully prepared to provide any and all technical assistance and collaboration. There is a Memorandum of Cooperation, which will be signed in Athens by the Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Varvitsiotis, in the coming days. It is very important to us for Serbia to accelerate its progress and become a member of the European family as soon as possible. We think this is Serbia’s natural place.
We looked at the developments in the wider region, and I noted our observations, the great interest in Kosovo. I am sorry that the talks have not yet started with the new government. I said that we are at your disposal to help in any way we can towards resolving this extremely difficult issue. I also listened very carefully to everything you said regarding Bosnia-Herzegovina, which I also visited recently, and which is also part of the Balkan architecture. And we would like to see Bosnia-Herzegovina have a stable, certain and European future. On this, too, we are at your full disposal, Minister, to collaborate and assist in any way we can. We cannot allow Bosnia-Herzegovina to become a black hole in the middle of Europe.
Greece is also monitoring Turkey’s intentions in our wider region and the effort it is making to use economic, religious and cultural means to affiliate itself with countries in the region, and especially with the Muslim population. This is an issue that we are always monitoring carefully.
We believe that populations, people and societies are always bridges of cooperation. Bridges of cooperation for peace and security, for promotion of human rights, for promotion of human values. And not for the promotion of any kind of extremism, fundamentalism or intolerance.
As I said in our meeting, I intend to travel to Ankara in the immediate future, next week, under the condition, of course, that the right climate exists. Under the condition that Turkey does not proceed to provocative actions that will block my visit. So, we hope that, this time, the Turkish side will abstain from such actions.
Returning to our bilateral relations, I would like to add that it is a great honour for us and the Greek delegation to be in Belgrade today. It is a great pleasure, and we are very pleased to see the progress Serbia has made. And, as I said, please never forget how Greece has felt towards Serbia throughout the 200 years of its history.
Dear Minister, dear Nikola, thank you very much.