06. November 2018

Austrian chancellor visits Belgrade, then Pristina

Prime Minister Ana Brnabic spoke on Monday in Belgrade with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, the Serbian government announced on its website. They discussed "bilateral and economic cooperation between the two countries, the European integration of integration of Serbia and the current situation in the region." Brnabic "expressed her gratitude to Austria for the support it provides to Serbia in the process of European integration and the opening of new chapters, and expressed the belief that this support will continue in the future." The interlocutors agreed that the two countries are important economic partners, stating that a large number of Austrian companies operate in Serbia and employ approximately 20,000 workers. They discussed expanding economic cooperation and strengthening cooperation within the banking sector. The Austrian chancellor praised the results of economic reforms in Serbia and impressive success in achieving high growth rates, economic stability and economic recovery. The prime minister stressed that Belgrade is ready to continue dialogue with Pristina, which it has shown by meeting the obligations from the Brussels Agreement, and that it expects the Pristina side to take a responsible approach to the implementation of what has been agreed. In this regard, Brnabic expressed her gratitude to Austria for supporting the continuation of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. She particularly thanked Austria for its support to the government of Serbia in the field of e-government, as the most effective way to fight corruption and the gray economy, as well as to help strengthen the capacity of public administration. Kurz assessed that Serbia as a reliable partner in the fight against illegal migration and human trafficking and expressed gratitude for the help and support that our country provides in this area. "Friendly, strong ties" Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz agreed on Monday in Belgrade that the two states had developed a friendly relationship, good cooperation and strong bilateral ties, Beta agency is reprorting. Vucic said at a joint press conference that political cooperation with Austria was good, but that economic cooperation was even better, adding that this year's bilateral trade would reach over a billion euros for the first time. "Our bilateral relations are very good, trade will reach over a billion euros this year, and we'll be more successful in the future," Vucic said, confident that Kurz would encourage Austrian businesses to invest in Serbia. Kurz agreed that "good, friendly relations" and "strong ties" existed between the two states. "A few hundred thousand Serbs and Austrians of Serbian descent live in Austria, while some 400 Austrian firms have created 20,000 jobs in Serbia," the Austrian chancellor said. He congratulated Vucic on Serbia's economic growth, describing it as "impressive." "Economic growth of over 400 percent is a very impressive result for Serbia, and something that Austria, and other EU states, wish for themselves. What made it possible were the reforms carried out in 2014 and 2015," Kurz said. He also said that the Western Balkans "were of great help" to Austria and the EU in handling illegal migrations and human trafficking, thanking "Vucic and all those responsible along the Balkan route." "With partners like the Western Balkans, you fight against human trafficking and illegal migrations with confidence," the chancellor said. Speaking of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, Kurz said it's imperative not only to continue the talks, but to end them successfully, because it was a precondition for Serbia to join the EU. "A unique opportunity is emerging to leave history behind, and move towards a successful future," Kurz said. He added that Serbia's entry into the Union was only possible if Belgrade and Pristina reached a solution at the negotiating table, which is why the dialogue needed a successful end. "I sincerely hope that such a success is possible, because I'm confident the region deserves to be part of the EU," the Austrian politician said, adding that the EU would be complete only after the Western Balkans and Serbia joined in. Vucic said he "understood the chancellor's message perfectly well," thanking him for "saying it openly," because the citizens of Serbia "need to know what the conditions for EU accession are." "People in Serbia need to know that trade with the EU accounts for 68 percent of total trade, while the region accounts for another twenty, and that we'll no longer have investors (unless Serbia's journey to the EU continues)," Vucic said. Kurz shared Austria's position that a Belgrade-Pristina agreement providing for durable peace deserved support, even if it called for a change of borders. "If the region reaches an agreement that's able to guarantee long-term peace, we'll not obstruct it, but support it instead," Kurz said, adding that it appeared to be a prevailing opinion within the Union, too The Austrian chancellor said that he was aware that there's a long way ahead of Belgrade and Pristina before they could reach a deal, adding that the EU had to provide "active support" to the agreement, not to "hinder it." The Serbian president said that Serbia and Austria had different opinions on Kosovo, but that he was "thankful" for Vienna's view that it should support any solution the Serbs and the Albanians might arrive at. Speaking of Belgrade's agreement with Pristina, Vucic said that the Serbs and Albanians were miles away from any solution whatsoever, but if they managed to reach a compromise, "it would guarantee peace in the next 100 years." The president reiterated that it was not possible for "Serbia to get nothing," but that Belgrade would be a partner to anyone who's ready to talk. According to announcements on Monday, after Belgrade, Kurz traveled to Pristina. At:

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