Dmitry Medvedev holds talks with Prime Minister of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić.
Dmitry Medvedev and Aleksandar Vučić spoke to the press following bilateral talks.
Dmitry Medvedev: Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve finished talks with my Serbian colleague, Prime Minister of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić. This is his first trip to our country as the head of the Government that was formed in late April.
I wished my colleague every success in his new post, and we, of course, discussed all issues related to our cooperation, both in limited-attendance and expanded meetings. Above all, we spoke about trade and economic ties and investment. We also reviewed projects in power engineering and other industries and transport infrastructure – we discussed all areas where we are actively working together.
Dmirty Medvedev: "We discussed all issues related to our cooperation, both in limited-attendance and expanded meetings. Above all, we spoke about trade and economic ties and investment. We also reviewed projects in power engineering and other industries and transport infrastructure – we discussed all areas where we are actively working together."
I’d like to make several points. Last year alone bilateral trade increased by 15 percent; and it has already grown by another 10 percent this year. This is a good result, considering that the world economy is not doing very well and that our economies – Russia’s at any rate – is not at its best either.
Bilateral trade is about two billion dollars now based on Russian customs records, which are different from those used by other countries. It is important to preserve and consolidate these trends even as we move forward with our national political plans.
Dmirty Medvedev: "We’ve had success in investment. Russian companies have invested $1.3 billion in Serbia."
We’ve had success in investment. Russian companies have invested $1.3 billion in Serbia. This is direct investment by our companies that are operating in Serbia. If we consider investments made through third countries, which is standard practice in the world, investment totals some three billion dollars, which is not bad at all. I believe this says a lot about the level of our relations.
Our banks play an important role in in the Serbian economy, and the decision of the National Bank of Serbia to use the Russian rouble for settlements in the local market is also important.
Strategic projects in the power industry are carried out according to a coordinated timetable. We’ll talk about this issue in more detail since we’ve devoted much time to it. The portion of South Stream passing through Serbian territory is the most important project. This is obviously a priority project, particularly in light of events in Ukraine. I hope it will make Russian gas supplies to European customers more reliable over the next decade.
One more major project we’ve discussed is the modernisation and development of the company Oil Industry of Serbia, in which Gazprom Neft is a major shareholder. As with any project, it has its advantages and shortcomings. That said, the company, which had been operating at a loss, has turned into a regional leader in the industry and is investing its profits back into the economy, improving the general economic situation and creating jobs.
We’ve discussed the plans of Russian Railways to upgrade Serbian rail infrastructure. This project is bound to increase Serbia’s transit and export capacity. We’ve agreed to speed up this work, and I hope this will be a substantial project and a reflection of our good relations.
Last May Serbia was hit by disastrous flooding. We’d like to express our condolences once again. The Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Centre, located in the city of Nis, again demonstrated its effectiveness. I believe this project is a visible symbol of our friendship. Naturally, we’ll continue working in this area and enlisting the support of many other countries.
Dmitry Medvedev: "We’ve discussed the plans of Russian Railways to upgrade Serbian rail infrastructure. This project is bound to increase Serbia’s transit and export capacity."
Needless to say, we’re united by historical, cultural and spiritual ties. We believe it is important to preserve our common cultural heritage and will continue working to this end. I’d like to wish my colleague success in his role as Prime Minister once again. Mr Prime Minister, go ahead please.
Alexander Vučić (in Russian): Thank you.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to start my address to you in Russian. I’m very pleased that I can discuss all major issues with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev candidly and in a spirit of mutual respect.
I’m pleased to say that Serbia and Russia are developing good, friendly relations and that Russia respects Serbia and its positions on the most complicated issues. Serbia has proven itself a friend of Russia and has not turned away from it in trying times. Unlike so many countries, Serbia is demonstrating its friendship and closeness with Russia in deeds rather than just words.
(Via interpreter) I’d like to thank Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev for his hospitality and his warm words of welcome to the Serbian delegation.
We’ve had good talks on economic and political issues today. We’ve already decided some questions regarding the South Stream project. I’m grateful to the Russian side for understanding Serbia’s needs. We’ll always appreciate this.
We believe our cooperation has been highly successful in other areas as well. We haven’t concealed the fact that we’ve created our own problems with railway tracks and in our work with Russian Railways in general. We’ll shoulder this burden and resolve the issue. This is a domestic matter. And I’d just like to thank Mr Medvedev again for his understanding.
We spoke about our trade relationship. Mr Medvedev, you’re absolutely right about the figures. Indeed, our trade increased by nine percent in the first quarter of this year and by 15 percent last year. Along with Italy and France, Russia is now a major trade partner of Serbia. We also discussed cooperation in other fields and considered the possibility of expanding the free trade area.
Naturally, we understand the problems Russia and the Eurasian Union are dealing with. Serbia is moving towards the European Union. We are aware of their restrictions. Perhaps I went too bold in asking the Prime Minister of Russia to give more thought to the issue and meet us halfway on some matters. Needless to say, the Prime Minister reacted with some scepticism, but he promised to think our requests over and try to meet us halfway.
I must say that Russia always understands Serbia and its political positions. As you know, I have never concealed that Serbia wants to be part of the EU. But Serbia doesn’t want to destroy its friendly relationship with Russia, its best relationship, during a time of difficulty. Serbia has proved its commitment by deeds not just words and will continue to do so in the future.
We’re very grateful to the Russian Federation for its interest in making additional investments in our country. I’ve thanked Prime Minister Medvedev for trying to meet us halfway. I’ve asked him to let our construction companies play a bigger role in the Russian market in preparation for the upcoming sporting events to be hosted by Russia. This would mean a lot to Serbia. I hope the Prime Minister will lend his support.
We had some problems with some enterprises, and we’ve found good solutions. We’ll continue to improve our cooperation in the near future, achieving even better results for Russia and Serbia and for their people.
Thank you very much once again, Mr Prime Minister. Thanks to your ministers and colleagues.
You can always rely on Serbia as a friend and ally. You can always talk with us freely and sincerely on all issues. Sometimes we don’t agree but this is rare.
Question: Good afternoon, ITAR-TASS. I have a question for both prime ministers. You’ve mentioned South Stream. You said you discussed this and some issues have already been resolved. Could you describe this project in more detail please? What have you resolved today? Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: I’ll begin and my colleague will pick it up from there. We did discuss South Stream today, because this is a key Russian project for Europe, including Serbia. We believe this mutually beneficial project should not be politicised, as we reaffirmed in our talks with our Serbian partners. To sum up, we’ve made substantial progress in the negotiating process. Moreover, I’d say we are ready to sign the necessary document in the near future – in the next few days – which in my view will mark a new phase in the project and a new level in our relations with Serbia. All nuances were considered during the talks, which I think reflects the special approach our countries take to this project, our partnership, and the good relations between our nations.
The Prime Minister also wanted to speak on this issue, and far be it from me to deny him the opportunity, all the more so since he said that I greeted many other projects with scepticism, albeit moderate, so there is room for improvement.
I’d like to make just one more point on construction. Serbian construction companies are building a lot in Russia, they do good work, and I hope they will continue to.
Aleksandar Vučić (via interpreter): Thank you once again, Mr Prime Minister. I’ll say a few words. We had four requests, our Russian friends met us halfway, and we only have to resolve technical issues, which we can do quickly. As Mr Medvedev said, everything will be decided in the next few days – maybe tomorrow, maybe in a few days, but everything will be done fast. Many thanks to our Russian partners, to Mr Medvedev, Mr Novak, Mr Miller and all those who listened to our requests, wishes and remarks. We were able to resolve everything like friends.
Question: First TV Channel, Serbia. What were these four requests?
Aleksandar Vučić (via interpreter): I won’t speak about this here. As I’ve already said, I expressed my hope to Mr Prime Minister that what’s happening in Ukraine will be resolved peacefully. We’ve supported all the peace initiatives of President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation.
I said during our one-on-one conversation that we in Serbia have also expressed support for the positions of Mrs Merkel and Mr Steinmeier, their view on how to resolve the Ukraine crisis.
Serbia is a small country but we have experience with this, and for this reason we wish every success to both Russia and Ukraine in making peace.
Dmitry Medvedev: I won’t talk about this issue because the question did not concern these very complicated, dramatic events. That said, the Prime Minister and I spoke openly and at length about the situation in Ukraine. We discussed what has happened there, who is to blame and what should be done.
But I’d like to mention the four requests or issues. Since they were resolved, they simply don’t exist and we don’t have to talk about them. If they hadn’t been resolved, we’d have to discuss them, but this is not the case. Everything is fine. Thank you.
Aleksandar Vučić: Thank you.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you.