Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met in Belgrade with the President of the Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić.
The two leaders reaffirmed, once again, the excellent relations of Greece and Serbia and discussed the priorities throughout the entire spectrum of the bilateral relations, with emphasis on economic and foreign policy issues.
Both sides expressed their desire to strengthen and reinforce cooperation in the sectors of tourism, trade, infrastructures, transports and energy, where there are many possibilities and prospects for both countries.
Mr Mitsotakis and Mr Vučić agreed to convene, as soon as possible, the High Level Cooperation Council, which was postponed due to the extreme weather conditions, reiterating their commitment to the full exploitation of this cooperation scheme.
The Prime Minister reiterated to Mr Vučić the steady and tangible support of Greece to the European path of Serbia and Western Balkans, which is a guarantee for prosperity, stability and security in the region. They also discussed the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, which Athens supports in order to find a solution that will consolidate stability and lift obstacles towards the European future of South Eastern Europe.
The two leaders exchanged views on issues of international interest, like the situation in Ukraine. Kyriakos Mitsotakis pointed out our country’s special interest in developments, due to the presence of a populous Greek community in Ukraine and stressed the need for de-escalation and finding a solution with diplomatic and political means, on the basis of international Law and the international agreements in force.
The Prime Minister informed Mr Vučić on the developments in Eastern Mediterranean and Turkey’s return to aggressive rhetoric and provocative actions that violate International Law, while he also repeated the country’s commitment to bona fide dialogue with Ankara, on the basis of international legality. He thanked Mr Vučić for his country’s steady support in the efforts to end the illegal Turkish occupation of Cyprus, through a mutually accepted solution, based on the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.
The Prime Minister’s statements following his meeting with the President of the Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić:
Mr President, Aleksandar, thank you very much for your kind words. I am very happy to be in Belgrade tonight, in this short working visit, but rich in content. I am looking forward to our next meeting in the framework of the 4th High Level Cooperation Council, which was scheduled to take place two weeks ago, but unfortunately due to some emergencies in Greece, it had to be postponed.
And, of course, I am looking forward to the very important visit of the President of the Hellenic Republic, which will take place within the first days of March. This is a visit that will also reaffirm that Greece and Serbia are two countries that are connected not only by geography and history, culture and religion, but also by our common vision for the European future of our region. And in this context, Athens aspires to see all capitals of Western Balkans in the United Europe, with Serbia, Belgrade, being the first one.
Especially when it comes to our friend Serbia, we are ready – and we are already doing so – to help at every level, so that the necessary criteria can be met, as soon as possible, and so that Serbia can join the European family. And as I mentioned before to President Vučić, we consider that such a development is a necessary and urgent condition for stability, peace, cooperation and, finally, the overall prosperity in our peninsula.
As an old member of the EU, Greece is well aware, as you know, of the hard work and serious reforms required for the participation in European structures. But I assure you – and I assure the people of our friend country Serbia – that these efforts are worthwhile, because it is ultimately a transformation that will be a historic investment in the country’s progress towards a better life for the entire Serbian people.
Besides, regional development is the path that leads those who follow it to development. This is why the European Union has invested a lot in the promotion of regional cooperation. On one hand, because it connects all the states of our neighborhood to a common future of our continent, but also because it eventually favors their convergence in action. As the Chairman of the South – East European Cooperation Process, which is a fundamental political organization in the region, I cannot wait to welcome Aleksandar in Greece in June and along with the other leaders we will plan our next moves. And as you know, Western Balkans and their integration in the European Union are the ultimate priority for Greece, since the 2003 Thessaloniki agenda.
However, I am here to promote our bilateral relations along with President Vučić. Greece and Serbia, we both leave behind the hard distress caused by Covid. Serbia has in fact demonstrated an impressive economic growth, experiencing relatively mildly the economic repercussions of the pandemic of 2020. And Greece will also demonstrate very important growth rates in 2021 – I estimate that they will exceed 8%. Therefore, prospects of closer economic cooperation in all sectors are exceptionally auspicious.
We want to insist on interconnection issues. We have discussed those issues many times with our friend Aleksandar, especially issues related to energy interconnection. Our objective is to maximize energy security in Southeast Europe and in Europe in general.
We aspire to become a reliable energy hub by promoting plans of diversification of both energy sources and routes. We actively support the Interconnection Bulgaria – Serbia, its connection with TAP, through the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria, which I estimate will be completed in the coming months.
And of course the position of Greece and especially the position of Alexandroupolis, as a gateway for LNG is something that interests not only Greece, but also South Eastern Europe as a whole, Bulgaria, Serbia and the rest of the Balkan countries.
Greece’s position is also particularly important for emblematic interconnection programs, concerning electricity, like the interconnection of Europe and Africa through the power cable that will connect Egypt with Greece, but also Europe and Asia through the Euro-Asian Interconnector, which will connect Greece, Cyprus and Israel.
President Vučić is right to say that we can increase even more the volume of our bilateral trade, and we can increase even more important investments that have already been materialized by Greek companies in Serbia, which exceed two billion euros. There is a margin to improve our economic relations even more.
Let me express my joy for the fact that Greece remains a destination that Serbian visitors prefer, mainly during summer. We are making a great effort, dear Aleksandar, to extend the tourist period in our country and host visitors from our friend country Serbia all year long. And with the same interest, we want to promote visits of Greeks to the friend country Serbia, either in the summer or in the winter.
We have repeatedly talked about your beautiful mountains, which are also a very popular destination in my country, especially for winter vacation. And of course we look forward to this summer, when we will have hopefully left behind the health crisis and Greek tourism will be able to make a big leap. We want to welcome as many Serbian friends as possible to our homeland.
Finally, I want to be clear on the issues concerning Kosovo and the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. The position of our country has not changed. But, as you said, we want to see the full normalization of your relations with Pristina and for that, we support the continuation of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue. We support the efforts of the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue, Mr Lajčák, to reach a comprehensive and legally binding agreement. It is an agreement that, in the end, will benefit both sides, but of course it will restore an ambiance of calm and cooperation in the Balkans as a whole and despite the fact that we have not seen progress in recent months, I keep your commitment and desire always actively to participate in this dialogue in a good mood, so that this issue can finally be resolved in a fair way. Fair and legally binding.
I want to thank you again, my friend Aleksandar, for your warm hospitality. Every time I visit Belgrade, I feel how close the relations between our two peoples are.
I look forward to continuing our discussions over dinner and I am sure I will come to Belgrade for the High Level Cooperation Council, before you come to Greece in June, on the occasion of the other Balkan initiatives we have undertaken.