Comment by the Information and Press Department regarding Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Serbian First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dacic
On April 17, Serbian First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dacic will pay a working visit to the Russian Federation. During the visit, he will have a meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The officials will discuss the key areas of Russian-Serbian cooperation and ways to implement joint projects. They will also exchange views on the current issues of the Balkan and European agenda.
The contacts with the Serbian side are organised within the framework of the strategic partnership set out in the intergovernmental declaration signed by the presidents of both countries in Sochi on May 24, 2013.
It should be noted that in the current very challenging global situation, the Serbian authorities are pursuing a balanced course towards building mutually beneficial ties with every interested state.
The political dialogue between our two countries is quite intense. President Putin’s official visit to Belgrade on January 17, 2019, gave a strong impetus to our work in key areas of cooperation. Last year, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic visited Russia twice to participate in the Victory Day celebration and the Immortal Regiment event. Meetings between the countries’ foreign ministers are held on a regular basis and close contact is maintained on a wide range of issues regarding bilateral relations and European and international politics.
We welcome Serbia’s commitment to the course of maintaining military neutrality that has been repeatedly affirmed by Belgrade. While maintaining contacts with NATO, Belgrade is also developing cooperation with the Collective Security Treaty Organisation. Members of the Serbian National Assembly participate in the CSTO Parliamentary Assembly as observers.
A high level of cooperation is maintained between the parliaments. Meetings of the bilateral inter-parliamentary commission, co-chaired by Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin and President of the Serbian National Assembly Maja Gojkovic, are held annually. Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko also meets with the head of the Serbian parliament on a regular basis. MPs interact with each other constantly, both bilaterally and at specialised international platforms.
The dynamics of Russian-Serbian trade and economic cooperation shows positive trends. According to the Russian customs statistics, in 2018 the trade between our countries amounted to $2.1 billion, which is 1.9 per cent higher than the 2017 figure.
A key role in the development of economic cooperation belongs to the Russia-Serbia Intergovernmental Committee on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation co-chaired by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov and Serbian First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic. Participants at the committee’s latest meeting on March 6-7 in Belgrade outlined further steps towards developing joint work on a wide range of issues.
Energy remains an essential area of our cooperation. In 2018, Russia supplied 2.1 billion cu m of natural gas to Serbia. The demand continues to grow and is expected to reach 3.5 billion cu m by 2023.
Construction of a cross-country branch pipeline of the Turkish Stream has entered its active phase. The project costs a total of $1.4 billion and the pipeline will stretch across 403 km of Serbia. We expect that in coordination with Gazprom, the pipeline installation will be completed this December.
Renovation and modernisation of the Serbian railway network, a project that involves Russian Railways, is progressing, and will count towards the Russian export loan of $800 million.
Cultural, humanitarian and spiritual links are a significant aspect of the Russia-Serbia cooperation. On March 23, 2019 in Belgrade, an agreement was signed on a donation from Gazprom Neft of an additional 6 million euros for the interior of the Church of Saint Sava in the Serbian capital. We expect that the funds will help with the assembly of the mosaic at the altar enabling it to be completed in time for the 800th anniversary of the Serbian Orthodox Church autocephaly in the autumn of 2019.
During Ivica Dacic’s visit, we plan to sign a programme of cooperation in culture, education, science, sports and youth policy between the governments of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Serbia for 2019-2021. This document is aimed at intensifying education and student exchanges, and expanding the practice of tours by representatives of culture, and exhibitions, including between regions.
We will continue to provide Serbia with support aimed at resolving the Kosovo problem based on UNSC Resolution 1244. It should be noted that the EU which, according to a UN General Assembly resolution, plays the role of a mediator in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, has failed in its responsibilities. In recent months, Pristina has passed provocative decisions on introducing 100 per cent duties on goods from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as on the establishment of a Kosovo army, which runs contrary to UNSC Resolution 1244. The United States and the EU were incapable of changing the destructive course of action.