Slovenia & Serbia Seek Closer Economic & Political Ties

By , 27 Aug 2019, 17:02 PM Politics
Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and his Serbian counterpart Ana Brnabić Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and his Serbian counterpart Ana Brnabić Twitter

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STA, 27 August 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and his Serbian counterpart Ana Brnabić confirmed the good relations between the two countries in Belgrade on Tuesday while also exploring ways to deepen both political and economic cooperation. Šarec reiterated Slovenia's strong support for EU enlargement to the Western Balkans.

 There are no major open issues between the two countries, they are important economic partners and trade is expected to increase soon, said Šarec, who is paying an official visit.

While trade in goods already rose by 14% in 2018 compared to 2017 to exceed EUR 1.5 billion, Šarec said opportunities needed to be used both in the economy and in tourism.

His host Brnabić singled out Slovenia as one of the biggest investors in Serbia, with around 1,600 Slovenian companies active there. It is also a key foreign investor, she added, while expressing her expectation Serbian investment in Slovenia would grow too.

She labelled the total trade of EUR 1.6 million recorded in 2018 as impressive, but expressed hope it would exceed EUR 2 billion in 2020.

Brnabić also thanked Slovenia for its strong support for EU enlargement, while Šarec stressed Slovenia would insist enlargement needed to be addressed, even if "it is true that currently the climate is not very favourable for enlargement".

He added enlargement was a long process that required reforms, which in turn also required encouragement.

Implementation of the agreement on succession to the former Yugoslavia remains an open issue with Serbia, with a joint session of the two countries' governments seen as a chance to speed up the resolution of these issues. Brnabić expressed hope the session could be held before the end of the year.

The idea is to combine the joint session - such sessions have been organised since 2013 and the last one was held in Slovenia at the start of 2018 - with a business forum.

The pair also touched on the stalled talks between Belgrade and Prishtina, with Brnabić thanking Šarec for the clear position that Kosovo's introduction of 100% custom tariffs on Serbian goods did not contribute to stability in the region and that the decision needed to be changed.

She pointed out that Slovenia's and Serbia's positions on Kosovo's independence differed. While Serbia understands Ljubljana's views, it is important for Belgrade that Slovenia also understand Serbia's position and that that it recognise that Prishtina is far from being a predictable partner.

Also commenting on the Slovenia-Serbia agreement governing the employment of Serbian workers in Slovenia which will enter into force in September, Brnabić said she did not expect the agreement to cause a major workforce outflow from Serbia. Its main purpose is providing for safety and protection of the workers, she said.

Šarec said Slovenia presently had record-high employment and needed additional workforce. He also stressed the importance of having a well regulated workforce flow, which is something that is provided by this agreement.

Šarec was also received by Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Parliamentary Speaker Maja Gojković, while he is also scheduled to meet Slovenians who are living or are active in Serbia.

According to the prime minister's office, Šarec talked with Vučić and Gojković about the current events in the EU and the situation in the Western Balkans.

Vučić thanked Šarec for Slovenia's support to Serbia in the process of EU accession, especially for the political, technical and expert assistance in individual negotiating chapters, added the office of the Serbian president.

While Vučić also emphasised Slovenia's importance as an economic partner, Šarec said that Slovenia supported dialogue between Belgrade and Prishtina as the country's interest was that the relations in the region were good.

At the meeting between Šarec and Gojković, the latter thanked Slovenia for its support to Serbia in the EU integration process, and noted that cooperation between the countries' parliaments was very intensive.

According to a press release from the Serbian parliament, Šarec assessed at the meeting that the cooperation between the countries was excellent, and pointed to the good cooperation between the countries' parliaments.

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