Friday, 31 October 2014. PDF Print E-mail
Minister Dacic at the Annual Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Visegrad Group and the Western Balkans
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Dacic at the Annual Meeting of the FM of the Visegrad Group and the Western BalkansSpeech by First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia Ivica Dacic at the Annual Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Visegrad Group and the Western Balkans, which was held today in Bratislava:

"Mr. Chairman,
Distinguished Ministers,
Ladies and gentlemen,

At the outset, I would like to thank our host for organizing this meeting in Bratislava, a city rich in history, the most important political, cultural and economic center of Slovakia and one of the most important capitals in the European Union. This meeting is yet another opportunity for a meaningful exchange of views between the Visegrad Group and the Western Balkan Ministers on the current political and economic issues.

My statement, and that of my colleague from Bosnia and Herzegovina, is focused on "good governance and economic situation". The development of an economy, predicated on the establishment of sustainable good governance, is undoubtedly among the key issues in the context of the development of the Western Balkans as a whole. I believe that our exchange of views today, and in particular the fact that a new regional structure - the Western Balkans Fund is being put in place, will contribute to the initiation of a number of regional projects whose implementation will be an additional incentive to stability, mutual cooperation and thus to economic progress in the region. Many years of experience of the International Visegrad Fund will be, in this respect, particularly invaluable to us.

Serbia is striving to make a concrete contribution to the strengthening of good governance and networking at the regional level, as evidenced by the recent Conference of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and of Economy/Finance of the Western Balkans on the same topics, held in Belgrade.

The Conference adopted the Joint Statement reaffirming that regional cooperation and economic stability are the common "means" to match European standards and meet the EU accession criteria, a process that should bring benefits to citizens even before the full membership itself. I am convinced that the Belgrade Conference, as a follow-up to the process within which, at the initiative of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the conference on the Western Balkans was held in Berlin last August, will significantly contribute to strengthening and connecting local economies in the region. It is yet another proof of our commitment to work actively to improve regional cooperation and stability, and its success and positive atmosphere is another indication of the changed status of relations in the Western Balkans.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The key foreign policy priority of the Republic of Serbia is its full membership of the EU, and the vision of a common European future is the vision shared by all of us in the Western Balkans. The Republic of Serbia has been carrying out reforms at an accelerated pace to achieve the highest European standards in all areas and thereby meet the criteria for membership.
The plan unveiled by the Government of Serbia to overcome the economic crisis is based on austerity measures but also on a more significant inflow of revenues in the budget, by improving tax collection instead of raising taxes to increase tax revenues. The privatization process is due to be completed in 2016. Fiscal consolidation, facilities to create new jobs, equal treatment of small and large retailers, introduction of simplified procedures and regulations, more efficient inspection and customs control are among the measures currently being implemented in order to increase output and attract foreign investment.

We are continuously working to improve the business environment for foreign investors. The Government of Serbia pays special attention to the free zones as one of the ways to attract foreign direct investment. In Serbia there are 12 such zones, where 226 companies operated last year, which is 30% more compared to the previous year. Export of goods from free zones last year increased by 143% and amounted to 2.1 billion euro, accounting for one fifth of all Serbian exports.

It is the common interest of all of us in the Western Balkans to implement successful reforms with the aim of establishing effective economic systems which will provide better living standards and overall quality of life. Of course, this is not possible without infrastructure connection at the regional level. Precisely with this in mind the Belgrade Conference agreed a number of common infrastructure projects for the future.

"The Visegrad Group" with its practical experience is for us a very useful model of regional cooperation. Of particular importance is that its members, as constructive and responsible European partners, continue to support the EU enlargement process, including the development and improvement of the security and stability of the European continent as a whole. I am pleased to note that Visegrad G members individually and the Group as a whole remain open for cooperation with the Western Balkans on the basis of common European values and principles, to which we are ready to make a significant contribution, thus reaffirming that we are a credible partner.

Thank you for your attention."