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DAILY SURVEY 22.02.2018.
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SERBIA - RUSSIA

VUCIC: SERBIA WILL NOT CHANGE ITS POLICY TOWARD RUSSIA

BELGRADE, 21 February 2018 (Beta) - Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in Belgrade, on Feb. 21 that in 180 years of diplomatic relations Serbia and Russia had been "through hell and back" in the fight for the freedom of their peoples and that they had never gone against each other. Vucic told a news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Belgrade that Serbia would not change its policy toward Russia regardless of any pressure, that no sanctions would be imposed and that the position of military neutrality would not change. "I believe there will be pressure on us to change our relationship with Russia, but Serbia will honor its traditional relations with Russia and work to develop them further. We are an independent country and we make our decisions independently, whether anyone likes it or not," Vucic said. Vucic stated that he hoped global and economic circumstances would help agreements between the two nations come to fruition. According to him, Serbia and Russia have increasingly better economic ties, and trade is growing steadily.

LAVROV: IF DIALOG BASELINE CHANGES AND BELGRADE CALLS IN RUSSIA, WE WON'T STAND ASIDE

BELGRADE, 21 February 2018 (Beta) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in Belgrade, on Feb. 21 that Russia would not stand idly by if Serbia asks it to get involved in the Belgrade-Pristina dialog on normalizing relations. He told a news conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic that running the dialogue had been entrusted to the European Union, but that, if the ethnic Albanians seek a change in the framework of the dialogue and the involvement of parties other than the EU, Russia would let Serbia decide what to do. If the ethnic Albanians seek to get the U.S. involved, and Serbia calls in Russia, it will not stand aside. He added that the EU should take additional steps to justify the trust placed in it to facilitate the dialogue.

LAVROV: WEST OR RUSSIA IS A FALSE DICHOTOMY

BELGRADE, 21 February 2018 (Beta) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated in Belgrade, on Feb. 21 that the "false choice" of siding with the West or with Russia should not be placed before any nation. Lavrov told a news conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic that Russia was for every country to have absolute freedom of choice and develop its foreign policy independently. Russia welcomes Belgrade's efforts to develop its ties not just with the EU but with the Eurasian Economic Union. We know that the EU is setting certain conditions in the accession chapters, including certain foreign policy conditions, among them sanctions against Russia and recognizing Kosovo, Lavrov said. He stated that more and more EU countries felt the policy of sanctions against Russia was counterproductive and voiced the conviction that this "demand" would not last long.

LAVROV BELIEVES RUSSIAN-SERBIAN CENTER IN NIS WILL CONTINUE TO BE NEEDED

BELGRADE, 21 February 2018 (Beta) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in Belgrade, on Feb. 21 that he believed the Russian-Serbian humanitarian center in Nis would continue to be needed and added that its employees only did the work that the center was established to do. This was Lavrov's response at a joint news conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, when asked about the status of the center's employees and whether they would get diplomatic status. He said the Russian side had invited a military representative of the U.S., the country that expressed doubts about the center not being humanitarian in nature, to come and tour it. He inspected every centimeter and saw that the center deals only with issues for which it was formed, Lavrov said, and recalled, on the other hand, that the U.S. had the Bondsteel base in Kosovo. He added that the four or five Russian employees of the center were carrying out their duties and that they had had important operations, removing mines, fire-fighting and responding in flood situations in the region (Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Greece).

SERBIA

DACIC MEETS WITH GREEK MINISTER FOR TOURISM

BELGRADE, 21 February 2018 (Beta) - Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic met on Feb. 21 with Greek Minister for Tourism Elena Kountoura, who is visiting Belgrade to attend the international tourism fair, where Greece is a partner country. Dacic and Kountoura concurred that relations between the two countries were at a high level, with intense cooperation under way in various fields, stated the Serbian Foreign Ministry. Cooperation is also progressing in tourism, as evidenced by the steady increase in the number of Serbian tourists in Greece, and of Greek tourists in Serbia, the ministers stated. Dacic wished the Greek minister a pleasant stay in Belgrade, and Greece's successful participation in the Tourism Fair.

VUCIC, FABRIZI DISCUSS JUNCKER'S VISIT TO SERBIA

BELGRADE, 21 February 2018 (Beta) - Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic met on Feb. 21 with Sem Fabrizi, head of the European Union's Delegation to Serbia, and discussed the forthcoming visit by the president of the European Commission. Fabrizi said EC president Jean-Claude Juncker was coming to Belgrade on Feb. 26, as part of a West Balkan tour, with the purpose of affirming the region's European prospects, as presented in the recently released Strategy for the enlargement of the EU, the presidency said in a press release. Vucic said Juncker's visit confirmed that the country was well on the European path and added that Serbia understood that nobody guaranteed that 2025, the year mentioned in the Strategy, was definitely the year of full membership, but that it did represent an important impetus and recognition. "Many obstacles loom on Serbia's European road, but we are ready to work hard to tackle hard tasks," the Serbian president said. Vucic and Fabrizi discussed the situation in the region, the press release read, adding that Vucic again advocated a regional economic zone, which would serve as a launch pad for the swifter economic progress of the West Balkans.

VUCIC, DITTMANN DISCUSS BILATERAL POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC RELATIONS

BELGRADE, 21 February 2018 (Beta) - Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic met on Feb. 21 with the German ambassador to Serbia, Axel Dittmann, and discussed political and economic relations between their two countries. They concurred that overall bilateral relations were constantly progressing, the media service of the president stated. Vucic and Dittmann discussed Serbia's European path and the stabilization of relations and cooperation in the Western Balkans, especially through the Berlin Process. President Vucic thanked Germany for its continued support, and said he was particularly pleased with German investors' confidence, demonstrated in their intensified activity and new projects in Serbia, the statement reads.

LE DRIAN: PARIS FOR ADMISSION OF WESTERN BALKANS WHEN CONDITIONS ARE MET

PARIS, 21 February 2018 (Beta) - French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian reiterated France's dedication to the Western Balkan countries' admission to the European Union, when those countries fulfill the necessary conditions, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Feb. 21. Le Drian, who received Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic in Paris on Feb. 20, said the EU-mediated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina was "of fundamental importance for the stabilization of the entire region" and that it should lead to the "full normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo." The French minister said he hoped the "positive agenda" for the Western Balkans would be promoted until the next EU summit, in Sofia on May 17, on the basis of "concrete support measures of the EU to the efforts which the countries of the region should invest with the aim of approaching the Union." The French Foreign Ministry recently noted that the EU was paying special attention to the Western Balkans, which was illustrated by the strategy the European Commission announced on Feb. 6. "It clearly confirmed Europe's wish for the Western Balkan countries to carry out the reforms needed for further progress," the ministry added. Le Drian is scheduled to visit Serbia on April 12 and 13, and a visit by French President Emanuel Macron is envisaged before the end of the year.

DAILY SURVEY

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