Statement by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis after the meeting with the President of the Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vućić – December 11, 2019
“Ladies and gentlemen, dear Aleksandar,
It is a great pleasure to welcome you to Athens today, within the framework of the 3rd High Level Cooperation Council between Greece and Serbia. It was an opportunity to reaffirm our excellent bilateral relations. And – I dare say – our excellent personal relationships. But also open a new chapter on them with the Strategic Partnership Declaration we just signed. A strategic partnership that, in my view, should have been signed a long time ago. A framework that upgrades and enriches all levels of the Greek-Serbian common path: From Defense, Economy and Security, to Culture, Tourism, Sport, Education.
Our priorities – as we discussed – are Infrastructure and Energy. As far as the former are concerned, the European Union’s Interregional Cooperation Programs can help. The main objective – as we discussed – is to complete the Piraeus – Thessaloniki – Skopje – Belgrade – Belgrade – Budapest railway. A crucial project for trade and transport in a large regional arc, but also for communication with four neighboring peoples.
In the field of Energy, we had the opportunity to discuss how our cooperation is primarily geared towards consolidating energy security and diversifying supply sources across the wider region.
You are well aware that Greece supports the development of the so-called Vertical Corridor through the completion of the Greece-Bulgaria (IGB), but also Bulgaria-Serbia (IBS) pipeline. That is why I very much welcome your position that Serbia is ready to buy gas from this diversified source. This will also facilitate the completion of the relevant investments on Greek soil.
Also in other sectors of the economy, Greece and Serbia have a traditional convergence. We have a strong business presence, as you know, in your country. We also have our own way of contributing to the very good performance of the Serbian economy. I would also like to congratulate you publicly on the fact that the Serbian economy is still growing very rapidly. We are ready to support investment in your country even more, and our own country is coming out of the financial crisis. We are ready to do much more in the field of Tourism, as we discussed, to which I attach great importance. Greece is a natural destination for our Serbian friends and Serbia should accordingly become a place of preference for Greeks who want to visit the wider area.
We have agreed to set up an Honorary Consulate of Serbia in Heraklion, Crete. It will be my great pleasure, dear Aleksandar, to welcome you sometime during the summer to my place in Crete, to formally validate this aspect of our cooperation.
However, we have spoken with the President about another aspect, to which I attach great importance. The beloved Aleksandar responded to the Greek Government’s request to accommodate a number of unaccompanied refugees. Children who are currently in Greece. It is precisely this initiative, which he himself has taken, that I welcome as an indication of practical solidarity. Not to Greece, but to these children and adolescents who are being tested in tragic conditions. And I find it extremely important that a candidate country for the European Union, with courage and boldness, is taking on its own moral obligations and is supporting Greece in managing this difficult problem. Thanks again Aleksandar for your generosity, your mental generosity, for taking this initiative.
We also talked about Serbia’s European course. I will reiterate that Greece has consistently supported it. It was, moreover, under the Greek Presidency in 2014, when the accession negotiations began.
Our position remains firm: Serbia belongs to Europe, this path must be completed and this conviction is reinforced by our intention to support you at every step of the way, providing not only political support but also assistance to level of know-how.
The President also had the opportunity to brief me on the course of the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue in favour of Athens. I repeat once again that our position on Kosovo does not change, it remains firm.
And I would like to add, of course, that lifting the customs duties on Serbian products is – in our view – a necessary step in building trust between the two parties.
We agreed on the need to keep the European road and the rest of the Western Balkans open. For my part, however, I have had the opportunity to develop and present to the President the Greek initiatives in the light of new developments.
At the same time, we also exchanged views on regional issues of interest to Greece and Serbia. We have explicitly agreed that it is only international law that ultimately guarantees peaceful coexistence between peoples. Especially in areas with a rich historical past, such as Southeast Europe.
Here I had the opportunity to reiterate some of the obvious things about the behavior of our eastern neighbours: The calm and consistent treatment of persistent delinquency should not be misinterpreted. Because it is a product of national self-confidence, first of all because the law does not give rise to law.
Secondly, that we have the means and the will to defend our national sovereignty and our rights whenever required.
And third, by the fact that the whole international community is in favor of Greece on the issue of the invalid Turkey-Libya cooperation memorandum.
Do not forget his condemnation by the European Union, the United States, Russia, Egypt and Israel. Our country has many and strong allies all over the world.
I repeat, however, that we will not be tired of stressing the need to respect International Law, which is, moreover, a prerequisite for any good neighborly relationship. That is why we are firmly in favor of any bona fide dialogue.
I conclude by concluding that it was still a very cordial and fruitful discussion. I would like to thank once again the President of Serbia for his presence in Athens today.
This is despite the only issue where there has been an absolute disagreement between us. This is tonight’s football match, where our preferences are of course different. In any case, a red-white team will be the winner! Welcome back, Mr. President, to Athens! “
During the meeting, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić signed the Joint Declaration on the Establishment of a Strategic Partnership between Greece and Serbia.
It was also signed by Foreign Minister Nikos Dedija and Serbian Minister of Education Mladen Šarčević, Program of Cooperation between the Government of the Hellenic Republic and the Government of the Republic of Serbia in the fields of Education, Science and Technological Development 20 for 20 – 20 .
Earlier, inaugurating the work of the 3rd Greek-Serbian Cooperation Council, the Prime Minister said:
“Dear Mr President, friend Aleksandar, welcome to Greece once again. It is a great pleasure to see you again after our recent meeting in New York in September.
This time I have the pleasure of welcoming you to Athens, within the framework of the 3rd High Level Cooperation Council between Greece and Serbia. Needless to say how close the ties between our two countries are. They have solid foundations, solid foundations, in our historical, religious, cultural ties. We also share our vision of a Europe of security, peace, prosperity for our countries and for the countries of the wider region.
I think you did very well in the interview you gave in a daily Athens newspaper when you said ‘we need to keep each other’s backs’. I want you to know that for us, working with Serbia is a strategic partnership that, in addition to rich historical references, is a relationship in which we invest heavily. We will then have the opportunity to discuss the full range of our bilateral relations, with emphasis on economic and foreign policy issues. But I want you to know, as I have said many times, that Greece will be a steadfast ally and supporter of Serbia on the difficult path that you have chosen to take to become a full member of the European Union.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, Foreign Minister Nikos Panayiotos Paikiotos Younisos, Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Panayiotos, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis attended the enlarged meetings held at the 3rd Greek-Serbian Cooperation Council. Citizen in charge of Migration Policy George Koumoutsakos, Deputy Foreign Minister Konstantinos Fragogiannis, Deputy Minister of Environment and Energy Dimitris Economou, Deputy Minister of Infrastructure i Transport Ioannis Kefalogiannis, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture Constantine Skrekas, the Director of the Diplomatic Office of the Prime Minister, Ambassador Alexandra Papadopoulou and officials.
From the Serbian side participated: President Aleksandar Vučić, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dačić, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Nebojša Stefanović, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister Aleksandar Aleksandar Aleksandar Aleksandar Aleksandar Aleksandar Aleksandar Mladen Šarčević Science and Technology Progress and Service Agents.
Source: Government of Greece