Vucic thanks Argentina for principled position to respect Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty (RTS/Tanjug)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic met on Thursday for a farewell visit the Ambassador of the Republic of Argentina Estanislao Zavels and thanked him for the significant contribution he made to bilateral relations with his diplomatic skills. Vucic thanked Ambassador Zavels for Argentina’s principled position to respect Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and its support in international organizations regarding the issue and added that Serbia considers Argentina as a true friend. They agreed that long-term friendship and mutual understanding represent a solid basis for Serbia and Argentina to intensify political dialogue and strengthen economic cooperation, as well as any other collaboration of mutual interest. Ambassador Zavels expressed his gratitude for the support he had during his work in Belgrade. He singled out several areas where he observes significant cooperation opportunities, such as agriculture, energy, science and research.
Petkovic: Nobody can stop us from delivering aid to Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija (RTS)
The reason for my departure to Kosovo and Metohija was of a humanitarian character, however, Pristina, which sees everything as political marketing, prevented me from entering Kosovo and Metohija and thus showed that the life of the people and security of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija is not important, the Head of the Office for Kosovo and Metohija Petar Petkovic told the morning news of Radio and Television of Serbia (RTS). He thanked the European Union for the reaction and for saying that it was a violation of the agreement.
Fajon says Serbian, European parliament officials to meet next week (N1)
Tanja Fajon MEP told N1 on Thursday that she expects Serbian parliament speaker Ivica Dacic to meet with European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee chief David McAllister next week to discuss the next stage of the dialogue between the authorities and opposition. “I expect a new meeting between Dacic and McAllister next week. We are talking in the European Parliament in parallel and looking at the next steps. The interest is to get the dialogue started as soon as possible. We have to work on reforms. Serbia has not opened a single chapter and we have to improve the process. The dialogue is important and I hope for an optimistic start to the year,” Fajon said. She added that a multi-party platform should be formed to help create a consensus in society. She said the European Parliament is concerned about the dialogue because they don’t know who will take part in it. “The first step is a meeting with Dacic. McAllister has spoken to him by phone and expressed support to continue the dialogue,” she said adding that the Serbian side is free to say what it wants in the dialogue. She said that she had been following the situation in Serbia for a long time and expressed concern over events. “There is a clear need to reduce tensions among all political players and launch institutional reforms of parliament,” Fajon said and added that she feels that some progress was achieved in the first stage. “I want to remind Serbia that it needs to fulfill its obligations … with the ambition for Serbia to take a step forward towards the EU with reforms,” she said. “I want to support Serbia in all reforms to have it join the European Union as soon as possible. Our main motive is Serbia, the reform process and support,” Fajon said. Fajon said that the electronic media watchdog REM was an important issue in the first stage, adding that the resignation of Slobodan Cvejic from the REM Council is cause for concern. She added that the media situation is also worrying. She said that the political leadership had to condemn the threats against N1 reporter Jelena Zoric and the ban on an N1 crew entering a church for a memorial service. “Those events should be condemned and get a legal epilogue to prevent them happening again,” Fajon said.
Vucic appoints new ambassadors to Vatican, UN (RTV)
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic appointed Ambassadors to the Vatican and the United Nations in New York, Radio and Television of Vojvodina (RTV) reported on Thursday. The report said that retired Belgrade University Professor and law school dean Sima Avramovic was named Ambassador to the Vatican by presidential decree on 5 January. RTV added that Nemanja Stevanovic had been appointed to head Serbia’s permanent mission to the UN in New York under a presidential decree dated 11 January. According to RTV, Tatjana Conic was named Ambassador to Mexico and non-residential ambassador to Panama.
B&H Presidency Chairman Dodik: RS represents desire of Serb people to be free and this is why it will survive despite all those who challenge it (Srna)
Serb member of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Presidency and B&H Presidency Chairman Milorad Dodik said in an interview to Srna on Thursday that Republika Srpska (RS) represents a desire of the Serbian people to be free and this is why it will survive despite all those who challenge it. He stressed that Joseph Biden’s victory in the US presidential elections obviously encouraged some forces that want to abolish the RS and advocate for mora radical political solutions in B&H, but that one can also hear positions that it is dangerous to interfere in internal affairs of B&H. However, he said that he is convinced that rational stances will defeat such forces. Dodik added that the fact that political Sarajevo hopes that Biden will help them abolish entities only proves that B&H is unsustainable. “One thing is that they are dreaming about something like that, but this calls into the question their attitude toward any initiative of different prospects for organization of B&H. The fact that SDA adopted a resolution according to which entities should be abolished and regions should be introduced in B&H speaks of their dissatisfaction in B&H. We are equally dissatisfied with B&H, only for other reasons and causes,” Dodik explained. He emphasized that Serbs did not fight for B&H but for their own state and that they have never been Bosnians but Serbs who wanted to integrate with their Serbian people. Dodik also stated that the RS is not a historical accident, but the yearning of the Serb people for freedom. “The people need to be aware of the constant pressure of political Sarajevo for the abolition of the RS and they should not believe domestic traitors when they say that there is no pressure. Because of this, we need to gather around the idea of the RS and reach compromise regardless of whether someone is the authority or opposition in the RS. On the B&H level, we cannot allow for the wishes of political Sarajevo to be supported,” said Dodik. He stressed that politicians from Sarajevo passionately endorse abolition of the current system in B&H and implementation of a unitary one. Dodik added that this proves that B&H is a country that does not make any sense and with this they confirm that B&H cannot be persevered as a state. He added that their wish can be legitimate in some sense, but it puts into question their relation towards any other initiative that is presented. Dodik also praised the results of the B&H Council of Ministers’ (CoM) battle against the pandemic, but he criticized the Central Bank of B&H for ignoring the request to help mitigate the crisis caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. Regarding the migrant crisis in B&H, Dodik said that he spoke with Bihac Mayor Suhret Fazlic on this issue and that he agrees with his positions, which are rational. He reminded that he told Fazlic that it is unacceptable that “the EU allocated 75 million Euros to a semi-private organization for migration and only 3 million Euros to B&H institutions to mitigate the migrant crisis.”
Dodik: RS and Serbia will continue with planned projects, we will file lawsuits against foreign judges of B&H CC (Glas Srpske)
B&H Presidency Chairman and SNSD leader Milorad Dodik announced that Republika Srpska (RS) will continue with the activities on implementation of hydropower plant projects on Drina River in cooperation with Serbia, despite the fact that 24 Bosniak members of B&H House of Representatives have filed a motion to B&H Constitutional Court (B&H CC) asking for review of constitutionality of the memorandum signed by Serbia and the RS. Dodik stated that Bosniak politicians oppose the hydropower plants and Trebinje airport projects because they will be implemented in cooperation with Serbia. He underlined that the RS has obtained all necessary documents, including the opinion of B&H Competition Council, despite the motion filed with B&H CC. He also emphasized that the motion is aimed against Serbs. Dodik announced that the RS will file lawsuits against foreign judges of B&H CC in their native countries, noting that such mistreatment of a constituent people and B&H Constitution has never been seen before.
Member of B&H House of Peoples Constitutional-Legal Affairs Commission Lazar Prodanovic (SNSD) stated that it is of crucial importance to replace foreign judges of B&H CC with local judges. However, he explained, there is no political will among Bosniak representatives to do this. According to him, the motion filed regarding the hydropower plants on Drina River has no legal basis. Member of RS parliament Commission for Constitutional Affairs Perica Bundalo (PDP) stated that the role of B&H CC and the matter of judges needs to be regulated by a law. According to him, B&H CC has been acting like a lawmaker in recent period. Commenting Dodik’s announcement of lawsuit against foreign judges, Bundalo said that he is not sure if such lawsuit would be successful because the foreign judges have been appointed in line with existing procedures.
Management with military property impossible without consent of RS (EuroBlic)
The House of Representatives (HoR) of B&H adopted the initiative of representative Denis Zvizdic (SDA), the goal of which is to adopt a proposal of the law on use and disposal of non-prospective military property. Chair of SNSD Caucus in B&H HoR Snjezana Novakovic-Bursac said that the Constitution of B&H is clear when it comes to military property and added that she does not know how anyone could prepare such law as there is no article of the Constitution that could be cited in the preamble of the law. Novakovic-Bursac said that SNSD and Serb Caucus opposed this initiative but, as representatives of SDS, PDP and DNS were either absent during the voting or abstained from voting in the second round, they did not manage to have ten votes against in order for the initiative to be rejected. Representative Branislav Borenovic (PDP) was not present during the voting but he wrote in his Twitter account that Nenad Stevandic (Serb Caucus) and Dragan Bogdanic (SNSD) were not present either. Novakovic-Bursac assessed that this is not the right moment for disagreements among RS political parties. DNS leader and representative in B&H HoR Nenad Nesic said that he did not get the opinion of the RS government on this matter and assessed this as unacceptable. Nesic also said that one should not expect the Council of Ministers (CoM) of B&H to accept an initiative opposite to interests of the RS and he reminded that solving of the issue of military property is one of preconditions for shutting down of the Office of the High Representative (OHR). “Of course, it cannot be solved without the consent of the RS,” Nesic noted. Novakovic-Bursac argued that the Constitution of B&H does not stipulate that B&H has the right to disposal of public state property “therefore, as in line with the Constitution, it belongs to the entities”.
Tegeltija says B&H does not need new migrant camps, holds EU responsible for migrant crisis (EuroBlic)
In an interview to the daily, Chair of the B&H Council of Ministers (CoM) Zoran Tegeltija reminded that he said on the first day of his mandate that B&H alone cannot solve the migrant crisis and that the EU and others who created the crisis hold the biggest responsibility for this. Tegeltija said that the number of migrants in B&H is very high and those who are trying to present this crisis as a humanitarian issue are very wrong and “do not have good intentions towards B&H citizens”. Tegeltija assessed that B&H will be struggling with this problem until the policy on migrants worldwide changes. Tegeltija argued that borders in the east, including in some EU countries, are open for migrants and they are allowed to move freely towards B&H but then there are various kinds of obstacles at the border of B&H with Croatia where migrants are stopped on their way to the EU. “B&H needs to get not only financial assistance from the EU, but also data of security services so that all people of security interest can be banished from B&H immediately. I think preconditions for accommodation of all migrants in B&H will be more or less created with completion of Lipa camp. If insisting on increase of number of migrants continues after that, I think we will hardly be able to control it,” Tegeltija argued. Asked to say what he thinks about the request of Brussels for B&H to distribute migrants throughout B&H, Tegeltija said that he thinks nothing of it and reminded that the RS already said that it does not want to have migrant camps in its territory. “At the same time, B&H institutions were sending messages that migrants are just tourists passing through B&H and there were no disputes about it. The Federation of B&H did not dispute the fact that the RS does not want to accept migrants,” Tegeltija added and noted that the RS still maintains its stance while the FB&H is trying to change its stance. Tegeltija said that B&H CoM and Ministry of Security of B&H will implement policies which come as a result of compromise “but it seems to me that we have no agreement at this moment”. “We have reached an agreement with the EU Ambassador and it was clearly stated that by construction of Lipa camp, ‘Ciljuge’ camp in the Tuzla Canton and with existing Blazuj camp the needs of all migrants in B&H’s territory will be met and there would be no need for new camps at this moment,” Tegeltija concluded.
Mostar opposition sends letter to international community requesting pressure on B&H CEC to recount Mostar ballots (BHT1/O Kanal)
A number of complaints and criminal reports were submitted by political subjects in Mostar in regards to electoral frauds and irregularities related to recent local elections in Mostar. The opposition parties: SDP, Our Party, First Mostar Party, Platform for Progress and HDZ 1990 sent a letter to representatives of the international community in B&H, calling on them to help adoption of a decision on recounting of all ballots from all polling stations in Mostar. The same demand was sent to the Central Election Commission (CEC) of B&H. Representatives of BH Bloc claim that due to electoral frauds, SDA-led ‘Koalicija za Mostar 2020’ got two seats in the Mostar City Council that actually belong to BH Bloc. Member of the Main Board of SDA Zijat Music has also been claiming there were electoral manipulations involving some representatives of ‘Koalicija za Mostar 2020’. Representative of the Croat Republican Party Slaven Bevanda emphasized that it is necessary to establish possible accountability of B&H CEC for the current situation. ‘Koalicija za Mostar 2020’ also issued a statement in which they distance themselves and condemn all irregularities that occurred at polling stations. Vice President of SDP Lana Prilic said that the opposition feels that the only way to have free and fair elections is if all the ballots are counted again. O Kanal reported that the letter was delivered to the EU Delegation to B&H, US Embassy and the Office of the High Representative and it reads that several omissions were registered during elections even theft of election will of the Mostar citizens. Among other issues, the opposition parties say there are discrepancies between results established by the Main Counting Center of the CEC and the unofficial election results. President of the SDP City Board of Mostar Arman Zalihic warned that at almost all 20 polling stations, from which the ballots got recounted, it turned out that suspicions about election theft were justified. Daily also unofficially learns that that the opposition parties were discussing the possibility of organizing a protest rally in Mostar, as well as in front of the CEC. Over the last couple of days the opposition parties in Mostar have filed criminal reports against perpetrators of election frauds and daily noted that they managed only to get a comment from SDA’s Zijat Music who claims that none of parties from ‘Coalition for Mostar’ is to be blamed for the frauds and he criticizes fact that nobody from SDA wants to comment this issue. SDP’s Aner Zuljevic said that the City Election Commission proved to be incompetent and they need to resign and he finds it shameful that results for one City cannot be completed in 25 days. Representative of ‘Platform for Progress’ Amna Popovac said that if the IC fails to react the elections will lose their purpose.
TC government annuls documents and acts passed at its session on 31 December 2020, thus meeting OHR’s recommendations; Tuzla City Council holds its constituting session (N1)
The Tuzla Canton (TC) government has annulled documents and acts passed at its session on 31 December 2020 and withdrew them from the procedure of publishing at the Official Gazette of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The TC government thus met the recommendations of the Office of the High Representative. The documents and acts include the decree on the TC budget execution for 2021 and the decision on approving the financial plan of the TC Public Health Institute. TC Prime Minister Denijal Tulumovic stated that the OHR insisted on returning functionality of the canton and that he also expects that representatives in the TC Assembly will act in line with the OHR recommendations and adopt all the decisions important for financial flows in the TC to function at the session on Friday.
Milanovic informs French FM Le Drian about need to ensure equality of Croats in B&H (HRT1)
During their meeting in Zagreb on Thursday, Croatian President Zoran Milanovic and French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian discussed a number of issues, including implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords (DPA). On this occasion, Milanovic informed Le Drian about the need and importance to ensure equality of Croats in B&H as they are one of the constituent peoples. When it comes to the Schengen zone membership, the French FM welcomed Croatia’s efforts in creating the conditions to join the zone.
EP’s Draft Resolution on B&H stresses need for constitutional and electoral reform (Vecernji list)
The daily reads that the Draft Resolution on B&H, which has been prepared by the European Parliament’s (EP) rapporteur for B&H Paulo Rangel, points the finger at the constitutional and electoral reforms, whose implementation should get the help from the EU in order for B&H to overcome current constitutional and institutional crises. According to the daily, key parts of the report practically call for reaching of a compromise between respecting rights of peoples and equality of all citizens. The daily further notes that Rangel wrote, among other issues, that the constitutional and electoral reform depend on the political will and that the reforms could get an inspiration from other countries, EU members, as B&H is not the only multi-ethnic country in the world. Rangel also wrote that the future reform must guarantee respect for pluralistic nature of the country, at the same time securing a functional and sustainable democracy in which all citizens are equal. The daily further writes that Rangel has criticized the fact B&H has not been able to implement anti-discrimination judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, but at the same time he did not call for building of a civic state. The daily also reeds that the Draft Resolution will certainly undergo significant changes especially because certain parts of it were written in consultations with only a part of public in B&H and because they do not paint the real picture. In this context, the daily announces that the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) will address the main objections and announce amendments to the Draft Resolution on 25 and 26 February, whilst the final deadline for submission of amendments is 2 February. The AFET should vote on the document in late March, whilst the EP should hold a plenary session about it in April.
Komsic about Krivokapic: We are not naïve, we know about his beliefs (CdM)
Commenting for CdM on Montenegrin Prime Minister’s congratulations of the unconstitutional Day of the RS, Croat member of the B&H Presidency Zeljko Komsic has put it down to the inexperience of Zdravko Krivokapic. “But, still, we are not naive and uninformed of his beliefs. I have seen that Krivokapic said that he had offered his congratulations privately, but, as far as we are concerned, there is neither room nor time for interpreting what comes as an official and what as a private attitude. We are interested only in the official ones. Krivokapic will have an opportunity to improve, we understand that he is new in politics,” Komsic was explicit. Responding to CdM’s question as to will he make any moves, and which, if Krivokapic does not explain his, Komsic has noted that they do not want to create tension. “As I have said, Krivokapic will have enough chance to better represent the interests of the people of Montenegro,” he said. Komsic also answered the question of whether the statement of the Montenegrin Prime Minister will disrupt the good and friendly relations between the two countries? “Montenegro is a NATO member, and B&H is taking key steps towards NATO membership. Both countries are also striving for EU membership. As long as the situation is like that, it makes our two countries partners and allie,s” he concluded.
Quint Ambassadors interested in rapid amending of laws (Pobjeda)
The ambassadors of the five most powerful countries – the United States, Germany, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom – with the participation of the Head of Delegation of the European Union to Montenegro, talked with the Foreign Minister Djordje Radulovic about the current political situation in Montenegro and were particularly interested in the announced amendments to the Law on Freedom of Religion and The Law on Civil Servants and State Employees that had been adopted by the new parliamentary majority at the session held on 29 December, and that the President Milo Djukanovic refused to sign. The meeting was held on Tuesday in the hall of the NATO. It was also attended by the head of the Foreign Minister’s Office Djordje Jankovic. Meetings of this type are common in the countries of the region, but the latest meeting with influential ambassadors was of special importance as the Foreign Affairs Minister had to explain the latest legislative initiatives. According to Pobjeda, the ambassadors of the most influential countries were especially interested in the rapid amendments to the Law on Freedom of Religion, which was proposed without the necessary public debate and without the prior opinion of the Venice Commission, the most important expert authority of the Council of Europe. The Law on Freedom of Religion was adopted by the old parliament in December 2019 after years of public debate and after the green light from the Venice Commission. In contrast, the amendments to the Law on Freedom of Religion were rapidly proposed by the Justice Minister, Leposavic, at the beginning of December last year. The ambassadors of the Quint countries were also interested in the validity of the openly given statement of the bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC), Joanikije, that the changes had been written by the lawyers of SPC. Apart from the amendments to the Law on Freedom of Religion, the ambassadors of the most powerful countries were particularly interested in the content of the proposed amendments to the Law on Civil Servants and Employees, their harmonization with European standards, but also in the motive for such speedy adoption. The Montenegrin opposition, criticizing the proposed changes, have assessed that they are being adopted in order to enable party-based employment “in deeper levels of the state administration” of staff from the three coalitions that make up the new parliamentary majority.
Ethnic politics condemn the planned 2021 census to failure (Republika)
The ethnic break-down of the coming census seems to be already agreed between the ruling parties. Under the proposed law, the census will take place in April, using very lax security criteria and will include non-residents – citizens who have moved out of the country long ago.
Eurostat criteria call for a census only of the actual residents in a country, and emigrants who have left no longer than one year ago. Instead, the Macedonian Statistics Bureau will allow people to add residents on the list, just by stating their personal ID numbers. The SDSM – DUI coalition refused a proposal from the opposition VMRO-DPMNE party to have the census teams take fingerprints – this would prevent double counting and also would allow matching with the existing database of citizens. But this, as other four dozen proposals from the opposition, were rejected by the ruling coalition. VMRO-DPMNE official Antonio Milososki criticized the coalition of preparing a census under rules that are far away from European standards, with no guarantees that the process will be accurate and with the counting of people who have moved out of Macedonia long ago, only to make sure that the Albanian share of population is at an agreed level. VMRO-DPMNE keeps warning that the pandemic is still with us and that the census bears a risk when teams go to people’s homes and can endanger their health as well as their own. But the Government won’t postpone the census, which raises suspicions that they are not treating this as a mere statistical operation but as a political deal between SDSM and DUI, Milososki said, adding that the opposition proposed a short delay, until June, when some of the most at risk citizens will be vaccinated, but the government refused. Under the 2001 Ohrid peace treaty, some of the political clout ethnic Albanian parties have depends on having the Albanian population over 20 percent of the total. The 2002 census, conducted after the 2001 civil war, put it at 25 percent. Albanian parties insist that emigrants are counted as residents, after concerns that the high emigration rate could push the number below 20 percent, and SDSM agreed to a very lax census where teams will not require identity documents and will allow extended family members or friends to vouch for absent citizens. If we count people who live in Canada, US, if we count relatives who live in Switzerland, Australia, Germany, Sweden, then we are not having a census of actual residents but putting together a registry of citizens, Milososki said. As proposed, the draft census law will allow an ethnic Albanian director of the Statistics Bureau, Ilmi Selami, to veto any major decisions linked to the census. This move by the ruling party indicated that the Albanian parties insisted on having political control over the process. VMRO-DPMNE President Hristijan Mickoski said that the opposition will not recognize the results of the census if conducted under these circumstances. VMRO-DPMNE will not recognize the 2021 census if it is conducted under the currently proposed rules, which do not guarantee the accuracy of the data, said the opposition party leader Hristijan Mickoski. He named a long list of problems with the draft census law and called on Prime Minister Zoran Zaev to withdraw it from parliament. In order to avoid a forgery, we ask that the disputed law is withdrawn from the parliament and that we hold a broad debate in order to determine the rules of a proper census. If that doesn’t happen, VMRO-DPMNE will mobilize and together with the citizens we will submit demands to nullify the law. Ultimately, we will not recognize the results of the census, Mickoski said. The main issue is the insistence by the Zaev regime and ethnic Albanian parties to count citizens who have long emigrated from the country as current residents. VMRO-DPMNE proposed using fingerprint devices to make sure there is no double counting, and also to determine the share of non-citizens residing in the country. Mickoski noted that the census teams will not require to see identity cards, but will simply ask the residents to state their ID number. This would easily allow fraud. The 2011 attempt to hold a census was called off by then Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, after it became clear that abuse and fraud is rampant in the majority ethnic Albanian parts of the country. Ethnic Albanian parties insisted on lax census rules, as they fear that the high emigration rate in their community will drive down the Albanian share of the population and reduce their future political clout. An accurate census is also likely to lead to a purge of the voter rolls. Mickoski also pointed to the fact that the census is being conducted with dual signatures – from an ethnic Albanian and an ethnic Macedonian official – who will need to approve every major decision during the process. This, according to the opposition leader, is the best proof that the process will be rife with haggling across partisan and ethnic lines.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA SOURCES
Development of China-Serbia Relationship in 2020 –An interview with Zoran Jovanovic, Chairman of the Serbia-BRICS Cooperation Organization (Guangming Daily, 15 January 2021)
“The biggest international event in 2020 is undoubtedly the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Zoran Jovanovic, Chairman of the Serbia-BRICS Cooperation Organization, in an interview with Guangming Daily recently, “the COVID-19 virus is a common enemy of mankind. Serbia and China’s joint efforts to fight against the virus is a model of international friendship and cooperation.” Jovanovic said that when China’s domestic situation was difficult, Serbia tried the best to provide relief supplies to help China, and people then in Serbia expressed their supports through the internet. When the pandemic broke out in Serbia, the Chinese government dispatched a team of medical experts to Serbia to provide help and donated a large number of medical supplies in the first place. He recalled that during that time, China’s relief flights were the main focus of the Serbian media and people. From April to May, the Embassy of the Republic of Serbia in China was filled with relief materials provided by the Chinese government, enterprises, and Chinese people, which later were transported to Serbia via the China-Europe freight trains to Belgrade between May and October. Jovanovic said that China’s help was crucial for Serbia to restore people’s normal lives and production. China actively shared prevention technologies and production lines with Serbia. Jovanovic told the reporter that China has donated two diagnostic laboratories to Serbia for mass screening of high-risk populations, effectively prevented further transmission. Moreover, China opened several mask production lines in Serbia to fulfill its domestic need. At last, not only Serbia achieved mask self-sufficiency, but they also became a large mask exporter in the world. Jovanovic believes that these achievements have proved the deep and solid friendship between China and Serbia. Based on the two countries’ cooperation, Serbia’s economy was able to recover quickly. He is pleased to see Serbia’s domestic economic growth rate reached -1% in 2020. It is already the best result in Europe. The pandemic has brought severe shocks to the world, but not to the cooperation between China and Serbia. Jovanovic said that in 2020 Huawei established its first innovation center in the Balkans and will conduct high-level research and development in Serbia. Serbia will continue to cooperate with Huawei. Such cooperation will greatly promote the development of Serbia’s communications and network technologies, especially the training and promotion of local talents. Besides the cooperation in pandemic prevention, China and Serbia have also advanced in infrastructure construction. Jovanovic believes that the first high-speed railway in Serbia, the Serbia-Hungary Railway, is expected to open by the end of 2021. At the same time, the Belgrade ring road and the highway connecting Serbia and Croatia are all under construction as planned. The Kostolac Thermal Power Station and the hydropower station in the eastern part of Serbia will soon be able to provide electricity to Serbia to meet the energy needs of Serbia’s rapid development. Serbia and China also have long-term cooperation in the field of production. The Serbian Smederevo Steel Plant and the Serbian Bor Copper Mine, which were acquired by two Chinese enterprises, have become Serbia’s first and second largest export companies. He smiled and said that Chinese companies had employed a large number of local laborers, therefore Serbia has basically solved the unemployment problem nationwide. Jovanovic believes that the China-Serbia cooperation in the past year relied on the communication between two leaders. In October, President Vucic and the entire cabinet paid a visit to China to celebrate the Chinese National Day. In his New Year’s speech in 2021, President Vucic emphasized that Serbia will carry out all-rounded cooperation with China, and expressed again his gratitude to the Chinese government for its assistance to Serbia in the past year. At the end of the interview, Jovanovic said that 2020 was a year full of challenges but also a fruitful year for China-Serbia cooperation. Recent public opinions poll shows that the Serbian people hold greater goodwill and trust towards China. Now, many of them are willing to get vaccines produced by China. They believe that a vaccine produced by a peaceful and safe country would be more reliable. Jovanovic once again emphasized that he believes that the cooperation between Serbia and China will move forward and reach a new level in the new year, and the friendship and mutual trust between the two peoples will last forever.
Contributed by Zhao Jiazheng, Guangming Daily reporter at Belgrade, Serbia