We need to enhance cooperation at all levels

BELGRADE - President of the Republic of Macedonia Gjorge Ivanov arrived on an official visit to Serbia on Friday at the invitation of his Serbian counterpart Tomislav Nikolic.

President Ivanov received a ceremonial welcome in front of the Palace of Serbia, and the meeting between the two presidents will be followed by the talks between the two countries' delegations.

Nikolic and Ivanov agreed Friday that the two countries should upgrade and intensify relations in all spheres of joint interest, especially when it comes to infrastructure and the economy.

Nikolic told a joint press conference that cooperation between the two countries was good and friendly relations were developing in the spirit of good neighborly relations and with a good political dialogue at the highest level.

“Serbia is grateful to Macedonia for its aid and assistance during the floods (that hit Serbia) in May and September,” the Serbian president said, pointing out that Macedonia had first donated a sum of EUR 370,000 and then EUR 175,000 in cash.

Macedonia provided us with additional EUR 100,000 at the donors’ conference for the flood-stricken Balkans, Nikolic said.

Speaking about economic cooperation, the Serbian president pointed out that Serbia was among Macedonia’s biggest trade partners, with the 2013 trade volume between them up 40 percent against the year before.

“A new agreement that should be signed at the next meeting of the two governments will give a significant new impetus to economic cooperation,” Nikolic said.

Nikolic pointed out that President Ivanov had confirmed Macedonia was interested in improving infrastructure of roads leading to Serbia and in completing the works on Corridor 10 as soon as possible.

Speaking about Serbia’s and Macedonia’s European integration, Nikolic said that the two countries had agreed to set up a joint working group to prepare an operational program for territorial cooperation to be able to access the IPA funds more easily, through cross-border cooperation projects.

He also touched on the observation of the First World War Centenary, saying it was an opportunity and a good reason to renew the monuments to “our brave compatriots, whose courage and sacrifice made it possible for us to live in peace and freedom today.”

President Ivanov noted that the two countries had an excellent relationship at the highest level and expressed hope that the two countries’ governments would organize a joint meeting soon.

He said that the meeting would be organized to make relations between Serbia and Macedonia even better and to tackle unresolved issues between them.

“We have a long cultural and historical tradition and a common vision,” Ivanov said, adding that Serbia and Macedonia had the same aspirations when it came to the EU.

He said the two countries should “make relations in all spheres of joint interest more dynamic.”

Ivanov also said infrastructure had been the key focus of his talks with President Nikolic and advised that Serbia and Macedonia should take their economic cooperation and trade exchange to a higher level.

“Serbia is one of Macedonia’s biggest foreign trade partners, with our trade exchange amounting to 800 million dollars,” Ivanov said, pointing out that the plan was for it to reach EUR 1 billion.

It is also necessary to increase energy capacity and ensure energy security in the region, Ivanov added.

Speaking about economic cooperation, he said that Macedonian and Serbian businessmen planned to set up a joint “business club,” a step towards improving communication between the two economies.

“Our positions differ on various issues, but it does not affect our good relations in other areas,” Ivanov said, stressing that in those terms, Serbia and Macedonia were an example for the region to look up to.