Slovenian-Serbian ties excellent, no open issues

BELGRADE - Serbian and Slovenian presidents Tomislav Nikolic and Borut Pahor agreed on Thursday that bilateral relations are excellent and that no open issues exist between the two countries.

"We are opening a new chapter in which we want political relations to remain exemplary and economic ties to gain new momentum," Pahor said at a joint press conference after a meeting with Nikolic.

He said that his visit to Belgrade represents a turning point, being the first bilateral visit to Serbia by a Slovenian president since the democratic changes and Slovenia's independence in 1991.

Also discussed was what separated the two countries in the past, but no open issues exist between them, Nikolic said.

"We, of course, do not agree with Slovenia regarding its recognition of Kosovo and Metohija, while Slovenia might disagree with us on the issue of sanctions against the Russian Federation, but that cannot affect our relations," Nikolic said.

There are no open issues that could potentially hamper the development of bilateral relations, Pahor confirmed, adding that Slovenia is a major ally of Serbia on its European path.

Slovenia has pledged economic, technical and consulting assistance to Serbia regarding its EU accession, Nikolic said.

"Slovenia is a promoter of Serbia's EU membership," Nikolic said.

Nikolic thanked Slovenia for what he said was the quickest possible reaction in providing assistance during the recent floods in Serbia.

"Pahor made a phone call to offer unreserved support in rescuing people, and we accepted that assistance with our hearts wide open," the Serbian president said, adding that "a friend in need is a friend indeed."

Pahor expressed condolences to the families of the flood victims, adding that the people of Slovenia will help Serbian citizens as much as they can.

Already on Thursday, Ljubljana will examine the list of goods and services needed to see what Slovenia and other EU member states can provide to Serbia, Pahor said.

Speaking about economic relations, Pahor said that Slovenia is the second-biggest foreign investor in Serbia and that it wants to further boost its presence in the country.

Serbia is a good partner, and has access to global markets where Slovenia could sell its products, Nikolic said.

Pahor announced that regional leaders will hold another informal meeting in Dubrovnik, Croatia, in July and that it will also be attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

After the meeting, the two presidents signed a political declaration stating that Slovenia will, "in good faith, provide all the required assistance to Serbia" on its path towards the EU, and that the two countries will establish the practice of holding consultations at the top political level.

Slovenia and Serbia also expressed readiness to further enhance economic cooperation and boost investments and joint presence on other markets.

The declaration also states that Slovenia and Serbia will strive to harmonize their positions on regional issues, and act in coordination in regional and international forums whenever possible.