Time for solidarity has come

PARIS - Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic said in Paris on Thursday that French President Francois Hollande has accepted the initiative for his country to feature as the supporter of the international gathering to raise aid for countries recently hit by the catastrophic floods.

After the meeting with Hollande, Nikolic expressed gratitude to France for its participation in all the challenges Serbia has faced over the past week and the assistance it selflessly provided in saving lives, as well as for the acceptance and role of the supporter in the initiative to stage a major international gathering to raise aid for the flood-hit countries.

He noted that Serbia will not beg for help but that the time for solidarity has come.
"We cannot make up for all the damage inflicted on our citizens, and we may have to cover three quarters of the costs on our own, but in the times of trouble, anything we can get, any sign of attention, solidarity and assistance is a symbol for eternity," Nikolic said.

"Serbia will not go begging for assistance and it will not insist on whether or not it is entitled to something. This is a time for solidarity, not for begging," Nikolic noted.

"To whom could we have turned but to France? Our ancestors turned to them in the past also. Whenever it was difficult for Serbia, France was there for us. Time goes by, life brings along new challenges and problems but the people who forget who their friends are do not deserve to exist. We cannot and will not forget friendships, we only forget enmities," he said.

This is why your desire for Serbia to become part of the EU is Serbia's wish as well, and our efforts to meet the conditions for EU accession will only grow more intense, Nikolic told Hollande.

Noting that he can see why Hollande was right when he featured as the supporter of the first meeting of Balkan countries that came into being after the dissolution of former Yugoslavia, which was organised at Brdo pri Kranju in Slovenia in July 2013, Nikolic said that the first assistance delivery came from Slovenia and that the countries in the region functioned as a single unit in the tragedy caused by the surging floods.

We have endured tough challenges, some may call them once-in-a-century and some might dub them as once-in-a-thousand-years challenges, Nikolic said and expressed the concern that the climate in the world is changing drastically and that we may all come to face increasing challenges, which is why everyone needs to show solidarity.

Nikolic and Hollande discussed other issues as well, such as the economic cooperation, France's assistance to Serbia on its EU path and celebration of the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I when the strong friendly ties between Serbia and France were forged.

Hollande: France ready to organize donors’ conference

France stands ready to organize a donors' conference for Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, who have been particularly badly hit by the recent floods, French President Francois Hollande said after meeting with Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic in Paris on Thursday.

In addition to funds already there at the European level, an international conference could mobilize all possible assistance to finance reconstruction projects due to start after we receive a final assessment of damages caused by the flooding, Hollande said.

Serbia needs to be enabled to get to resources quickly, not just when it comes to tap water and electric power, but it must be ensured that its economy does not suffer much after everything that has happened, the French head of state said at a joint press conference with Nikolic.

Serbia should view these dramatic developments as an opportunity to get to new investments, he added.

Hollande said that France has come to Serbia’s aid immediately, sending firefighters and equipment to the ground and managing humanitarian cooperation.

Serbia is going through a real drama after floods washed away 27 human lives, caused considerable damages and economic chaos and seriously disrupted the lives of the Serbian people, said Hollande.

The French president described the visit by President Nikolic as very touching, adding that he had every good reason to come to France today, as the situation in Serbia is a matter of extreme urgency.

Hollande said that the solidarity between the French and Serbian peoples is total because the two countries share historical, cultural and individual ties, and the one hundred years since the outbreak of the First World War is an opportunity to be reminded of the connections.

Serbia and France took part in that war side by side, Hollande said.

On July 14, young Serbs will walk side by side with the French, honoring the previous generations, but also showing a desire to build a common future together, said the French president.

Serbia has a European future. It is a candidate for EU accession, and the procedures are underway and everyone is aware how difficult they are as they relate to the economy and political situation, Hollande said.

Serbia in particular, as part of the Balkans, needs to be able to fully guarantee respect for the principles of the rule of law and the peace that we all share together, he added.

We believe that these negotiations should be conducted in the spirit of reconciliation and peace in the region, the French president said.

Speaking about economic relations between the two countries, Hollande said that France wants to deepen and expand them even further.

There are over 80 French companies operating in Serbia, and we would like to see even more of them coming here, said Hollande.

The two countries also share a spirit of responsibility, said Hollande, recalling that there are still unresolved issues in the region (Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo-Metohija), and the spirit of solidarity and of good will.

We want Serbia not only to join the EU but also the European spirit, the French president said.

Due to circumstances caused by the catastrophic floods, the Serbian president decided to shorten his visit to France, originally planned to last two days, to five hours.

Photo Tanjug Video, camera operator Davorin Pavlovic