Thank you very much President, dear Aleksandar,
Thank you very much for receiving me here. What a special moment to launch the start of the works to modernise the Niš to Brestovac section of the Rail Corridor 10. We have seen it in the film, the video. Amazing, it is connecting Serbia with Austria and Greece. It is a motor for Serbia's economy, for the trade, for the investment. And this is the Economic and Investment Plan already at work in Serbia. Together indeed, we are connecting Europe.
And we have just witnessed the signature of the Peace Highway connecting Niš to Pristina, another example of this outstanding ambition. And I was very glad to be here – thank you very much for inviting me – to witness this signature. A signature that is a symbol. A symbol of our powerful cooperation and connectivity projects. And with that, we are building together our common European future. Because I believe strongly that the future of Serbia is in the European Union.
Right now, we have of course a lot of work to do and clear priorities. We need to overcome the pandemic and we need to boost the economic recovery. The European Union has invested significantly to address the emergency of the pandemic crisis, in the European Union, in the Western Balkans. Here, we have mobilised EUR 3.3 billion of support for the region. Serbia has received EUR 93 million of immediate assistance, from vital medical supplies to the wider regional economic recovery package. But overcoming the impact of the pandemic is one part but it is not enough. We need strategic investments that will ensure a lasting recovery. Because, just like in the European Union, the Serbian people – and mostly Serbian youth – deserve a greener, a prosperous, a digital future. And that is what we are working on together. They deserve plenty of opportunities to succeed. They deserve quality, well-paid jobs. A lot of work has been done already, but a lot of work is ahead of us.
This is what our Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans is all about. We have put EUR 9 billion on the table. But important is your part: You design the projects, you propose the mature projects and the quality projects. So it is Serbia-designed, Serbia-owned, Serbia-developed. And with that, together we can leverage another EUR 20 billion more in investments, so the overall package for the region is of EUR 30 billion. And this is good for the future. This year, the plan has already made available EUR 500 million. And I am happy to announce that, because the project is progressing so well, we are able to put another EUR 600 million on the table, still for this year. This shows that the plan is a success – it is a joint success.
Right now, let me give you some more examples for projects that create jobs and connect the region. For example, we are working on gas interconnections or the Serbian leg of the Trans-Balkan Electricity Corridor. Energy grid – an enormous, important topic, it is going to be important for designing, indeed, a sustainable, a green future. So all these projects pay into that subject, into our priorities, our common priorities, as the video showed, for a digital, a greener, a more sustainable future. And when Serbia engages with European infrastructure projects, we guarantee that Serbian citizens get best value for their money. Because we build according to EU standards, so it is our common promise that we will respect the environment, the safety, the transparency and the sound financial management.
Of course, we also need more integration within the region. Therefore, it is vital that all six partners in the Western Balkans move forward quickly to develop the common regional market. That is key for the success of the Economic and Investment Plan and it is key for progress on the EU accession path.
And President, dear Aleksandar,
Let me stress that I am a strong advocate for bringing Serbia into the European Union. And in that context, I welcome that Serbia places a strong focus on fundamental reforms. I commend you for the steps you have taken. This is enormous. You have done a lot of hard work. This hard work pays off. It is amazing to see the progress. And we support Serbia's ambition to open as soon as possible new accession clusters. We know that the decision is in the hands of the Member States. And therefore, it is essential – and I know that you are working on it – to further deliver on your reform agenda, to progress on the rule of law and to normalise relations with Kosovo.
And a few words on this. We are all very concerned about the current crisis. But I am deeply convinced that it is possible to de-escalate and it is possible to find an amicable, sustainable solution. And for that, we have the platform that is the EU-facilitated Dialogue to resolve the current crisis. As we speak right now, talks are ongoing in Brussels, and that is good. Because while talking with each other and negotiating with each other, solutions can be found. The region needs cooperation and the region needs reconciliation. And I know that you are part of this.
Dear President, dear Aleksandar,
Let me conclude by saying that I am very much looking forward to seeing you at the EU-Western Balkans Summit next week. We are going to meeting again. There, we will together chart the course of our common future. And let me tell you that I also want you to fully – fully – take part in the Conference on the Future of Europe. Because Serbia has an important contribution to make. The Serbian people have to be heard. When we are talking about shaping the future of the European Union, you belong to it, we want to hear you.
Thank you very much.
- 30. september 2021