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€3.6bn in non-returnable EU aid to Serbia over last ten years

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Deputy Prime Minister for European integration Bozidar Djelic stated on Friday that from 2001 onwards Serbia has received around €3.6 billion in non-returnable aid from the EU, that is, €6.9 billion counting non-commercial loans.

Opening a “Ten years of development assistance to Serbia“ conference, Djelic specified that €1.2 billion has been invested in energy and environmental protection, which is why Serbia did not have to cut electricity in order to save energy.

The largest single donor is Germany with €980 million, of which sum €450 million is non-returnable budget assistance. The second largest donor is the United States with over $810 million.

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The Deputy Prime Minister recalled that Western Balkan countries launched an initiative in order to receive before EU entry a portion of assistance normally due after accession.

They asked to submit proposed budgets to the EU and if the Union affirms they are moderate and sustainable, they should be granted guarantees for the capital market and thus secure more favourable loans.

Djelic underlined that Serbia will do all it can to preserve the visa-free regime with the EU, adding that he expects full support and cooperation from Schengen countries in this respect.

This issue has been thoroughly discussed recently and the talks will continue, he underscored, adding that the visa-free regime is one of Serbia’s key achievements in the last ten years.

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Djelic noted that around 1.5 million Serbian citizens took advantage of visa liberalisation during the previous year, adding that almost 3.1 million have biometric passports.

As for the situation in the southern Serbian province, Djelic reiterated that Serbia will not recognise the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo-Metohija, but it aspires to solve this issue through dialogue that will end in a historic compromise.

Serbia does not want to put the conflict on ice, and it will strive to secure an acceptable solution through legitimate and diplomatic means, he observed.

German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Dirk Niebel stressed that Germany endorses Serbia’s EU path and added that Serbia has to strive to create a legal state, democracy, respect of human rights and develop market economy, which is a condition for EU entry.

Head of the EU Delegation in Serbia Vincent Degert underlined that the EU is strongly committed to the recovery of Serbia and countries in the region, proof of which are strong trade relations and sizeable assistance allocated to these countries.

Degert stressed that Serbia has received €2.2 billion from the European budget and another billion Euros of bilateral assistance, which is around €400 per each resident of Serbia, while loans from European banks exceeded €6 billion, which is around €770 per capita.

He observed that three challenges are still before Serbia: to strengthen a strong partnership with the EU, harmonise standards and advance its economic performance, as well as to reduce the foreign trade deficit.

US Ambassador to Serbia Mary Warlick stressed that her country is committed to partnership with Serbia and supports it in its vision to become a democratic member of the EU.

She said that the United States has donated over $810 million in assistance to Serbia since 2001 through programmes of economic and democratic development, adding that over the last ten years, Serbia has made considerable progress, but there is still much to do.

Head of the EU Integration office Milica Delevic said at the conference that there were no concrete demands from the EU regarding the suspension of Serbia’s visa liberalisation, but a serious warning has been sent, which should not be taken lightly.

She said that this was done in order to avoid suspension of the visa regime, but it is also a serious warning, and Serbia will treat it as such.

Delevic recalled that on 21 April, British State Secretary in Charge of Migration and Asylum Policy Melchior Wathelet sent a letter to the European Commission warning that Great Britain will request the revocation of the White Schengen unless the number of false asylum seekers from Serbia is reduced.

The letter was sent before the expert commission for monitoring visa liberalisation visited Belgrade at the end of April, she added.

This points to the problem which Belgium is experiencing with false asylum seekers from Serbia, but we expect the expert commission to give a positive answer to some of the crucial issues, Delevic noted.

She said Belgium might launch an initiative for suspension of visa liberalisation if the answers are not positive and if Serbia does not enforce concrete measures during the upcoming weeks.

Our country will take short-term measures to overcome this issue, as well as long-term measures will include social inclusion of ethnic minorities and improvement of overall conditions of life in Serbia, Delevic concluded.



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