Wednesday, 20 March 2013. PDF Print E-mail
Assistant Foreign Minister Goran Aleksic in his interview to Danas Correspondent speaks about relations between Serbia and Austria
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Goran AleksicGeographically, Austria is positioned on the tri-border point between Western and Eastern Europe and the Balkans. In this context, what is its geo-strategic and political significance as a partner to Serbia?
It is an important, and I should say, a natural partner. We are bound to Austria not only by history and geographic proximity, but also by the economy, very good political relations as well as by the very large Serbian community there. Likewise, the dialogue between us is diverse and conducted on a regular basis. We hold meetings at all levels – over the last month or so the Serbian Justice Minister, Director of the Diaspora Office and the Assistant Foreign Minister in charge of the European Union visited Vienna. At the end of November last year, I myself was on the high-level Serbian delegation which met in Belgrade with Austrian Minister for European and International Affairs Michael Spindelegger, and early in February I played host to the Political Director of the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs. Such a frequency of the dialogue is proof of the importance attached to their bilateral relations by both countries.

Besides a developed economic cooperation, there are also other forms of bilateral cooperation, in particular those related to the Danube region. What are the most important items on the agenda of this cooperation?
It is extremely important that the River Danube has been recognized as a factor of cohesion, and the adoption of the EU Danube Strategy has enabled 14 European countries to cooperate on specific projects in various fields, from infrastructure, mobility, environment to culture and tourism. Serbia will continue to support and take an active part in the Strategy, which I believe will gather full momentum after a financial framework for the period 2014-2020 is in place.

In view of the level of economic cooperation, geographic proximity and history of our relations, how important is Austria as a partner in European integration?
Austria is a very important partner to Serbia, but also to other countries of the region because it has been consistent in its support of the European integration process. Taking into account its past and current presence in the region and the fact that it is the largest investor in most of the Western Balkan countries, it understands the significance of the EU enlargement process both in terms of the stability and prosperity of the Western Balkans, and in terms of completing the project of a united Europe. Austria is not backing Serbia in words only but also in deeds by specific action, and I hope that they will continue to do so in the future.

What kind of agreements are in force between Serbia and Austria and what areas do they cover?
Like our overall bilateral relations, the contractual basis between the two countries is also developed and diversified. The agreements cover a range of areas – from the economy and agriculture, through law enforcement to science and technology. This, by no means, completes the whole list as both sides are doing their best to improve and regulate by treaties various aspects of our bilateral relationship. For instance, the last agreement signed between the two countries was the Social Security Convention which entered into force on 1 December 2012.

Do we agree with the assessment of the Austrian officials and trade representatives that Serbia needs to simplify still further its legal procedures and cut the red tape in order to be more successful in attracting foreign investors?
A modern market economy requires of you to be active, to be sensitive to the opinion of investors and to react accordingly. The current Government has recognized it and identified as one of its priorities improvement in the business environment, in order to be able to attract investments in a fierce regional and global competition, to increase employment and raise the living standards of the population. I'll remind you that the decision to lift parafiscal levies came in response to the needs of the economy. The Government has also demonstrated its resolve to crack down on organized crime and corruption and create a system which will be beneficial to investors, business representatives and all our citizens.

Is MOFA working together with the Serbian Chamber of Commerce representative office in Vienna in improving the economic cooperation between the two countries?
Our Embassy and the Representative Office of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce in Vienna cooperate in organizing a number of events aimed at promoting our economic and investment opportunities. At such events they have a very good cooperation with Austrian associations, companies and other economic operators. For example, an event will be organized in the middle of April to present the investment opportunities of the city of Sabac. The event will be co-hosted by Erste Bank, Representative Office of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce and the Vienna Embassy.