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17 January 2019

Council President Tomislav Nikolić inaugurates Sino-Serbian Economic and Cultural Cooperation Forum to promote further Chinese investments in Serbian economy

Remarks by Council President Tomislav Nikolic at the Sino-Serbian Economic and Cultural Cooperation Forum

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

The economic success of China, which has recently marked the 40th anniversary since the launch of major reforms, is as much heartening to us as it is to you. In just one generation, China has managed to develop and grow stronger economically, so much so that it stands today as a symbol of one of the most powerful global economies.

 Council President Tomislav Nikolić inaugurates Sino-Serbian Economic and Cultural Cooperation Forum to promote further Chinese investments in Serbian economy

This progress is a major achievement of civilization, as it has made the world a better place, not only for the people of China, but for other nations, too. President Xi’s Belt and Road initiative, which has brought China, Europe, Africa and Asia together, and whose ripple effect has energized the Sino-Serbian relations over the past few years, too, proves that this thesis is correct.

The current year marks another anniversary for the people of China – 70 years since the creation of modern-day China, which has shown itself in the best light under the leadership of Xi Jinping. All the founding fathers of modern China can be proud of the results achieved over the past decades. President Xi should be most credited for them.

Serbia takes pride in its strategic partnership with China. Together with President Xi, in my capacity as President of the Republic, I signed the latest document between the two states ushering in the establishment of a comprehensive strategic partnership, on the occasion of President Xi’s 2016 visit to Serbia.

This agreement formalized our previous relations, as we put down on paper what had already been implemented in practice.

The agreement, inter alia, reaffirms the principled position of China and Serbia on the necessity to respect international law and the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity, while reiterating the support that China lends to the integrity of Serbia, and Serbia’s support to the One China policy.

There are no open issues existing between Serbia and China, the two countries are not involved in a single dispute. Our relations are a role model for strong friendship and partnership, with mutual understanding and respect.

Serbian people will always remember the Chinese support in the hardest of times, during the 1999 NATO bombing campaign, and the Chinese victims – the journalists who were killed at the bombed Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Belgrade.

Twenty years ago, Serbia was mostly visited by Chinese small traders. In 2014, major construction and energy companies spearheading large infrastructural and energy projects followed suit, while today we are witnessing a growing number of Chinese companies interested in joint production (Smederevo Steelworks, MSC Bor, Linglong Tire Factory in Zrenjanin). Chinese businesses are executing some of the largest projects in Serbia today (road and rail corridors, thermal power plant Kostolac, etc.). The world-famous Bank of China, which covers the entire region from Belgrade, and the renowned telecommunications companies such as Huawei and ZTE, also operate from Serbia.

 Council President Tomislav Nikolić inaugurates Sino-Serbian Economic and Cultural Cooperation Forum to promote further Chinese investments in Serbian economy

It is for this reason that we have set up the National Council – to translate our agreements into action and to offer support to the Chinese companies doing business in Serbia, and to Serbian companies wishing to do business in China. The Council is composed of Deputy Prime Ministers and Government Ministers, which enables easy coordination in specific projects and initiatives. The National Council, headed by a former Head of State, is Serbia’s distinctive feature at the European level.

Not only are the Chinese projects cardinal to the central Government, but they are also important for local self-governments and their inhabitants, since the advent of major companies means the world to the development of municipalities (roads, infrastructure, construction, employment, etc.).

Serbia is fertile soil for Chinese businesses, and for companies from across the world alike. All investors are treated with equal respect, regardless of where they are coming from. We entered into FTAs both with the EU and Russia. Serbia is a European country which cherishes the highest European values in the best possible manner.

Serbia and China are working to strengthen their relationship not only through the economy, but also through direct contacts between the two nations. We can note with satisfaction that the number of Chinese tourists visiting Serbia is on the constant upswing – a fact vital for learning about each other. Serbia abolished visas for the nationals of China in January 2017. At the same time, more and more people from Serbia are becoming closely familiar with China, either through business and education, or owing to travel to this distant, but close country.

Serbia opened a Cultural Center in Beijing, in late November 2018, while China is planning to open a magnificent Center in Novi Beograd, which is another link bringing us closer together.

The extraordinary relations that we foster today must be passed down to the future generations, as a basis for their further development. This is our shared responsibility.

Technology is the fabric connecting the modern-day world. Those who fail to jump on the modern-day digitalization bandwagon are bound to lag behind in the future. I would like to see both nations embarking upon a new era of industrial development – the so-called industrialization 4.0 – through new technologies and the synergy between experts from the academia and the leading industrial sector companies.

Our Western friends often ask me to tell them the secret of Serbia and China having the best possible friendly relations, having in mind the fact that the two nations’ capitals are 7,400 kilometers apart.

Serbia never took part in the Crusades, it never fought to win colonies, and it never sided with the powerful and the mighty to wage a war against the poor and the weak.

Even though we do not share the same origins, language or religion, we do share the same ethics and wisdom.

And we do have a common future.