President Dalia Grybauskaitė had a bilateral meeting with President Aleksandar Vučić of the Republic of Serbia after the EU-Western Balkans summit held in Bulgaria. At the meeting, the Presidents discussed Serbia’s EU accession negotiations, cooperation between Serbia and NATO, bilateral business relations and Lithuanian investment protection in Serbia.
Dalia Grybauskaitė underscored that the European Union was open to all countries that demonstrated firm commitment to European values of freedom, peace, democracy and the rule of law. Lithuania is ready to assist Serbia in implementing the reforms required for EU membership. However, the future of Serbia as part of the EU will depend on its effort and political determination to step in the same direction with Europe.
Serbia began EU accession negotiations in 2014. However, the positions on foreign policy of the EU and Serbia still coincide only partially. Although Serbia acknowledged Ukraine’s territorial integrity, it did not join EU sanctions against Russia and participated in military exercises held by Russia. It is necessary for this Balkan country to implement anticorruption and judicial reforms, strengthen civil society and freedom of speech and media. To this end, Lithuania provides assistance to Serbia. Six twining projects are under way for sharing Lithuania’s experience in reform implementation.
The Presidents discussed security matters and cooperation between NATO and Serbia. Although Serbia maintains military neutrality, it strives to strengthen relations with NATO and its democratic authorities as well as implement reforms in defense. The cooperation between the Alliance and Serbia is paramount in reaching a mutual agreement between Serbia and Kosovo. The normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo is one of the most important preconditions for Serbia’s membership in the EU and it has a determining role for stability of the entire region. Serbia has not acknowledged the independence of Kosovo yet. However, President Aleksandar Vučić has initiated a national dialogue on relations with Kosovo that should help reach an important agreement between the two countries.
Bilateral economic relations were also on the agenda. Last year alone, the trade between Lithuania and Serbia grew by 16 per cent. Lithuanian food, furniture and textile are on demand in Serbia. According to Dalia Grybauskaitė, the reciprocal business cooperation could be promoted by a more reliable protection of foreign investment in Serbia. Currently, Lithuanian companies have invested over 15 million euros in Serbia.