Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic visits Bosnia, calls for “trust and cooperation”

SARAJEVO — Aleksandar Vučić said he was in Sarajevo as a friend and a representative of a country that respects the territorial integrity of Bosnia аnd Herzegovina and of the RS.

The Serbian prime minister said on Tuesday that his was a country “that wants to build trust and incomparably better relations.”

“I expect to see the same wish in Bosnia-Herzegovina. There does not need to be much love, but there needs to be respect and esteem. You have that on the Serbian side,” Vučić told a press conference after a meeting with the Chairman of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Council of Ministers Vjekoslav Bevanda.

“That is the most honest thing Serbia can do, and also what Serbia wants from Bosnia,” he stressed.

Responding to allegations in the press, Vučić was quick to clear all doubts about how Sarajevo became the destination of his first visit.

“No one has made me come. I have read various made-up stories about this, but I am the one making the decisions. That is a message to those who think that Europeans or Turkey were working on this visit,” Vučić said.

Asked by reporters which the “real” Vučić is – the one who was a nationalist in the 1990s, or the one who on Monday said that nothing can destroy Bosnia-Herzegovina – the Serbian prime minister responded that many people have failed to realize what changes have occurred in the world and the region, adding that he has no intention of endearing himself to the Bosnian public or responding to media speculations.

“Some people simply do not understand what happened in the meantime. Just like people in Serbia had not understood what happened after the fall of the Berlin Wall, some people here did not understand what happened, and I am sorry about that,” Vučić said.

“I am a prime minister elected with the most votes in the modern political history of Serbia. I am a Serb, I am proud of being a Serb, proud of my country and my people. I have come as a friend, as someone who respects the territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina as well as the Republika Srpska,” he said, echoing the statement that no one can destroy Bosnia-Herzegovina or the Serb entity.

Vučić said that he finds it strange that some people want to turn Serbia, a friendly country, into something different.

“They will not succeed. I am telling you here the same things that I say in Belgrade, Moscow and Brussels,” he said.

The Serbian prime minister noted that he, too, could address the political past of many in Bosnia-Herzegovina, but that he has no such intentions whatsoever.

“Officials in Bosnia-Herzegovina are elected by the people”, Vučić said, adding that he respects the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina and their choice and that he “will not say a word” about the matter.

“There are people who have forgiven themselves ten times, but have never forgiven others. I do not want to be one of those people,” the Serbian prime minister concluded.

Aiming to establish the best possible relations between the two countries, Vučić on Tuesday arrived on a visit to Sarajevo – his first to a foreign country since taking over as Serbian prime minister.

Vučić was given a ceremonial welcome outside the building of the Council of Ministers, with military honors and the sounding of the two countries’ national anthems.

Vjekoslav Bevanda said his meeting with Vučić had an atmosphere of deep respect and included a number of clear proposals.

“We are neighbors. That is a fact and no one can change that. I was taught and brought up to believe that neighbors are always the closest. We should look forward. That has to be the priority. We should have fair and clean relations,” Bevanda said at a joint news conference with Vučić.

The discussion also included borders, succession and especially economic cooperation, he noted.

“The fact that we share a border poses an advantage. Trade is on the rise, but it can be a lot higher,” he believes.

According to Bevanda, he and Vučić also discussed investments.

“We compiled an entire list of economic interests,” he pointed out, adding that it would later be decided whether the next joint session of the two governments would be held before the general elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina scheduled for October.

He said he had not been surprised by Vučić’s choice of Sarajevo being the destination of his first visit abroad as Serbia’s prime minister. “I was delighted, and those who were surprised or unpleasantly surprised should think about themselves,” he stated.

Bevanda says Vučić’s visit allows him to continue building good relations in the region, adding that he insists on that.

Responding to media speculation that mediators were necessary to arrange their meeting, Bevanda said the meeting had been arranged directly, without any mediators.

“New level”

Aleksandar Vučić visiting Sarajevo is a signal that Serbia wants to take its relations with Bosnia-Herzegovina to a higher level, said Željko Komšić, Croat member of the tripartite Bosnian presidency.

“Most politicians and even members of the public welcome the visit by Serbian prime minister,” Komšić told the Serb entity (RS) public broadcaster RTRS.

Komšić noted that Bosnia-Herzegovina has some open issues with Serbia, such as the border and property rights, but stressed that persons who hold state offices have an obligation to look into the future.

Nebojša Radmanović, Serb member of the Bosnian Presidency, said that Vučić’s visit contributes to further promotion of the two countries’ relations, noting that Vučić is not the first prime minister of Serbia to come to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“I think that now is a time when our relations can only improve,” said Radmanović, adding that there are reasons for any Serbian PM to visit Bosnia-Herzegovina, where Serbs are a constituent nation.

“All those in Belgrade who stand on their dignity will continue to come and show due care for everyone in Bosnia-Herzegovina, including, of course, the Serbs,” he said.

“I am certain that the special and parallel ties between Serbia and Srpska will continue to be strong and rise even further, and that in the coming period Prime Minister Vučić will also visit Republika Srpska,” said Radmanović.