President receives ambassadors in farewell visits

BELGRADE -- President Tomislav Nikolić held separate meetings on Tuesday with outgoing ambassadors of France and Hungary, Francois-Xavier Deniau and Oszkar Nikowitz.


Nikolić thanked the French ambassador for exceptional cooperation and stressed that nothing can undermine the deep and traditional friendship between the two nations, the president's press service released.

"Our reliance on France is stronger than ever," said the president, adding that Serbia is grateful to France for its support during the May floods, and particularly to French President Francois Hollande for his personal efforts to organize a donor conference to raise funds for the flood-affected areas.

Economic ties need to be strengthened, Nikolić stressed, noting that serious efforts need to be directed towards establishing contacts with French investors.

Ambassador Deniau pointed to the two countries' joint commitment to raising political cooperation to the highest possible level. Serbia is the key country in the Balkans and we see it as a partner within the EU, the French ambassador underlined.

He specifically pointed to the improvement of relations in the region, which took place owing to President Nikolić's initiative. Deniau also expressed hope that the process of reconciliation in the region will continue, and pointed to the Serbian president's initiative to include Bosnia-Herzegovina in the donor conference on post-flood reconstruction as an expression of political wisdom.

The donor conference was a great success, said Deniau. The fact that French President Hollande attended the regional conference at Brdo pri Kranju is no accident and demonstrates the country's initiative to return to the Balkans.


President Nikolić also thanked outgoing Hungarian Ambassador Oszkar Nikowitz for his great contribution to the promotion of the two countries' bilateral relations and underlined that a historical reconciliation between the two nations has been achieved.

” We worked together on breaking down old prejudices and showed that good will can overcome issues from the past,” stressed Nikolić.

Ambassador Nikowitz thanked the president for his initiative, noting that a significant step forward was made in bilateral relations in a very short time.

"We have taken the first big step, many prejudices and myths have been shattered, and we should continue in the same spirit," said the outgoing Hungarian ambassador, adding that he will always treasure his friendship with the Serbian people.

In an interview for Tanjug on Tuesday, the diplomat said that Serbia "achieved huge success in all fields over the past four years," while the level of the relations between Belgrade and Budapest was "higher than ever in history."

Nikowitz said that his stay in Serbia has enriched him culturally and that he intends to work on promoting Serbian culture in Hungary once he retires following his return to the country.

Serbia has made huge progress, and I can say that this is not the same country as the one I came to almost four years ago, Ambassador Nikowitz said.

He noted that all Serbian parliamentary parties now share the same view regarding the country's European future, that Serbia has been granted EU candidate status and that the rhetoric on Kosovo has changed, adding that the dialogue with Priština is a huge step.

Speaking about the freedom of the media in Serbia, Nikowitz said that his impression was that the media have been free in the past as well, but voiced concern over the future of minority media.

Minority media will simply not be able to fund their own survival, and need state or local assistance, he noted.

Asked how realistic the year 2020 is as the target date for Serbia's EU accession, Nikowitz said that it gives the country sufficient time to complete all preparations, but added that it remains to be seen what the atmosphere in the EU itself will be like in six years.

"It is very important to note that no effort and no ounce of energy invested in this field will be in vain because all that is now being done is in the interest of Serbia itself, irrespective of the European prospects," he said, reiterating that Hungary supports Serbia on its European pathway.

The level of the relations between Serbia and Hungary is higher than ever in history and spectacular progress has been made, Nikowitz said, adding that mutual trust has been established and that the two countries have confronted the past, leaving it behind and turning to the future as constructive partners.

The ambassador expressed confidence that the high level of political relations will be accompanied by development of economic cooperation.

Much is expected from the construction of the high-speed railway line from Budapest to Belgrade - we will open new border crossings, and we want to be ready infrastructurally when the time comes for Serbia to become an EU member, he said.

Asked about his personal impressions of Serbia, Nikowitz responded that he has come to love Belgrade, Serbia and Serbian culture.

"I am very satisfied and I think that my stay in Serbia has enriched me - when I go back I will promote Serbian cinema and recommend to Hungarian publishers the literary works of the Serbian writers I meet during my stay in Belgrade," said Nikowitz, who worked as a translator for the Serbian language prior to his diplomatic career.

"I will be sad to leave Serbia," the Hungarian ambassador said.