French President Emmanuel Macron, who arrived yesterday for a two-day visit to Serbia, and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, have placed two wreaths on the Monument of Thanksgiving to France, in Kalemegdan Park.
Macron also recalled Djokovic’s victory at Wimbledon, saying that this was an incredible sporting challenge and that he was sure that the Serbian people were proud of it.
As the first French President to officially visit Belgrade after 18 years, Macron was welcomed with the highest state honours in front of the Palace of Serbia. The two presidents then listened to the anthems of the two countries played, followed by a platoon of cannons and the walk in front of the honorary guards.
Also present at the ceremony were the Prime Minister, Ana Brnabi, and several members of the government. Today, the second day of the visit, the two Presidents will meet the students of the Regional Office for Youth Cooperation (RYCO).
Macron arrived yesterday afternoon accompanied by a delegation of French businesspeople. The two Presidents spoke about the modernization of Nikola Tesla Airport, which is now managed by the French company Vinci.
According to France-Presse, Emmanuel Macron came to Belgrade to try to strengthen the role of France in the Balkans, where the influence of non-EU countries such as China and Russia is strong. Also, this visit is an opportunity to restore the Franco-Serbian friendship.
Also, the official Paris insists on the restoration of the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, which Belgrade does not recognize as an independent state, while Macron rejects any enlargement before the EU undergoes a thorough reform.
The French news agency claims that President Aleksandar Vucic seems determined to pleasantly surprise his guest, after the humiliation Vucic experienced during a ceremony in Paris on 11 November last year during the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the armistice in the First World War. Although he represented a country that was a victim of the conflict, Vucic was relegated to a side gallery, while Kosovo President Hashim Thaci was seated in the main gallery with Macron himself, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.
Vucic promised that he would organize a grand welcome for Macron to show him the extent of the Serbian hospitality. The Serbian government yesterday gathered 10,000 ordinary people to welcome the French president at the ceremony in honour of the Franco-Serbian friendship in Kalemegdan, in front of the recently restored Monument.
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According to France-Presse, the residents of Belgrade received a text message yesterday morning where they were invited to greet the French president in Belgrade, which was specially decorated in the colours of the French flag.
Belgrade has already organized a triumphant reception for Russian President Vladimir Putin during his visit, on 17 January 2019, and now it was Macron’s turn.
Political analyst Aleksandar Popov says that Belgrade expects the visit to clarify three key points – Serbia’s membership in the EU, the future role of France in the Balkans, and the issue of Kosovo.
“This is a very important visit and Vucic wants to make the most of”, says Popov.
France-Presse also recalls that, in April, Angela Merkel and Macron were optimistic that they would be able to convince Belgrade and Pristina to continue the dialogue, but the planned meeting in Paris in early July was cancelled due to the lack of new proposals.
France is also aiming to strengthen economic ties that have so far been unfavourable, although Vinci has received a concession at Belgrade airport and Alstom is still in the running for the subway project, where it is faced with strong competition from the Chinese consortium.
The Balkans are an important part of the new Silk Road, China’s mega-project that would boost its economic power, and the Chinese have managed to build most of the infrastructure and carry out important industrial acquisitions projects in the region. Beijing announced a total of 12 billion euro in loans to countries in the region, of which one third would go to Serbia, France-Presse reports.
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