Selaković: Visit to Bangladesh is an incentive to strengthen our overall ties

27. May 2022.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia Nikola Selaković has expressed satisfaction that his visit to Bangladesh had marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Serbia and Bangladesh, which dated back to the SFRY period when then Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito significantly helped Bangladesh in its efforts to join the United Nations and the Non-Aligned Movement.

“Marshal Tito and Father of the Nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman established very strong relations between the two countries”, Minister Selaković said in an interview for Bangladeshi news media The Business Standard, recalling that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman visited Belgrade and Marshall Tito in turn later visited Dhaka.

Minister Selaković said that Serbia was the successor of Yugoslavia and that it was committed to strengthening relations with its friendly countries. “We do not forget our old friends and partners. We would like not only to maintain relations with them, but also find the best way to bring these relations to a higher level”, he added.

Minister Selaković pointed out that his visit to Bangladesh, the first visit of a high-ranking Serbian official since 1974, was a clear indicator of Serbia`s willingness to encourage political, economic, and social cooperation with Bangladesh.

During the two-day official visit, Minister Selaković met with Foreign Minister Abdul Momen, Parliament Speaker Shirin Chaudhury, as well as the representatives of the Bangladesh business community. In speaking with them, Minister Selaković said he was impressed with the results of economic reforms led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. “It is truly impressive how Bangladesh started 50 years ago as one of the poorest countries in the world, and now it is moving towards becoming a developed country. I will do my best to ensure our leaders, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh and the Serbian President, meet as soon as possible”, he emphasised.

Describing Serbia as an industrial and agricultural country, Minister Selaković said that Serbia needed a qualified and trained workforce that Bangladesh offered. According to him, Serbia needs a skilled and semi-skilled workforce in the field of construction and agriculture from Bangladesh, and the Serbian companies are very satisfied with workers from that country.

Minister Selaković added that he talked with the highest officials of Bangladesh about the possibility of concluding an agreement on labour force exchange. As for the complicated visa procedure, he said that Serbia was ready to introduce more efficient ways for the Bangladeshi workers to obtain visas, including opening a Consulate in Dhaka.

Referring to economic data, Minister Selaković said that in 2021 the trade was valued at 108 million dollars, of which exports from Bangladesh totalled 105 million dollars. He also said that Bangladesh could benefit from the establishment of joint ventures with Serbia in areas such as the textile industry, but also exports to the European and Eurasian Union markets.

“We have a free trade agreement with the European Union which has a market of more than half a billion people. We have a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Union ― that means Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Armenia ― which is a market of 200 million people. We also have a free trade agreement with Turkey which has a market of 85 million people. In total, these are markets of almost 800 million people in which Serbian goods are free of customs duties”, Minister Selaković explained. He suggested finding companies in both countries that would work together to produce new products for these markets.

Minister Selaković also touched on Serbia’s desire to support young people from Bangladesh.

“We think that young people in Bangladesh are insufficiently informed about Serbian university scholarships. We are offering full scholarships, and in the last 10 years, only two students from Bangladesh have used that opportunity”, he said.

Discussing the current global situation, Minister Selaković emphasised that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine had a huge impact on the whole world. “Serbia is the only country in Europe that has not joined the sanctions against Russia. One of the reasons being is that we do not consider sanctions an effective way to resolve the crisis, and another reason is that Serbia itself had been under sanctions for almost ten years”, he stated, noting that Serbia was dependent on Russia for gas and oil supply.

“We see that Bangladesh is trying to remain neutral. We appreciate such a position, this shows that you have a sovereign foreign policy”, Minister Selaković concluded in his interview.

Photo: Mumit M/TBS