Vucic agrees purchase of Rafale fighter jets with Macron

Vucic agrees purchase of Rafale fighter jets with Macron
Serbia and France have reportedly reached an agreement for the acquisition of 12 French-made Rafale fighter jets. / Tim Felce
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje April 10, 2024

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on April 9 that he had "very good talks" with French President Emmanuel Macron the previous night in Paris, and said  an agreement for procurement of French-made Rafale fighter jets would be signed within the next two months.

Following a lengthy discussion that lasted over three hours, Vucic expressed his satisfaction with the outcomes of the talks.

“I am happy with the outcomes of those discussions. It brings me joy knowing that we thoroughly explored all facets of collaboration with one of the world's most significant countries in an open and pragmatic manner,” Vucic was cited a saying by news agency Tanjug.

President Vucic emphasised the significance of acquiring sophisticated fighters like the Rafales. According to Radio Free Europe, Serbia and France have reached an agreement for the acquisition of 12 French-made Rafale fighter jets.

Vucic also underscored the potential for expanded cooperation with companies such as Thales and Airbus, particularly in areas like artificial intelligence and mobility systems.

"While we have an institute for AI, its scope remains somewhat generalised. We need to bridge the gap between AI experts and the economy to leverage it effectively, following the example set by French companies like Thales and Airbus," Vucic said.

Vucic outlined Serbia's ambitions in infrastructure development, including plans for building a metro and railways. He revealed ongoing discussions with French companies regarding innovative projects, such as flying cars, which could be showcased at EXPO 2027 in Belgrade and serve as a symbol of progress in Serbia.

In addition to defence and technology, Vucic discussed opportunities for collaboration in addressing environmental challenges, such as waste management and water quality. He emphasised the importance of leveraging French expertise to improve infrastructure and enhance environmental sustainability in Serbia.

Louis Vuitton

President Vucic also expressed his optimism regarding the potential establishment of a representative office of the French fashion company Louis Vuitton in Belgrade by 2026. He underscored the significance of this development for Serbia, both economically and in terms of tourism.

"We are hopeful that Louis Vuitton will establish a presence in Belgrade by 2026. We have exerted considerable effort to make this a reality. Louis Vuitton is a flagship brand, and its presence often paves the way for other major companies," Vucic stated in Paris.

"This endeavour aligns well with our preparations for the EXPO, which holds significant symbolic value for our country," Vucic added.

The president of Serbia disclosed having highly significant discussions with French businessmen following a meeting with delegates from the French business association, Movement of French Entrepreneurs - MEDEF International, with representatives from other French companies expressing interest in investing in Serbia.

In a statement posted on Instagram, President Vucic highlighted the existing positive economic ties between Serbia and France, while stressing the potential for further enhancement. With 339 French companies already employing over 11,000 people in Serbia, Vucic expressed optimism for continued growth in both investment and trade between the two countries.

Serbia's appeal to French investors was underscored by Vucic, noting that the country has attracted a substantial 80% of all French investments in the region. He expressed hope for this trend to persist, alongside Serbia's commitment to fostering an improved business environment.

Looking ahead, Vucic emphasised the collaborative opportunities between Serbian and French enterprises, particularly in key projects such as EXPO 2027, the Belgrade metro, advancements in artificial intelligence, and nuclear energy, all aimed at benefiting citizens of both nations.

Regarding EXPO 2027, Vucic highlighted the considerable interest from French investors, affirming their eagerness to participate in the event hosted by Belgrade.

"We've delved into numerous details regarding the EXPO, engaging specialised companies in discussions about flying taxis and ensuring comprehensive security to make it a global marvel," stated Vucic.

Kosovo issue

Regarding the Kosovo issue, President Vucic acknowledged the challenges in discussions about the Serbian former province with French President Emmanuel Macron, emphasising the complexity of the topics at hand.

Despite the difficulties, Vucic expressed gratitude to President Macron for attentively listening to Serbia's perspective during their talks in Paris.

Reflecting on their discussions, Vucic stated that they addressed the various challenges confronting Serbia, and he believed that President Macron understood the points raised.

“I expressed the hope that France will extend its support to Serbia across all other spheres, particularly concerning our European trajectory and dialogue with Pristina,” Vucic said.

Furthermore, Vucic reiterated gratitude to President Macron for his personal commitment to maintaining stability in the Balkan region.

In 2008, Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia, following a bloody conflict in 1998-99. Despite engaging in EU-mediated normalisation dialogue, both countries have made limited progress in resolving their differences.