Minister Dacic at the opening of the Seminar on Regional Stability and Cooperation in the Korean and Balkan peninsulas

Address by First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia Ivica Dacic at the opening of the Seminar on Regional Stability and Cooperation in the Korean and Balkan peninsulas:

Esteemed Ambassador Yu Myung-hwan
Distinguished Professor Shin Beom-chul
Esteemed Ambassador Yoo Dae Jong
Distinguished Seminar participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to address you at the opening of the Seminar on Regional Stability and Cooperation in the Korean and Balkan peninsulas. The Seminar is, in a way, a follow-up to our discussion in September 2015 – a similar seminar also co-organized by the Embassy of the Republic of Korea and East-West Bridge, a Belgrade NGO, related to confidence building in the Korean Peninsula and the Balkans. I anticipate that the prominent participants in this Seminar will make a significant contribution to the analysis of the situation, and to the quest for new avenues of developing stability and cooperation in these two regions which, although far apart, share many similarities in common. May I also warmly welcome our guests from the Republic of Korea, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Yu Myung-hwan, and Professor Shin Beom-chul, a renowned researcher and lecturer at the Korean National Diplomatic Academy, who will share with us their views and experiences on regional stability and cooperation in the Korean Peninsula, the challenges and problems faced, as well as the desirable results to be achieved.

Seminar organizers have, rightly, proceeded from incontestable similarities between the Balkan and Korean peninsulas. The most obvious similarity is their shared experience of a turbulent history, characterized in the case of both peoples by their strong tradition of freedom-loving and their firm commitment to independence. History has imposed upon us a common question as to how to move on from such situations, how to find a solution and ensure peace, stability and prosperity, not only for our own peoples and countries, but also for the regions where we belong.

Following the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the wars of 1990s, Serbia opted for the avenue of peace, reconciliation and prosperity in the Balkans. We knew that the process is long and often painful. We established diplomatic relations with our new neighbours and embarked upon the road of restoring political, economic and cultural ties. We made a significant contribution to paving the road together for many regional initiatives, and for cooperation and opening the perspective of European integration for the Western Balkans region.

Important to us during this process was the support of EU Member States and European institutions, as well as the regional consensus that we all see a common future within the framework of an integrated family of European peoples and states. We have recognized in regional cooperation and the European perspective the key to peace and prosperity in the region. In addition to EU membership, Serbia’s foremost foreign policy priorities are: regional cooperation, strengthening of neighbourly relations, and the continuation of the policy of reconciliation in the Western Balkans region. Serbia has taken a constructive position regarding the participation of Pristina in the work of regional fora. In line with its decision to respect the reached agreements, Serbia has accepted the participation of “Kosovo” (with an asterisk and the relevant text in a footnote) in the following fora: the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) and the activities of Migration, Asylum, Refugees Regional Initiative (MARRI).

Of essential interest to the Republic of Serbia is the preservation of stability in the region and the orientation of all regional countries towards an ever more intensive cooperation in all areas, for only such region can ensure a sustainable development of Serbia itself. In this respect, the promotion of good-neighbourly and mutually beneficial cooperation is one of the country’s fundamental foreign policy priorities.

Unfortunately, parallel to the processes aimed at strengthening and diversifying cooperation, the last few years have seen intensification of retrograde processes in some regional countries, such as insistence on their own interests to the detriment of other countries and overall cooperation, including regional stability. As a rule, efforts to impose such solutions were aimed directly against the interests of the Republic of Serbia and Serbian people in the region. They were frequently accompanied by endeavours to return to the agenda some bilateral issues which, although already resolved, are not favoured by the current political factors in those countries.

The growing complexity of the overall security and political situation in the world, including on the European level, has vastly contributed to its deterioration in the region. Furthermore, the economic recovery from the 2008 global economic crisis and the economic development in the region continue to be uneven and faced with serious difficulties, while the regional economic stability can be characterized as fragile and highly susceptible to developments in the wider environment. The migrant crisis, which has reached its peak in 2015, was only partially brought under control in 2016 – as a result of the significant reduction in the number of regular refugees, accompanied by a vast increase in the number of irregular migrants, and a latent threat of cancellation of the relevant agreement between the EU and Turkey. In such circumstances, many regional countries faced the strengthening of nationalism and radicalization on the political scene. This was particularly apparent in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2016, whereas the crisis in Macedonia escalated in early 2017, being in its essence, less and less covert and increasingly aggressive in bringing topicality to the project of a “Greater Albania” – which implies a change of the existing borders in the region, i.e., annexation to Albania of larger or smaller parts of the territory of each of the neighbouring countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Republic of Serbia – as a signatory state to the treaties regulating issues in the field of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, such as the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), has been following with attention and concern the development of the situation in the Korean Peninsula.

Let me take this opportunity to underline that Serbia supports all initiatives promoting dialogue, multilateral economic cooperation and the strengthening of good-neighbourly relations. In this light we also see the connectivity projects and initiatives in the region of South-East Asia, as well as in broader Asia. We are aware of the numerous initiatives the Republic of Korea has launched in previous years aimed at rapprochement and thawing the relations, as well as confidence and security building in the peninsula, including infrastructural connectivity to the effect of national unification, and peace and stability in the region.

The Republic of Serbia respects the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and aligns itself with the positions of the EU and other international bodies critical of the nuclear and ballistic programme of DPR Korea, as well as the human rights situation in that country. Serbia’s position concerning the Korean Peninsula is in line with its policy of regional reconciliation, and the strengthening of peace and prosperity. Serbia advocates denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, implementation of all relevant UNSC resolutions, continuation of hexagonal talks, and resolution of all issues between the two Koreas solely by peaceful means, through dialogue. In this way, the Republic of Serbia offers its modest, yet consistent, contribution to the broader efforts of the international community to stabilize the situation in the Korean Peninsula and, thus, reduce the possibility of outbreak of an armed conflict of regional, or even wider proportions.

Building on its own experience, the Republic of Serbia is convinced that durable solutions can only be reached by peaceful means, by respecting the positions and legitimate interests of all the parties concerned. Any of dialogue, however difficult and protracted, is better than an armed conflict which unavoidably causes human losses, suffering and destruction. After all, disputed issues cannot be resolved by war because, eventually, all parties return to dialogue and negotiations. We, therefore, encourage all our friends, including those in the Korean Peninsula, to embark on this road. The recently held elections in the Republic of Korea and the initial statements made by its new President Moon Jae-in give reasons for optimism.

Thank you for your attention, and I wish the participants in the Seminar a fruitful exchange of views and success in their deliberations!Tags: statements Ivica Dacic Minister