First Deputy Prime minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia Ivica Dacic attended the conference “Western security architecture and Serbia: challenges and dilemmas”, held today in Belgrade. Beside the Head of Serbian diplomacy, keynote statements were also made by US Ambassador Kyle Scott and the President of the Centre for Foreign Policy, Ms. Aleksnadra Joksimovic.
In his statement Minister Dacicpointed out that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has always been open to making a contribution to the consideration of important foreign and security policy issues on the public stage, in order to bring the state policy closer to the public at large.
“Current security threats and challenges do not recognize borders, while extending beyond the potentials and capacities of a country, a region and a continent. It is therefore important, more than ever before, to exchange information at all levels and pursue cooperation with mutual understanding, assistance and support, to the effect of finding a common response to the current, as well as the future, security challenges and threats. Only in this way can peace and security be ensured and further promoted.
Serbia has no dilemma in respect of the issue of security challenges. It is firmly committed to respond to all security challenges of our age: terrorism, organized crime, cyber and hybrid threats, arms proliferation, irregular migration, human trafficking, and all the challenges facing us as the result of armed conflicts and crises, climatic changes, poverty, and water and food shortages. Since all these challenges are transnational, the response to them should be likewise! It is indispensable to have strongest possible cooperation, exchange of information, coordination and intensified interoperability, as well as a common response of all states in this complex and unpredictable battle that we are waging today. For this reason, Serbia is developing cooperation, responsibly and with solidarity, at all levels including regional, European and global level, with all its friends and partners, undertaking and sharing responsibility aimed at accomplishing the common goal.
Given that Serbia considers peace and stability in the region to be condition sine qua non for the progress of any country in the region, as well as the region as a whole, we have committed ourselves to pursuing a constructive dialogue with all neighbours, to the effect of addressing outstanding issues, with a high level of mutual respect. Serbia has proved this in practice myriads of times, as a result of which its foreign policy position has grown stronger, year after year. On the international level, Serbia has been recognized as a factor of stability, source of security, a part of the solution – and by no means a part of the problem. With such an approach, Serbia has been giving a strong contribution to the preservation of peace and cooperation in the region, encouraging all stakeholders to seek common interests and interconnectivity, rather than focusing on differences, tracing culprits and resolving controversial interests in a one-sided, radical and unforeseeable manner.
Although we have seen improvement in the level of our relations, cooperation and mutual confidence in the region, retrogressive processes continue to be present in some parts of the region, such as strengthening of nationalism and radicalization of the political scene, reflected also in insistence on particular interests to the detriment of other states, overall cooperation and stability in the region. In this context too, Serbia continues to uphold the position aimed at seeking common interests, while launching a series of initiatives towards best possible regional economic interconnection, in order to reach solutions to issues outweighing the capacities of individual countries, which will altogether facilitate the resolution of problems inherited from the past.
I believe that the purposes and principles of the United Nations are equally relevant today – refraining from the use of force, non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, settlement of disputes by peaceful means and respect of differences. The changes at international level have not called into question the relevance of these principles. The reality poses new and increasingly complex tasks before us, tasks requiring joint actions and use of all available capacities. In this regard, Serbia is working together with major international organizations (UN, EU, OSCE, NATO), as well as with the United States, RF, China and all other partners across the world, who are ready to respond jointly and contribute to sustainable peace and stability.
At both global and European levels, Serbia makes its contribution in different ways, one of them being participation in multinational missions and operations, both within the UN and the EU, with around 670 military personnel deployed in the course of the last year, ranking 8th in Europe and 1st in the region when it comes to the contribution to the UN- and EU-mandated missions. In addition to that, Serbia has, at the very beginning, also joined the Global Coalition against Daesh and makes its contribution, to the extent of its capabilities, in non-combatant forms. We carefully monitor international standards in the field of arms control and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, consistently implementing the relevant conventions, UNSC resolutions, and taking part in numerous global initiatives in the said area.
There is no doubt whatsoever about Serbia’s strategic commitment to EU membership, through successful implementation of the negotiating process. When it comes to the European foreign, security and defence policy, Serbia is an active and enterprising partner, which it also reaffirmed before attaining the candidate status. Thus, as early as 2011, we entered into two basic agreements with the EU in the domain of common security and defence policy, while the number of Serbian members in EU missions and operations keeps rising, year in year out, in parallel with further activities intended for participation in civil missions, too. Besides, we acceded to the EU’s Battlegroup Concept, with Serbia being one of the 4 non-EU countries that entered into administrative arrangements with the European Defence Agency, which further contributes to the development of our capacities, defence industry and research potentials.
Everything aforesaid indicates our firm commitment to be a reliable and responsible partner in the context of the Common Defence and Security Policy of the European Union, for we believe that it is security that brooks no boundaries or memberships. We all have the duty to invest maximum efforts in the fight for peace, security and well-being of our citizens.
I would like to underline that a credible EU enlargement policy, based on clear criteria, represents a strategic investment into security and prosperity of Europe as a whole.”
In his statement the Minister also referred to the migration crisis that has shown in particular the degree of necessity for mutual cooperation and a solidary approach, and Serbia has, in this very example, proven to be ready to take its share of responsibility and make a contribution which exceeded that of some of the EU Member States. Despite over 1.3 million migrants transiting our territory in the past two years, we were able to maintain stability by investing remarkable efforts. “We believe that this problem goes beyond national level and that it is only through a joint response and action by all countries that a suitable solution can be achieved.”
“The EU is facing an identity crisis today, but it needs to be borne in mind that the EU was created as a great peace project and a model of highest level of integration achieved in modern political history, which enabled reconciliation between European peoples and countries of diverse political, security and cultural backgrounds. We believe that the EU is able to continue to serve as a successful example to others and, therefore, we follow with particular attention all proposals and initiatives launched in the EU within the reform process. Following the adoption of the EU Global Strategy and the Implementation Plan on Security and Defence, we have closely followed all the decisions and plans in this area, in order to be prepared and able to align with them as a candidate country now, and a full-fledged EU Member State in the future.
The relations between Serbia and NATO are delicate owing to the legacy of the past, above all, the bombing of then FR Yugoslavia without UNSC approval. However, taking into account our joint interests, during the eleven years of participation in NATO Partnership for Peace programme, Serbia has achieved a significant cooperation with NATO member and partner states, implementing their experiences and standards to modernize and strengthen its armed forces and defence capacities and strengthening bilateral dialogue with member and partner states as well as the dialogue within the NATO forum. All of the above resulted in the adoption of the Individual Partnership Action Plan, the highest mechanism of cooperation between NATO and a partner state with no aspiration towards membership in the Alliance.
Serbia has been pursuing a policy of military neutrality, which indicates that it has no aspiration towards membership in NATO or any other military alliance, although we fully respect a different orientation of our neighbours. Serbia’s military neutrality is not an impediment to the further promotion of partner cooperation with NATO and, as we have seen in other examples, militarily neutral countries, sometimes referred to as “militarily non-aligned countries”, are indeed carrying out such a cooperation with success. Military neutrality does not imply isolation, self-sufficiency or lack of interest for others, as it may have been the case earlier in the past. In today’s world, such isolationism is an outdated option.
I will give an example in this respect of the vote on membership of the so-called Kosovo in UNESCO. Switzerland which is militarily neutral voted in favour of Kosovo’s membership, while Mongolia, which is also a neutral country and has not recognized the unilateral declaration of the Kosovo independence, abstained in the vote.”
The Minister said that he did not pretend that Serbia’s views are the most righteous in the world, but that there can be no stability and peace in the region without its largest country and people.
He stressed that it was necessary to talk, because as long as interests were not defined and no common ground was found, there would be serious problems on any topic.
He said that Serbia thought it should be part of the international security component, adding, for instance, that he had a row with some Western Ambassadors because they favoured the termination of the UN Mission in Kosovo.
“Serbia has never done or sided with any party violating international law nor has it recognized the effects thereof, as it has its own problems. We have adopted the same approach to all”, underlined the Head of Serbian diplomacy.
As far as the European Union is concerned, he said that without the region of the Western Balkans the EU would not be able to guarantee peace and stability in Europe, which was why this part of Europe had to be part of the European integration process.
Public often raises the question of military exercises and other activities that we conduct with NATO, other NATO partner countries and with our other partners worldwide, like the Russian Federation. We do not see that such activities on our part damage either the relations between NATO and Serbia or the relations between Serbia and the Russian Federation, or those with any other countries. All activities undertaken by us are in line with our national interests and by their nature are transparent: as far as the exercises are concerned, they strengthen the capacity of our armed forces and help realize the aims of the training, and they also contribute to facing the security challenges such as terrorism with the assistance of the partner countries with which we are cooperating. The number of military exercises with NATO or NATO member countries is much higher that the number of exercises that the Serbian Armed Forces have with the other countries, which is logical considering that we share in common the region we are in.
It is incontestable that NATO is an unavoidable factor of regional stability. In particular, it plays an important role as KFOR security presence in Kosovo and Metohija under UN Security Council resolution 1244 (1999). KFOR has direct responsibility for security in the Province, and therefore for the security and safety of the Serbian and other non-Albanian population in Kosovo and Metohija. We appreciate in particular the guarantees given by NATO that the so-called Kosovo Security Force will not have access to northern Kosovo, which is essential in the implementation of the Brussels Agreement. We truly hope that NATO troops will remain in undiminished size in Kosovo and Metohija in the future, and that our position against the transformation of KSF into a Kosovo Army will not be supported, either.
Let me emphasize in particular that the situation in Kosovo and Metohija poses the gravest political and security challenge to Serbia, and that this area constitutes a threat in terms of terrorism, organized crime, unilateral acts by Pristina and endangerment of the Serb population and their cultural and religious heritage. On more than one occasion, Belgrade has demonstrated the courage to take steps towards finding solutions for individual problems in conditions when we do not recognize Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence. The dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina is a model for such an approach, but in order for it to be a success it is absolutely necessary that all parties concerned should implement what has been agreed upon. The latest initiative launched by Serbia is to embark upon a nation-wide dialogue over Kosovo and Metohija, i.e. the proposed delimitation, which does not imply that Belgrade will recognize Kosovo’s UDI, proves how much effort we have put into reaching a solution that must be realistic, viable and, equally important, negotiated.
Serbia firmly believes that it is possible to achieve the principle of human solidarity and cooperation and, in this context, it has always advocated the establishment and development of partner and friendly relations with all countries of the region, Europe and the world. The nature of the current security threats and challenges requires that international security cooperation is no longer an option but an imperative. Through its constructive positions, initiatives and concrete proposals Serbia is endeavouring to contribute today, in these turbulent developments on the international stage, towards maintaining international peace and security. Rest assured that it will continue to do so in the future, as well.