Minister Dacic participates in the conference “The Belt and the Road – Balkan Perspective”

First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dacic participated in the international conference “The Belt and the Road: Balkan Perspective”, where he made the opening statement.

Apart from Minister Dacic, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Serbia Li Manchang and Dean of the Faculty of Security Studies Ivica Radovic addressed the audience by way of introduction.

Along with the participation of eminent experts from Serbia and abroad, the conference participants analyzed, in great detail, the different aspects of China’s global strategic concept of “One Belt, One Road”, and its effects on the intensification of cooperation with the Balkan region and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, included in the China-CEEC or, in short, 16+1 mechanism.

The Conference was organized by the Faculty of Security Studies of Belgrade University, in cooperation with representatives of China’s academic community.

The following is the full version of Minister Dacic’s address from the conference.

“Esteemed Professor Radovic,

Your Excellency, Ambassador Li Manchang,

Distinguished participants of the International Conference,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to the international conference on the New Silk Road, with particular emphasis on the mechanism of cooperation between China and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, or 16+1, for short. I hope that this meeting will result in important theoretic and empirical elements to shed additional light on various aspects and experiences in the functioning of this mechanism. I believe that this is particularly significant on the eve of the Fifth Summit of Heads of Government of China and CEEC, to be held in Riga, the capital of Latvia, in a few days’ time.

Under the authorization of the State Council (the Government) of the People’s Republic of China, the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China jointly published a document titled “Vision and Actions on Jointly Building the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road”, in late March 2014. The document is a kind of a White Paper and it outlines the background, the principles, the content, the mechanisms and the aims of the “New Silk Road” concept. The “One Belt, One Road” concept is a strategic project which defines the positioning of the PR of China and the basic directions of its global engagement, especially in the Eurasian region. The basic postulates are cooperation and networking that yield benefits to all the participants, according to the “win-win” principle. We believe that the concept is useful and acceptable for the Republic of Serbia, for it has a huge developmental potential, especially in the area of infrastructural development, increase in the volume of investments, and expansion of the overall volume of trade exchange. The Memorandum of Understanding on the Enhancement of Joint Development of the Silk Road Economic Belt between the Government of the Republic of Serbia and the Government of the People’s Republic of China was signed during the visit of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic to the People’s Republic of China between 23 and 27 November 2015, while the Memorandum of Understanding on IT Silk Road was signed on the occasion of the historic visit that the President of China Xi Jinping made to Serbia, in June 2016.

The China-CEEC cooperation mechanism naturally fits into the “One Belt, One Road” concept. Apart from China, it includes 11 Member States of the European Union, and five countries at different EU accession stages, given that EU membership is treated as the strategic goal of all the five candidates from the Western Balkans. Over the past five years, for as long as this mechanism has been in place, not only has it justified the reasons for its establishment and existence, but it has also opened up significant new horizons and numerous areas of cooperation. It is with pleasure that we can note that highly diversified ties and meaningful relations have been established in many areas: apart from economy, infrastructure and energy, cooperation also exists in areas of health system, media, culture, science, education, sports, tourism, regional and town cooperation, inter-party cooperation, cooperation and mutual support within international organizations and fora, etc.

I would like to take this opportunity to recall that the Third Meeting of Heads of Government of the People’s Republic of China and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe was held in Belgrade, between 16 and 17 December 2014. That was the most important foreign-policy gathering held in our country over the past few decades. Apart from fourteen Prime Ministers and Vice-Premiers, the meeting was attended by more than 6,200 participants, including more than 1,000 entrepreneurs and more than 1,000 foreign and local journalists. The meeting adopted the document “Belgrade Guidelines” that provided an overview of the results achieved in the China-CEEC cooperation, and defined the future directions of cooperation, while two multilateral agreements (MoU on cooperation on the project of Hungarian-Serbian railway and the Framework Agreement on Cooperation in Facilitating Customs Clearance Among the Chinese, Hungarian, Serbian and Macedonian Customs) were signed. At the Fourth Summit of China and CEEC, held between 24 and 25 November 2015 in Suzhou, southeastern Jiangsu Province, the Medium-Term Agenda for Cooperation between China and Central and East European Countries was adopted, as well as the Suzhou Guidelines for Cooperation, while the Framework Agreement on the Modernization and Reconstruction of the Hungary-Serbia Railway in the Territory of the Republic of Serbia was signed. Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic pointed, on the occasion, to the growing importance that the Republic of Serbia attached to cooperation with the People’s Republic of China, in the context of China-CEEC. The Prime Minister noted that Serbia was the leading country in the region according to the volume of cooperation in the area of infrastructure and one of the pivotal participants in the first trans-border project of this mechanism, in the construction of the Belgrade- Budapest railway. Important joint documents will be adopted at the upcoming Fifth Summit in Latvia, apart from a large number of bilateral agreements that will be agreed on and signed on the margins of this meeting.

As I already mentioned, the mechanism involves several Balkan countries: besides Serbia, there are Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania. Moreover, there are the EU Members from our region – Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria. The China-CEEC mechanism is increasingly gaining the reputation of an important channel for the establishment of cooperation, solidification of the existing and the building of new ties and relations between the countries of the Western Balkans, both among themselves and in correlation with China and other member states of this mechanism. As you are getting ready for the discussion in today’s seminar, I would like to point to the fact that a mass migration of people, of the young, the elderly, of women and children seeking sanctuary from war, suffering and poverty, is still unfolding before our very eyes. The problem of migration, apart from the transnational and global threats such as terrorism, organized crime and climate change, is becoming the burning question requiring urgent response and an intensive cooperation of the entire international community. The settlement of these complex problems, often mutually intertwined, requires cooperation, with the involvement of our Asian and Mediterranean partners.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Serbia is committed to the enhancement of regional cooperation, as an important part of its European path, and it affirms, on all occasions, the need for preserving and promoting regional security and stability, as the basic condition for the economic prosperity of the Western Balkan region. Serbia supports the European aspirations of its neighbours and looks favourably upon the progress of the Western Balkan countries in the European process.

Moreover, it fully respects the commitment of neighbouring countries relating to NATO membership, even though it has no aspirations to become a NATO member, itself. Serbia is a militarily neutral, responsible, predictable and reliable partner of the Alliance, with which it maintains developed cooperation within the scope of the existing Partnership for Peace mechanisms, which is in the joint interest of strengthening the global, and regional security in particular. In this sense, the role of NATO in securing the safety of the Serbian and non-Albanian population in Kosovo and Metohija is particularly important for us, as well as the role of KFOR, it being the guarantor of security and implementation of the Brussels Agreement.

Serbia, the region and Europe are sharing the same values and similar security challenges. Serbia is firmly committed to responding to many security challenges of the modern age, including terrorism and all forms of extremism, and to contributing, in cooperation with partners from around the world, to countering threats, at regional, European and global levels. Being situated along the transit route of history between the Middle East and Western Europe, Serbia and other countries of the Western Balkans share the concern about the danger of terrorism.

In conclusion, I would like to stress that Serbia is fully supportive of all the initiatives and processes aimed at the solidification of cooperation, peace, development and stability in the region of Central and Eastern Europe, and in our immediate surroundings. Cooperation and relations between Serbia and China have been traditionally friendly and they have been upgraded to the level of the overall strategic partnership, representing one of the priorities of Serbia’s foreign policy. The China-CEEC mechanism is a further channel, which adds fresh impetus and brings new opportunities, not only in relations with China, but also with the countries of the Western Balkans and Central and Eastern Europe, as far as the Black and Baltic Sea coasts.

Finally, allow me to wish you productive work and a fruitful exchange of views, and to wish our guests from abroad to have a pleasarable, though short, stay in Serbia.

Thank you for your attention.”