Acting Assistant Foreign Minister for Security Policy, Ambassador Branimir Filipović opened “Fifth Belgrade NATO Week” along with Ambassador Tacan Ildem, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy, Benjamin Hodges, Commander US Army Europe, Kyle Scott, US Ambassador to Serbia and Mateja Norčić Štamcar, Deputy Head of the EU delegation to Serbia.
The meeting, held on 16 and 17 November, was organized by the Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies with the support of NATO Department for Public Diplomacy and the US Embassy.
Acting Assistant Minister pointed out that this year again “NATO Week” presented a good opportunity to discuss a host of issues and provide additional information related to the purpose and functioning of NATO and its relations with other international organizations within a broad range of participants including institutions of the Republic of Serbia, NATO, EU, the Alliance Member States and partners but also representatives of the academic and non-governmental sector and media. Most importantly, it was an opportunity to present Serbia’s activities in cooperation with NATO through PfP program, the results of Serbia’s ten-year-long partnership cooperation as well as ideas for this cooperation in the forthcoming period.
Ambassador Filipović emphasized in particular that the meeting coincided with President Aleksandar Vučić’s visit to NATO headquarters, reaffirming once again that a successful political dialogue at the highest-level was intensive and regular including dialogue at other levels as well as diverse practical cooperation which promotes better understanding between the two sides and contributes to strengthening peace and stability in the region.
Acting Assistant Minister pointed to Serbia’s foreign policy priorities and emphasized our country’s strategic goal to join EU and its efforts to make a valuable contribution to security and stability of the Western Balkans, as a key precondition for economic and any other progress of the region as a whole and of each individual country. As for the country’s relations with NATO, he stressed that they represented an extremely important foreign and security policy area of cooperation for Serbia along the lines of the country’s clear commitment to maintaining and promoting regional peace and stability which is, at the same time, an important element of European security in general.
In his opening statement, the Acting Assistant Minister underlined that Serbia conducted a policy of military neutrality implying that it had no intention of becoming a member of any military alliance. However, that position presented no obstacle for its further development of partner cooperation with NATO. There are examples of many militarily neutral or militarily non-aligned countries pursuing successfully that kind of cooperation. Nevertheless, the fact that Serbia is militarily neutral does not imply that it is isolated or self-sufficient. Actually, it plays an active role of a partner committed to peace, stability and cooperation. He added that our side held in high esteem NATO’s respect for Serbia’s military neutrality. For its part, Serbia wishes to promote such cooperation of partnership within that framework which forms a crucial basis for relations-building between the two sides. Such position as well as cooperation with other countries in the world are not to the detriment of our cooperation with NATO and vice versa, because all activities undertaken by us are in line with our interests and are fully transparent.
Ambassador Filipović pointed in particular to an extremely important role played by KFOR in Kosovo and Metohija in accordance with UNSC resolution 1244 (1999) not only from the point of view of Serbia’s interests but of the region as a whole. Serbia fully supports KFOR’s mandate and it is very important that its presence in the Province be not reduced. The role of KFOR in the protection of the Serbian people and its cultural and religious heritage is vitally important. Although it remains staunchly against the recognition of UDI of Kosovo, Serbia is committed to dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina in order to ensure stability throughout the Province. Such commitment implies that whatever had been agreed upon in the dialogue has to be implemented.
On the second day, Ambassador Filipović took part in a special panel session devoted to relations between Serbia and NATO together with Major General Milan Mojsilović, Acting Assistant Minister of Defense, with Mr. Robert Pščel from NATO Department for Public Diplomacy and Dr. Goran Matić, Director of the Council for National Security. Ambassador Filipović indicated the importance of an intensive high-level political dialogue and concrete benefits drawn by Serbia from various forms of practical cooperation through Partnership for Peace programs.