FIRST DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER AND MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Politics & Diplomacy I Interview I Serbia 2023
_BIOGRAPHY Born on January 1, 1966, in Prizren, he is a Serbian politician with extensive experience in executive and legislative roles. He completed his education at the "Stevan Sremac" Grammar School in Nis and graduated from the Faculty of Political Sciences in Belgrade, he has continued his political career as a deputy in the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia since 2004.
“OUR TASK IS TO FIND SOLUTIONS FOR APPARENTLY HOPELESS SITUATIONS, ALWAYS THINKING OF THE INTERESTS OF THE COUNTRY WE ARE REPRESENTING.”
A STRONG DIPLOMATIC HISTORY
We are celebrating it in the memory of the year 1839, when the young Serbian state established the Prince's Office of Foreign Affairs – precursor to today’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. No more than 13 clerks worked in this office 184 years ago, and their boss was Abram Petronijević, renowned statesman and later Prime Minister. He had a lot of knowledge about the world of his time and a keen sense for diplomacy and negotiations, and spoke German, Greek, Romanian, Italian, Turkish and French. This is also a day when we proudly remember the first diplomatic mission of the Serbian state, carried out exactly 835 years ago. In 1888, Grand Prince Stefan Nemanja sent an envoy to Nuremberg, the capital of the then Holy Roman Empire, to Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa.
Just a year later, these two medieval rulers met in the city of Niš. Niš is still preserving this memory today, and people of the city like to proudly stress that it was the place of the first diplomatic meeting ever in the territory of our country. This brief trip into history was just a reminder for all of us how deep the roots of diplomacy are, as an integral part of every historical era, and, in particular, how irreplaceable its role is - 835 years ago, 184 years ago, and especially now.
DIPLOMACY IN A NEW WORLD
Today’s world is connected as it has never been at any point throughout history. Time and distance have been reduced with the help of technology, no part of the planet is too far, and you can hold a meeting with your counterparts from anywhere in the world. During the pandemic, we all learned something new - that we can rely on modern technology to not lose contact with each other even when we cannot travel anywhere. However, this does not mean that the diplomatic profession will become a thing of the past, replaced by digital platforms, social media and zoom talks. On the contrary.
In hard times, it is diplomacy that always finds a way out, which proved true during the pandemic, as it has in many similar crises of our times. Diplomats are people with knowledge, with good will, great patience and, first and foremost, open minds, people who will always be able to represent the interests and policy of their country in a responsible and dignified way, while also aware that others have their own interests and policy and that a common language would have to be found.
Nothing can be a substitute for people like him, dedicated to their honourable profession. There is a Jewish saying: “Whenever it is said there is only one solution, there are at least two”. This is the best description of the diplomatic profession. Our task is to find solutions for apparently hopeless situations, always thinking of the interests of the country we are representing. It is a difficult and challenging profession, which would be impossible without an enormous sense of responsibility as well as patriotism.
SERBIA IS AN OPEN AND FRIENDLY COUNTRY
The Republic of Serbia is open and friendly to anyone who, like us, cares about peace, cooperation and mutual respect. We are a part of the wide world and we are well aware that all our interests can only be fulfilled if we cooperate with the world, rather than go our separate way. Serbia is a very active member of all the important global organisations and an advocate for even further enhancing their role in today’s world. Serbia is a part of all the most important European forums, and, as their integral part, has an active role in policy making and finding solutions for the most important issues concerning the continent we all live in.
Serbia is a particularly active in regional organisations and initiatives, which we deem one of the most important priorities of our foreign policy. We see our immediate neighbours as our naturally closest and most important partners, and we have to closely cooperate with them.
Our foreign policy is integrative. We are firmly connected to the principles of equality in international relations and principles of mutual respect and dialogue, as the only way to resolve conflicts. We are well aware that these are the principles that world peace is based on. Furthermore, an efficient response to any large scale challenge may only be found in cooperation, constant communication and, again, mutual respect.
We do not need to go back far into history, we only need to look a few years back and see how we grappled with crises and challenges which have hit us regardless of whether we are big or small, rich or underdeveloped, with or without a large army. We need only look at the migrant crisis which hit Europe and other parts of the world, or the pandemic, which didn’t spare any corner of the planet.
In both cases, the initial response was poor, as everyone was trying to find a solution to protect their own community, there was no solid cooperation, no data exchange, no assistance and support offered to each other. These crises were overcome only when we joined efforts and realized that we would not be able to resolve them without close cooperation.
We must apply these fresh experiences to every other similar situation in the future, not only because this is a major revelation, but also because it is about observing principles in international relations, principles which are written in fundamental documents of organisations that we belong to, starting with the United Nations and their Charter.
Serbia firmly stands by these principles and consistently promotes them in its foreign policy, because it was itself a victim of their crude violation not long ago. We remember that experience very well and do not wish it to happen to anyone else. It is for that reason that we are constantly and steadfastly recalling them, as we are deeply convinced that these principles and international law are the only framework we should use to organise our intergovernmental relations.
Otherwise, we will be exposed to constant crises, and persistent questioning of the fundamental principles we all accepted long time ago, which all leads to instability and insecurity. Our insistence on respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all each member of the international community is sincere and principled. Serbia is also asking for that principle to be respected because of its crude violation in Kosovo and Metohija. But, at the same time, we deeply believe that there must be no more violation of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia anywhere else in the world, as this is something that cannot be allowed.
Separation of a part of the territory of a country without its will cannot be considered acceptable while the separation of a part of the territory of another country is deemed unacceptable. This opens the door wide open for overall lawlessness and returns us to old times when brute force was prioritised over diplomacy, which, I hope, no one today wants to happen.
Once more I would like to appeal to the representatives of the international community to seriously consider the unilateral acts and provocations that have been occurring almost every day in Kosovo and Metohija. If such a practice is not stopped, there is a real danger that such unilateral moves and such a situation could destabilize the region.
This is why the Pristina administration is currently the biggest threat to the regional peace and stability. We plead to the international community to ensure the observance of all the agreements which we have achieved so far, instead of just saying words of condemnation of Pristina's actions while letting this situation continue, this new situation they have put the Serbian people in. Protect the Serbian people in Kosovo and Metohija! This is your obligation according to every Resolution and Declaration by international organisations. Do not put Serbia into a difficult situation. Do what you should. Saying that Kurti cannot be influenced - I think that this explanation is something even a child would not believe. This is why I plead to you once more. Serbia is being constructive, but this is not our weakness, it is our advantage. What we are asking from you is to respect all agreements, to commit to what we have been working on all these months.
Our diplomatic service is dynamic and capable of responding to all the tasks it is given. And these tasks are not minor. They are often very challenging. Thanks to that, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is an efficient instrument of implementation of our foreign policy at every level. Our foreign policy priorities require constant and systematic diplomatic activity.
ACCESSION TO EU
One of our priorities is accession to the European Union, and this complex task can only be carried out in close coordination with other state authorities and institutions, where our Ministry has one of the main roles. Also, Serbian diplomacy is investing major efforts in relations with the most influential countries such as the United States, China and Russia, as they are partners indispensable for the fulfilment of our most important interests.
We are also paying a lot of attention to relations with our friends and partners worldwide with whom we used to have extremely close relations through the Non-Alignment Movement, which we later, unfortunately, neglected. Serbia has been successfully raising the level of its relations with friendly countries in Africa, Asia, South America, because we want our past closeness and mutual respect to be a solid foundation for our cooperation in the future. And there is a great possibility for such cooperation.
We have been paying particular attention, as I have already pointed out, to the development of relations with our friends in the region of the Balkans and the Southeast Europe, because we cannot expect Serbia to have the kind of progress we would like without developing solid relations with the nations that are geographically, economically and culturally closest to it.
This Ministry is paying particular attention to constant improvement of our consular service, since caring about our citizens and co-patriots abroad is not only our obligation, but also comes from our desire for all of them to feel that the country is taking care of their rights and that, if needed, it will provide the help and support they need.
All of these and other tasks could not be carried out properly if we didn’t have a modern, well educated, expert and motivated diplomatic service, to which we are dedicating this day, and I am sending them warm greetings. Let me once more reaffirm that Serbia’s foreign policy is consistent and a part of the uniform foreign policy conducted by President of Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić and the Government of the Republic of Serbia, and thus the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the symbol of the execution and implementation of such a policy.
With great attention and gratitude, we will appreciate the efforts and successes of our people at the world’s stage, whether they are involved in sports, art, science, or any other profession in which they will exceed our national boundaries and spread a good word about Serbia throughout the world. This is our debt, our obligation to the people who are doing so much for the diplomacy and reputation of their country.
Edited from remarks given at reception marking the Serbian Diplomacy Day.