Remarks of Jelena Milic, CEAS director, at the 9/11 commemorative event in Serbian Parliameny

Dear organizers, Dear panelists, Dear participants, It is a great privilege to attend this event.

As a citizen of Serbia I am proud that we remember 9/11 terrorists attacks in the Serbian Parliament and that this has become a tradition.

Thank you, deputy speaker Mr. Marinkovic, for your significant contribution to this.

But this should not come as a surprise to anyone. It is a result of a smart Serbian Foreign Policy, developed, conducted and implemented by the Serbian government, Minister of foreign Affairs Mr. Dacic, President Aleksandar Vucic, and the Serbian Parliament.

By fostering good relations with all the major power centers – Washington, Beijing, Brussels and Moscow – this administration has achieved maximum flexibility to take advantage of what each of them has to offer. There are, of course tensions within this approach, but so far, the Serbian government has managed them well.

Some in the West have criticized this foreign policy approach as somehow manipulative (neo-Yugoslav), but given Serbia’s current situation, this policy best serves Serbian interests. Furthermore, in new Serbian strategic documents, adopted in 2019, Serbian EU membership is designated as a national priority. The US fully supports this Serbian goal. In recent months we have seen a significant progress of the Serbian foreign policy towards this end, despite very complex circumstances.

The September 4th White House meetings and agreements best demonstrate this new, important and consistent trend, that is sometimes unintentionally, but sometimes deliberately, overlooked.

One of its elements is broadening and deepening of Serbia -NATO relations, with full respect of Serbian military neutrality. As a devoted Atlanticist, let me also use this opportunity to highlight that NATO instantly stood by it’s ally -the US- after the heinous terrorist attacks and invoked, for the first and only time in its history, Article 5. More than 2000 NATO MSs but also non NATO MSs troops lost their lives in joint fight against those who committed and supported these attacks.

One of Slobodan Milosevic’s regime biggest mistake was getting on America’s and NATO’s bad side. Experience shows that this is not a good place to be. Hopefully, Serbian leaders will never do this again.

But experience also shows how good it is to be an ally with the US and other free democratic countries.

Actually, throughout the vast majority of Serbian history, US-Serbian relations, as well its relations with other allies have been excellent.

The US and Serbia often were strategic partners. Over the past 4 years, US-Serbian relations have improved significantly and we can now have realistic hope that they would again reach a sort of a strategic partnership.

The US and Serbia have the same basic interests in the region: a stable, prosperous, peaceful region and full EU membership for all the countries of the region. Therefore, our focus should be on achieving these goals.

The process leading up to the September 4th White House meetings, and the meetings and Agreements themselves, possibly indicate a new paradigm for US engagement in the Balkans. By striving for a genuine win-win solution, the process was far more palatable for the participants, especially Serbia.

Maybe most importantly, the process had a very positive effect on the US image in Serbia. Both Serbian leaders and the Serbian public felt that the US respected Serbia and its interests, and was willing to listen seriously to Serbian arguments. They felt that Serbia is finally being treated as a normal country, and no longer as a pariah.

Many in Serbia hope that this more equitable treatment of Serbia will carry over to the broader Kosovo status negotiations. That this time around, Serbia will not be faced with diktats (e.g. Rambouliet, Atisaari plan) and that genuine negotiations, which take into account Serbian interest and sensitivities, will take place.

The US has a strong interest in Serbia’s success and Serbia needs US support to succeed. Hopefully, this kind of the US policy in the Balkans will continue to be bipartisan.

As we stand here today at the 9/11 commemorative event called WE REMEMBER AND STAND BY the US, let me express my gratitude to the US Embassy in Belgrade, and this administration, for their very effective public campaign YOU ARE THE WORLD which remembers and celebrates the great and extraordinary moments in Serbian, and joint Serbian and US, history.

Let us also remember that THE US, through its bipartisan policy, has been standing by Serbia helping our recovery from a dark period of our history and assisting us to return to the free and democratic world.

Serbia is grateful. Thank you.