CEAS Announcement - On the occasion of the 21st anniversary of the start of NATO bombing of FRY

Since its inception, the Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies from Belgrade (CEAS) has advocated for a broad domestic and international debate on the causes and consequences of NATO bombing of the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), based on as many available facts as possible. Such debate and consensus would not only provide the sound grounds for Serbia's much-needed co-operation with NATO and a compromise solution to Kosovo's new status, but also represent a shield against systematic disinformation campaigns concerning those events by third parties, both state and non-state. CEAS, therefore, fully supports the recent initiative of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to finally determine a state list of all fatal casualties, including the circumstances of their deaths. CEAS has continuously advocated before Western international community to provide Serbia with as much assistance as possible to remedy grave environmental problems caused by various factors, and to strengthen its environmental protection capacity.

CEAS opinion polls also indicate that there is a need to better inform the public about the crucial facts regarding NATO, starting with the one that the most of NATO members are at the same time EU members, as well as the facts concerning the amount of grants coming to Serbia from the political West in the last 21 years.

Special historical context and tragedies such as the NATO bombing binds the FRY on one side, and NATO on the other, with a common responsibility that we both must learn from in order to do our utmost to ensure that such difficult decisions no longer have to be made, and such tragedies repeated. CEAS reminds that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, as well as other senior NATO officials, have repeatedly expressed their regret about the loss of life of innocent civilians during the "air campaign", but have also emphasized the humanitarian catastrophe that was unfolding in Kosovo, which had to be stopped.

KFOR, NATO-led international mission mandated by the UN Security Council (UNSC), remains a key actor in the stability and protection, not only of the Serbian community in Kosovo, but throughout the Western Balkans region.

The strength of a country and its leadership, just like the international organizations, is determined by their ability to recognize the mistakes of previous administrations, if any, and learn from them.

President Vucic's remarks on the occasion of this anniversary are an example of a courageous leadership in the particularly difficult times. Among other things, he made a following statement: “Today, 21 years later, we know how horrible a crime they have committed against us is, but we have learned a great deal from our own mistakes, irresponsible political actions and misguided heroics. The history is important, we must not forget it, but the future is paramount. That is why it is of crucial importance that we build alliances and friendships with those who aggressively attacked our country, without seeking revenge, just as we did not beg for mercy. Cooperation and partnership are the key words on which we will build a wealthier and more prosperous Serbia.”

CEAS reminds that Serbia paid bitterly for all its bad and criminal policies in the 1990s, starting with the devastating UN sanctions, on to a bombing that claimed some 800 lives and caused enormous material damage, and through to co-operation with The Hague tribunal. CEAS expects the Western international community to, applying the same criteria, continue to exert pressure on Kosovo society and its officials to face their share of responsibilities, and to support the work of the Specialist Chambers for KLA crimes against around 1,500 Serbs and other non-Albanians, for whom, 21 years later, practically no one was held accountable.

CEAS emphasizes the importance of the fact that, at the end of 2019, Serbia has completed the procedure for adopting the second cycle of the NATO’s Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) for the period 2019-2021. The Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs assessed that: “The adoption of the new IPAP is another confirmation of the upward trend in the partnership of the Republic of Serbia with NATO and creates conditions for the continuation of regular and structured dialogue on all issues of mutual interest... There is a willingness to pursue partner cooperation, share responsibilities in implementation of jointly defined interests and address common security challenges of the modern times.”

Is there a more undeniable evidence to back this assessment than the global pandemic of the corona virus? We remind that one of the elements of IPAP is NATO's assistance in strengthening the Republic of Serbia's own capacities for disaster risk reduction and emergency management!

CEAS sincerely hopes that the State of Serbia will use this assistance to the maximum.

At the same time, we take this opportunity to invite all citizens of the Republic of Serbia and others currently residing in it, to fully comply with the measures adopted by the competent authorities to combat the corona virus epidemic and to provide them, in accordance with their capabilities, with as much support as possible.

 

Belgrade, 24 March 2020