The Non-Aligned Movement returned to its birthplace

10. Oct 2021.
Belgrade is the birthplace of the Non-Aligned Movement, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia, Nikola Selaković, said in a conversation for "Politika", announcing the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of this organization. He points out that in memory of that event, our capital will host a commemorative gathering, one of the largest this year in Europe. In the conditions of the Covid 19 pandemic, we can already say that the gathering will be very successful, with the confirmed presence of more than a hundred delegations, of which more than 40 will be at the level of foreign ministers, says Minister Selaković
- Nana Akufo-Addo, the President of Ghana, one of the five countries that initiated the establishment of the Non-Aligned Movement, together with the former Yugoslavia, India, Indonesia and Egypt, will also attend. The President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, will also speak, as the president of the country chairing the movement this year, as well as the chairman of the UN General Assembly, the minister of foreign affairs of the Maldives. Our President Aleksandar Vučić will speak in the first plenary session tomorrow morning – Nikola Selaković announces.

Are we going back to the map that we lost with the breakup of Yugoslavia?

The Republic of Serbia is an observer in the Non-Aligned Movement and, as a country with significantly fewer opportunities than Yugoslavia had, it manages to make decisions sovereignly and independently. Today, Serbia is opening its doors to its friends, the countries of the Non-Aligned Movement. In a policy that is primarily characterized by a commitment to EU membership, it does not forget traditional partnerships and friendships. In addition to those that we cultivate with the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China, the countries of the Middle East, the African, Asian continent, and Latin America are extremely important to us. These are the same countries that to a large extent identify the former Yugoslavia with two terms – Tito and Belgrade. Tito is no longer alive, but Belgrade is still a symbol of the struggle for freedom in that part of the world.

Serbia is gaining an international reputation again, and more than a hundred countries want to come to Belgrade?

Absolutely. The biggest advantage is that we have the opportunity to talk. One small country with seven million inhabitants in Europe managed to donate more than one million and one hundred thousand vaccines to our neighbors in the region, in Europe, the countries of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, during the six months of this year. We have given more than half a million vaccines to the members of the Non-Aligned Movement. There is also our food aid for countries facing severe droughts.

Yugoslavia also established strong economic cooperation and used to build in those countries; students came to study... Do people who know Serbian language still live there today?

We created a database of all students from non-aligned countries and determined that more than 4,900 of them graduated on the territory of today's Serbia, but that there is an incomparably larger number of those who gave up their studies, got married here and returned to their country, after having learned another craft, knowledge or a skill here. During a visit to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, at the end of August, I received information from our friends from Jordan that over 5,000 of our girls married Jordanians who studied in Serbia.

Will this be a good opportunity to meet with members of delegations?

We will have a series of bilateral meetings – President Vučić, Prime Minister Brnabić, and I as the Minister of Foreign Affairs. We will also hold a large Business Forum, and at the same time, the arms and military equipment fair "Partner 2021" will be held. With the support of President Vučić, we will double the number of student scholarships within the "World in Serbia" program. From next year, there will be 500 scholarships and we will strive to have even more of them. Africa is the continent of the future, there is no serious European country that does not expand its diplomatic network there today.

And we've been reducing it for 20 years?

The base has been preserved. Serbia has 14 embassies on the territory of the African continent, and all other former Yugoslav republics together – five. We used to export a lot to those countries, the construction industry was present through "Energoprojekt", "Hidrogradnja" and other companies. Today we have great engineers, top intelligence, technology development in the IT sector, artificial intelligence, agriculture. Thanks to the initiative of the President, the Minister of Health and the Government of Serbia, the state will return to that market of pharmaceutical products by investing in "Torlak".

Is political cooperation with these countries important, because a significant number of them do not recognize the self-proclaimed independence of Kosovo?

Among them, there are countries that, among the few in 1992, raised their hand against the introduction of sanctions against FR Yugoslavia and against the suspension of our membership in the UN. At one point, the foreign policy and state leadership of Serbia, to our great shame, left those countries. Later, unfortunately, some of them recognized Kosovo and Metohija.

Are you talking about the period after 2000?

Yes. You have countries that, despite the fiercest pressures at the time, were able to raise their hand in support of Serbia and the FRY in 1992, and the Serbian people must never forget that. And our diplomatic presence was withdrawn from some of those countries after 2000. If we had left at least a janitor in the embassy in some of them to talk about our arguments about Kosovo and Metohija, be sure that in some cases the recognition of Pristina's separatism would not occur.

You recently toured Asia, Africa and other parts of the world. You were given the opportunity to strengthen the position of those countries that have not recognized Kosovo, but also to "feel the pulse" of our non-recognition policy. Especially because Pristina has been saying lately that the Washington agreement is dead for them?

In the second half of September, I had the opportunity to meet with officials, not only of countries that do not recognize the unilaterally declared independence, but also of those that support Pristina. My visits started in Belgium and Luxembourg, then in India. I was in New York during the session of the UN General Assembly, and after that in Mexico and Guatemala. During the effective 12 days of work, I had the opportunity to meet with 40 foreign ministers, hold 73 meetings with foreign officials, including two heads of state, one vice president, three prime ministers, but also with a large number of businessmen interested in investing in our country. Among the ministers I met, there were quite a number of those who recognized the unilaterally declared independence of the so-called "Kosovo". They will also come to our gathering dedicated to the Non-Aligned. Today, Serbia is one of the two fastest growing economies in Europe, building hospitals, highways, schools and universities, a country whose president alone has personally opened more than 200 factories in seven years. We have a better health care system than more than 15 EU members. This is exactly the Serbia with which those who at one point recognized the unilaterally declared independence of the so-called "Kosovo" want to cooperate today. On the issue of the Washington agreement, our position is clear. For us, this agreement is not non-existent, we are a serious contracting party. Pristina said that it did not exist for them. If they embark again on a campaign of recognition or application for membership in international organizations, we know very well what our task is. It has been defined by the state leadership, and the MFA will deal with such tasks in the best possible way.

How do you view the increasingly frequent statements from the Croatian state leadership, especially President Milanović, who threatens to stop our European path, bearing in mind that President Vučić emphasizes how important it is for Serbia and Croatia to cultivate the best possible relations?

President Vučić has the opinion and a completely correct position that Serbo-Croatian relations are one of the key ones for the future of the entire region and subregion. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs follows such instructions of our president and government and tries not to fall prey to provocations, it reacts with a cold head and does not make something that is bad even worse with its actions. Bringing these relations closer requires mutual will and, as far as possible, avoiding preconditioning. As long as we Serbs, but also Croats, spend time in mutual conflicts, we will be able to see the result – in the previous three decades, there are fewer Serbs and Croats.

The Dayton Agreement is an example of compromise

There was an institutional crisis in B&H after Inzko's law, but is Serbia really firmly behind the Republic of Srpska, which is now under great pressure?

Our position in relation to B&H is crystal clear. The Republic of Serbia, as the guarantor of the Dayton Peace Agreement, stands firmly behind the Dayton B&H, respecting its territorial integrity and constitutional structure, which includes two entities and three constituent peoples. We are of the opinion that all kinds of imposed decisions are not something that is good. The key to Bosnia and Herzegovina's success must be based on the agreement of the three constituent peoples and both entities. We respect the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, we love the Republic of Srpska and we are connected with it by our special and parallel ties. Respecting the territorial integrity of B&H, we are defending our position on the issue of Kosovo and Metohija. The Dayton Peace Agreement is one of the most successful peace agreements in the whole world after the Second World War.

The Dayton Agreement is an example of a compromise that everyone is a little dissatisfied with.

Absolutely, that's why it is successful.

Are we looking for such a compromise now, on the issue of Kosovo and Metohija?

That is what we consider a compromise. Remember the moment when the Dayton Peace Agreement was concluded, how much support there was among the Serbs, and look at how we are frantically defending its achievements today.