PRIME MINISTER DACIC: (Via interpreter) I wish to express my pleasure for having here the State Secretary Mrs. Clinton and Lady Ashton. It is an exceptional pleasure for us in the first hundred days of Serbia’s functioning, we can talk about the High Representatives of the highest – the most important states in the world and the most important international organization. We are – of course, we have over a hundred years long diplomacy with the diplomatic relationship with the United States, and I believe that vouches for new grounds and new relationships and to start rebuilding our mutual respect and trust.
And we have a very good relationships with the United States, and of course it is very obvious that we want to become a member of the European Union. I also wish to say, because there were so many speculations lately, why our guests are coming right now to Serbia. They did not come, and they didn’t wish to pose any ultimatums or any conditions, and I am very grateful that they came over to talk with us about topics which are of crucial interest for Serbia, and those are topics on how to further on our integration process and also how Serbia can get real date to start negotiations.
And of course, as we all know, those are issues regarding our reforms and also how are we going to build our relationship with Pristina and Kosovo. And our first days of reign actually proved that we can successfully defend the certain policy that would go towards resolving problems instead of policy that will be actually the cause for problems and creating problems.
And of course, I offered my condolences and sympathy of Serbia regarding those victims that fell during ongoing storm, and we also offered if Serbia would be able to help United States clearing up and the whole mess after that storm.
The United States is a big investor with about $1.7 billion in Serbia, and we also had very significant commerce with the United States and we believe that that commerce and exchange can increase. Right now it is about $420 million worth, and I am very grateful for Secretary Clinton’s offer to promote and to support and sponsor certain programs that would attract investments to Serbia. And that means a lot and that means a lot to me, and Serbia actually received the very clear message both from United States and European Union, and I reiterated that Serbia is ready to build democratic society and democratic institutions, a society that would respect human rights and liberties, freedom of media, rule of law.
And we are very happy with cooperation with United States in fighting organized crime, terrorism, and corruption, and also on a military level, and we are ready to go on furthering on that kind of cooperation. And Serbia is going to do everything that is necessary to fulfill obligations that are a prerequisite for our negotiations with the European Union, and that means that we are going to go on with our legal reform, fighting corruption, and by the way, a very positive evaluation on 26 points out of 30. We also want to build the regional cooperation, trust, and reconciliation in the region.
When it comes to Kosovo, we are committed to resolving all problems peacefully, and we are open for negotiations about all Kosovo issues and to resolve all those issues in coming period. Generations that are coming do not deserve to be left to tackle with that burden, and in that respect, this government took that responsibility that on one side carry out those agreements that previous government took and also to carry out new agreements regarding telecommunication and energy. And we also took the responsibility and the risk to take part in the dialogue that is, as you well known, recently started at the meeting at the auspice of Lady Ashton, and we expect that that negotiations and dialogue will be continued in November.
We already spoke about that, and I’m very grateful to Lady Ashton for her attitude that she had during that meeting, and she kept repeating that she is not pushing Serbia and that the European Union is not pushing Serbia to accept anything that Serbia doesn’t want. And that was reiterated by Secretary Clinton that the United States are not going to make pressure on Serbia to do something that it cannot do and to accept – to recognize Kosovo, but that we are all together ready to do something about relationship between Kosovo and Serbia which would benefit the citizens of both. And so that has been defined in the resume of European Union.
Let us not talk about political issues with Pristina. Let us see if we can build maybe highway, if we can modernize railway, build projects in energy pipeline under the auspice of European Union. We are very, very much in concert with Pristina in that respect, and that is the first time that we are getting to some common ground. We are not going to recognize Kosovo, but we are ready to talk. We believe that it has to be connected with accelerated negotiations with European Union.
We also talked, and I fully supported Prosecutor Williamson who comes from the United States, and I am very, very confident that he is going to do that job honestly and professionally. We want during our mandate to resolve all those issues to become very honest and reliable partners, and we want to have a consistent relationship with our partners, and we want to stand behind those issues. But we also ask the United States and European Union not to use movable targets. Serbia is ready to be the strongest and most reliable partner in the Balkans.
We didn’t talk – I know that there are not going to be questions on your part if we had any conditions being imposed on us, what was the talks. The talks were very constructive, very fair, and this is representing our mutual resolution to keep going towards Europe, and on the other hand, we are encouraging all participants in the process to make a step forward to build a mutual understanding with Kosovo and to come to solutions that would be beneficial for all our citizens.
And I am very grateful for this visit, and I – Secretary Clinton is not here for the first time, and I wish her very much success in upcoming elections in the United States. As it comes for Lady Ashton, we are going to see with her – meet with her in November.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter.) And we ask Mrs. Ashton to take the floor now, please.
HIGH REPRESENTATIVE ASHTON: Well, first of all, can I say how pleased I am to be here in Belgrade today, and it’s very good to be here, because this follows up for me the meetings I’ve had with President Nikolic both in Brussels and in New York and my discussions with you, Prime Minister. I’ve seen you twice in the last two months, most recently, of course, about ten days ago.
And I’m here today with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to express our joint commitment towards Serbia and its future in the European Union. I say again: Serbia’s future is in the European Union. And as you know, in the last year, Serbia has made significant progress towards its European future and it has become a candidate country.
Our discussions today in part focused on what’s needed now for Serbia to move forward and to keep moving at a good pace. I encouraged the President and the Prime Minister to intensify reforms. And of course, judicial reforms are extremely important in that context. And as you said, Prime Minister, we discussed the dialogue that the European Union – I am facilitating between Belgrade and Pristina.
Let me be clear that this dialogue is in the interests of both sides. Its objective, its clear objective is to improve people’s lives and to help solve problems. And in doing so, it will bring Serbia and Kosovo closer to the European Union. As you said, I chaired a joint meeting with Prime Minister Dacic and Prime Minister Thaci in Brussels less than two weeks ago, and we agreed to continue the dialogue between the two, and we plan to meet again very soon. It’s vital that all the agreements that are reached through this dialogue are fully enacted by both sides. We’ve seen real progress recently, and I hope – we would like to – we would very much like to see this continue.
But let me stress: The dialogue of Pristina and the normalization of relations, as we call it, which is not asking for recognition, is really important. There are no other realistic or better alternatives, and things will not get easier if difficult discussions are simply put off. This is good for Serbia, and it’s good for Kosovo. It’s good for your future and for the everyday lives of the people in this region. And I do thank President Nikolic for agreeing that Serbia would participate in the dialogue, and to you, Prime Minister, I pay real tribute for the contribution you have already made, and I know will make in the future.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Let me begin –
MODERATOR: Now we are going to hear from the State Secretary, Mrs. Clinton, please.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, I’m sorry for jumping the gun. I’m eager to say how pleased I am to be back in Serbia and to have this opportunity to continue consultations that I started with President Nikolic in New York, and I have carried on today with him and the Prime Minister, alongside Cathy Ashton, because it’s important that the people of Serbia know that we, the United States, are committed to working closely with the European Union to support Serbia’s membership in the EU. And in order to achieve that, we strongly support the dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo.
We are committed to seeing Serbia, and all the countries in this region, realize their aspirations for integration into the European and Euro-Atlantic community. And we share the goal of a whole, free, and democratic Europe that includes Serbia and all its neighbors because we believe this is first and foremost in the interests of the people of Serbia and the people of the region, and it is the surest path to a future of peace, stability, and prosperity. So the United States will do all that we can to support that goal.
Regarding the direct dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, the United States urges all parties to implement the agreements reached to date and to advance concrete measures that will normalize relations. But I want to underscore what Cathy Ashton said: This dialogue does not require Serbia to recognize Kosovo. We understand the constitutional and political difficulty of that occurring. However, the dialogue does call for the two governments to move forward with practical agreements that serve the everyday security and economic interests of all the people of Serbia and Kosovo.
And we applaud the recent meeting between Prime Minister Dacic and Prime Minister Thaci with High Representative Ashton in Brussels. Elevating the level of the talks presents an opportunity for both countries to make long-awaited progress on key issues such as freedom of movement, customs, utilities, government services, and to look at the ways in which the Serbs in Kosovo can be given the reassurance and support they are seeking within Kosovo and still maintain their ties to and their long-lasting commitment to Serbia. Kosovo is an independent nation. The boundaries of Europe will not change. But there is a great deal that can be accomplished by Serbia and Kosovo working together for the betterment of the people of both nations.
I understand that this is difficult, but it goes hand in hand with meeting the needs of the Serbian people. Because in addition to supporting Serbia’s EU membership and the dialogue that has now begun, I reiterated our country’s commitment to the bilateral relationship and partnership the United States has with Serbia. This is my second trip to Belgrade as Secretary of State. It is a signal of our desire to strengthen and deepen our wide-ranging relationship. As the Prime Minister said, we already work together on trade and investment, on security and law enforcement. Our people are connected by bonds of family and culture with so many in Serbia.
We were laughing at the meeting about trying to determine exactly how many Serbian Americans there are. It’s quite a large number, and we’re very proud of that. So we want to explore new avenues for partnership because we want to see the people, particularly the young people of Serbia, flourish in their own country, in Europe, and in the world.
I’ve looked at a lot of the statistics concerning the young people of Serbia, a well-educated, internet savvy, culturally smart population who deserve to have economic opportunities, who deserve to have a future in Europe, who deserve to have every opportunity that every other young European has. That is what the United States wants to see for Serbia and the people of Serbia. We did not come here to set conditions. We did not come here to exercise any control, because we have none. The future of Serbia is up to Serbia. And it’s up to the Serbs yourselves. But the United States cares deeply about that future, and particularly, as I have said, for the smart, young people here in this country.
And so we will maintain our commitment to Serbia and to the region. We will remain focused on helping to build a strong and stable future for the Balkans and for all of Europe. And we will stand as friends and partners of the people of Serbia. And, as the Prime Minister said, we will be looking for new ways to assist this new government and the people who wish to have the kind of future that only you can shape for yourselves.
Cross posted from IIP Digital.