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Minister Selakovic speaks for Politika: The year of rejuvenation of Serbian diplomacy

Serbia's foreign policy positions are naturally being adjusted to the new developments at the international level, but our foreign policy priorities have not changed in a long time. Our top and most important interest is to preserve good-neighbourly relations and stability and peace in the region and, in the same context, to find a peaceful and just solution to the problems in Kosovo and Metohija, Serbian Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic said in an interview with Politika daily.

Another lasting interest of ours is full membership of the European Union, because this is the type of society we strive for. At the bilateral level, our goal is to strengthen ties with traditional friends, the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China, but also to build new partner relations with the United States. One of the most important tasks of our foreign policy is to improve the position and protect the rights and identity of our people in the region, as well as to provide various types of support to Serbs in the diaspora. All these are very important and more often than not complementary goals, Nikola Selakovic pointed out.

What kind of relations do you expect Serbia to have with the new U.S. administration?

It is too early to speculate about this in public. The new presidential administration in Washington is currently preoccupied with internal issues and this will be the case for some time. There are people in the team of President Joseph Biden who have dealt with our region, and it is likely that the Balkans and Serbia will be the focus of the U.S. foreign policy at some point. I will remind you that President Vucic and President Biden not so long ago had very substantive talks in Belgrade, after which our President stated that he had the opportunity to talk to someone extremely well acquainted with the situation in this part of the world and an extraordinarily prepared interlocutor. Taking their personal relationship into account, but also the importance of enhancing the ties between Serbia and the United States, we have reason to expect that a meeting between the two presidents will be organized in the foreseeable future. I am sure that the nature and dynamics of the relations between Serbia and the United States will be influenced by the fact that Ambassador Marko Djuric now represents us in Washington, whose presence at President Biden's inauguration ceremony is an important signal and, I believe, a harbinger of positive developments in bilateral relations between our two countries.

How would you describe our country's relations with Moscow, Brussels and Beijing?

Russia is our traditional friend and that friendship goes beyond merely political ties. These are deep spiritual, cultural and civilizational bonds, and it is only natural that we have a mutual interest in improving those ties, even though they are at a very high level. We have a relationship with the People's Republic of China which is, in addition to the sincere iron-clad friendship between our peoples and high political representatives, based on deep trust and mutual support. Full membership of the European Union is Serbia's strategic orientation that all our friends are aware of, but our country does not forget its friendships, but strengthens and promotes them instead, and approaches all with honesty and no ulterior motives. In this context, we do not seek any preferential treatment, but only the right to freely and independently make decisions about our future and relations with all who respect us.

Could Serbia pursue a different foreign policy than the one it is pursuing at the moment?

It is always possible to have a different policy, just look at the foreign policy of Serbia ten, twenty or thirty years ago, examine the results at that time and you will realize how irretrievably expensive that policy turned out to be. Whether a policy is right, at either foreign or domestic level, is measured through its results and effect on the lives of citizens and the fate of the entire state. Our foreign policy priorities are not being defined on a whim, but are instead the result of a serious and deep examination of our complex position and strategic thinking about ways to improve it. Today, Serbia has a better international reputation and credibility than two decades ago, and the main reason for that is that our results have shown how serious and responsible we are as a country. That kind of credibility is not achieved by trickery, but only by hard and well-thought-out work on oneself. And I need to emphasize on this occasion as well that the main inspiration for such an attitude towards politics, the state and its future comes from none other than President Aleksandar Vucic. As Minister of Foreign Affairs, I have the opportunity on a daily basis to see the level of appreciation and respect President Vucic enjoys beyond the borders of our country.

When can we expect the vacant posts of Serbian ambassadors and consuls across the globe to be filled?

That is one of the main tasks for 2021. This will be a year of reinvigoration and I believe also rejuvenation of Serbian diplomacy. Our country, given its size, has a fairly extensive diplomatic network, which provides it with great opportunities for deepening political and economic relations with countries in all parts of the world. But we need more fresh and energetic staff, people who will be the most honourable representatives of a modern and dynamic Serbia. There are such people in Serbia, and we do need a serious rejuvenation, in order to avoid wide generation gaps in our personnel, and to lay the foundations of a modern career diplomacy.

How would you describe your relationship with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic?

President Vucic and I are, in addition to having close and friendly relations, by virtue of the work we do and our constitutional competencies, the closest collaborators in the realization of Serbia's foreign policy goals. This allows me to talk to him often, and on many occasions learn a lot of new and important things. President Vucic is a man who inspires people around him with his strategic and visionary approach to politics, and I am proud to have had the opportunity to be part of his closest team of associates over the years, and to have had him as a kind of political mentor. In any case, his vision of Serbia as a modern, progressive and prosperous state, which independently and on its own will decides on its destiny, is my wish as well and key motivation for political engagement. For only such Serbia is a country that its own citizens, as well as Serbs beyond our borders, can confidently rely on, while also being an inspiration to the entire region.

Source: Politika, 26 January 2021


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