Joint press point
with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Prime Minister of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić
Good afternoon and Dobar Dan.
And Prime Minister Vucic, dear Aleksandar, welcome to NATO HQ, it’s really good to see you again.
We just had an excellent meeting of the North Atlantic Council and this is the first time ever a Serbian Prime Minister meets the North Atlantic Council and I think that just shows how we are now moving forward together on the path of strengthening the partnership and the cooperation between NATO and Serbia.
And I am personally very proud of my bonds and my friendship with you and with Serbia, and therefore I really appreciate to have you here today and also the opportunity we had this morning to have a breakfast together and to address a wide range of issues and the common challenges we face, Serbia and NATO.
And Serbia is at the heart of the Balkan region, which is at the heart of Europe. And Serbia contributes in many different ways to regional stability and international stability. And Serbia is an exporter of stability. And therefore I really welcome your many different efforts. I welcome the reforms you are implanting at home, we are impressed by the strong economic growth and the strength of the Serbian economy. We welcome your personal engagement in taking the dialogue with Pristina forward and also the way Serbia has addressed and played a key role in addressing the refugee and migrant crisis. And we also welcome the fact that Serbia contributes with troops and peace-keeping missions in Cyprus, in Lebanon and in Africa. So Serbia is an integral part of the European family. We share the same values. Human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
And therefore I really appreciate that we have this opportunity to address also common challenges.
I strongly believe in the potential of NATO-Serbia cooperation. We can remember the past, but look to the future. As I said when I visited Belgrade, the purpose and the aim of the NATO air campaign back in 1999 was to protect civilians, and we did so.
The loss of innocent lives was a tragedy and I deeply regret it.
Today, we face common security challenges. We are working together in many different ways. And I welcome the pragmatic cooperation we are developing between NATO and Serbia. The Individual Partnership Action Plan that we agreed last year is an important tool. The NATO Trust Fund is important, it’s up and running, and we help dispose dangerous ammunition. We also work together when it comes to training peacekeepers and I’m glad that NATO has been able to train Serbian troops during peace-keeping operations or missions. And I also welcome the cooperation we have in many other different areas.
We fully respect the neutrality of Serbia, that’s your sovereign national decision but based on that full respect of your neutrality we welcome that we are able to strengthen our cooperation.
We also support the efforts of Serbia to move towards the EU. And we think that’s good for Serbia, it’s good for the EU and it’s good for NATO, stability and cooperation in Europe.
So once again thank you for spending time with us, thank you so much for hosting me in Belgrade last year and thank you for spending time with all the 28 nations and Montenegro in the North Atlantic Council.
So Aleksandar, please, you have the floor.
Q: Marina Maksimovic, Serbian News Agency. For Secretary General you stated that NATO and Serbia share the common challenges, can you name them little bit concrete? What those challenges are and are there some common actions in place already and for the Prime Minister…
INTERPRETER: Since we discussed challenges within security have you discussed security situation in Kosovo and Metohija here and the role that NATO has in providing peace and securing Serbian minority in Kosovo and Metohija here?
JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General): Serbia and NATO face the same security challenges because Serbia is at the heart of Europe and we share the same neighbourhood. We see all the instability and the violence to the south, North Africa, Iraq, Syria and the consequences also for Europe with terrorism with instability and, not least, challenges related to the returning foreign fighters and we also, of course face together, the consequences of the migrant and the refugee crisis and we are addressing them together in different ways. We work together when it comes to the migrant and refugee crisis and I’d like to commend Prime Minister Vucic and Serbia for what they have done to address this challenge, which is important for the whole of Europe.
We also work, for instance, to stabilize our neighbourhood in different ways. Serbia is contributing with the troops for different peacekeeping operations and missions. NATO helped train Serbian peacekeepers and Serbia is present in Lebanon and Cyprus and in Africa with peacekeepers, that’s of course important for Serbia but it’s also important for Europe and the whole of NATO, and we also work together on other issues and we strengthen our bi-lateral cooperation through, what we call, the individual partnership action plan. So, we also discussed today the possibility of also working even closer with Serbia in, for instance, training forces or Iraqi soldiers that can contribute to the fight against ISIL. It’s too early to say if we’re going to be able to do so, but at least that’s one of the issues that is on the agenda. So, Serbia is an exporter of stability and Serbia is a close partner of NATO. Based on that, of course we respect the neutrality and sovereign decisions of Serbia, but as a sovereign neutral nation, we speak and we talk and we cooperate with Serbia in a very good way.
ALEKSANDER VUCIC (Prime Minister, Republic of Serbia): [Speaks in Serbian - Interpreted]
Yes, we discussed of course about the KFOR’s role in Kosovo and it is of great importance to us, and we asked both today as well, as we did many times before, we asked Mr. Stoltenberg and all the Ambassadors and representatives of countries here in the NATO for stay of KFOR for remaining, remain of KFOR troops in Kosovo because we have some letters of guarantees for the North of Kosovo. But our people south of the river, Ibar in south and central Kosovo, and Metohija here, mostly realize on KFOR and this story about little Dimitri from Laplasela (sic), is actually about the story who can they who they can rely on, there’s no Serbian armed forces or Serbian police ever since 1999, so they rely on KFOR, and we are very grateful for that Mr. Stoltenberg and I mentioned that many times. So, we don’t have any problems with that and don’t forget that, if there hadn’t been for their certain guarantees, it would be difficult (sic) come to the process agreement, so our relation is quite clear and I would particularly like to underline the relationship towards the preserving of cultural and religious heritage in Kosovo and Metohija here. Our monasteries, our churches, something that is a value not only for Serbia and for Serbs but also for the UNESCO and for all the nations in the globe, once again I would like to thank them for that.
MODERATOR: Sunday Times.
Q: Thank you. Bojan Pancevski, the Sunday Times. Question for both the Prime Minister and the Secretary General.
[Speaks in Serbian - Interpreted] Prime Minister, State Prosecutor published names of some Russian cities and saying (sic) Montenegro who allegedly as, Montenegro government says, tried to some sort of a coup after the elections. Is it known who those people are? They were named by the Prosecutor so whether they were deported from Belgrade or they left by themselves?
Are you concerned that there might have been a Russian engineered attempt to overthrow the government in Montenegro because of of a push to stop the country from joining NATO next year as planned? Thank you.
ALEKSANDER VUCIC: [Speaks in Serbian - Interpreted]
Serbia has done its’ job responsibly, professionally. Serbia delivered all the evidence and all the important data it had it actually reached. Serbia actually brought the person to the Justice and actually delivered the person who gave the most of the information for everything it was preparing for Montenegro. I wouldn’t go into further details, this was not an easy situation for us because, even for me personally, because the first moment I reacted differently but you know I don’t even think of participating in any way even in staying quiet regarding commitment of the most severe offenses. I believe that honourable people should not do that. We acted responsibly as a State, as a country. Embassy’s Radulovic Montenegro Ambassador said that today and that kind of cooperation with the Prosecutors office and other authorities of Montenegro will be continued so Serbia is not, and will never be, a place where some criminal offense will be prepared for other countries.
JENS STOLTENBERG: Every nation has the right to decide its own path including what kind of security arrangements or alliances it wants to be part of, so NATO fully respect Serbia and other nations that do not strive for a NATO membership, but of course Montenegro which has, through democratic processes, decided that it wants to be part of NATO, 28 NATO allies have welcomed Montenegro. We signed the Accession Treaty and now, more and more of our Parliaments are, are ratifying the Treaty, so Montenegro is on the path to become a full member very soon. They are already participating in our meetings and this is of course an issue which has to be decided by Montenegro and the 28 members of the alliance. No one else has the right to intervene or to try to interfere in the decision making process of the 28 allies and Montenegro. It’s up to us to decide and we have decided to invite Montenegro. So any interference into that process is something we do not accept, and of course, any interference into elections in any nation, sovereign nation, is absolutely unacceptable and therefore, I welcome the open investigation, both in Montenegro and in Serbia, related to the attempted interference and coup which we have seen taking place in Montenegro but it’s not for me to judge, that’s for the investigation to find out the facts and then to hold those behind responsible. We have seen that Montenegro had strengthened has strengthened its’ security institutions, it’s democratic institutions as part of its reform process towards NATO membership, I welcome that and I look forward to welcoming Montenegro as a full member in the alliance very soon. Let me also then just add that I also very much appreciate the cooperation we saw between KFOR and Serbia in saving the life of the young child which was brought from Kosovo to Belgrade for medical treatment and I’m also glad to hear that condition, the baby’s condition is stable. I think this just illustrates the importance of KFOR, the way we work, and also the importance of the close cooperation between KFOR and Serbia in saving a life of, the life of a young child.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. This concludes this press point. Thank you.