by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at the 2021 edition of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s Rose-Roth Seminar in Belgrade
Thank you all, dear friends and colleagues at the Serbian parliament and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly for hosting us, today.
And thanks to the Swiss government and Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance for supporting these already traditional Rose-Roth seminars.
We are here today to mark a very special milestone.
15 years of Serbia’s participation in NATO’s Partnership for Peace Programme.
Serbia’s long-standing partnership with NATO is good for the people of Serbia.
It is good for the stability of the region.
And it is also good for the wider transatlantic security.
So this partnership matters to us all.
And I am delighted to have the opportunity to talk to you today about the way forward for our partnership and the wider Western Balkans region.
Just when I attended the Spring Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in May 2021, Secretary General Stoltenberg was hosting President Vučić at NATO Headquarters, from where I am speaking to you today.
At their joint press conference after the meeting, our Secretary General thanked Serbia for its commitment to our cooperation.
And he reiterated NATO’s commitment to a strong and successful partnership with Serbia in return.
Indeed, in recent years, we have deepened and strengthened our partnership in many mutually beneficial ways.
NATO works closely with Serbia to support the reform of your security forces and institutions.
Including through our NATO Military Liaison Office in Belgrade.
And we train Serbian officers to participate in international peacekeeping exercises.
Over the last 20 years, NATO has helped Serbia destroy over 230 tons of obsolete weapons and ammunition.
Through our Science for Peace and Security Programme we have worked together on projects from counter-terrorism to energy security, and from human security to new technologies.
And during the COVID-19 pandemic, NATO Allies provided much-needed medical aid and equipment, including masks, overalls and test kits.
In return, Serbia makes many valuable contributions to our shared security in Europe and around the world.
Taking part in peacekeeping missions with the UN and the European Union.
And working with NATO to train civilian and military medics in Iraq.
A few years ago, Serbia hosted NATO's biggest civil emergency exercise.
Helping NATO Allies and partners to better deal with natural disasters, like floods or forest fires.
NATO and Serbia should continue working together on things that matter to us both.
Including improving our civil emergency planning and combating the threat of radicalisation.
And, of course, in continuing to support a safe and peaceful Western Balkans.
NATO has been committed to peace and stability in the Western Balkans for decades.
This requires our continued collective effort. We all have a role to play in this. And in particular you, as parliamentarians and political leaders.
As our NATO leaders restated at the June Summit of 2021, they reconfirmed the commitment of our Alliance to this region. And this commitment is stronger than ever today.
Our KFOR mission is the most tangible demonstration of these efforts, which has helped to keep the peace for more than 20 years.
KFOR provides a safe and secure environment.
And guarantees freedom of movement for the benefit of all communities in Kosovo, based on the UN Security Council mandate.
NATO Allies are firmly committed to KFOR and to its important mission.
We continue to support the EU-facilitated Dialogue and other efforts to normalise relations between Belgrade and Pristina.
The Belgrade-Pristina dialogue is the platform to find a long-lasting solution that respects the rights of all communities.
And to build a lasting peace that guarantees a better and more prosperous future for all.
NATO’s activities and policies – including our Open Door policy – help to build stability and cooperation in the Western Balkans.
And we now count more NATO Allies than NATO partners in the region.
At the same time, we fully respect Serbia’s policy of military neutrality.
As sovereign nations, we should all retain the right to choose our own path.
As we look to a more dangerous and competitive world, NATO’s partnerships – both near and far, old and new – will only become more important.
The global balance of power is shifting.
Strategic competition between states is increasing.
And our democratic values and the rules-based global order are under pressure like never before.
At the same time, we face more sophisticated cyber-attacks, disinformation, terrorist threats, and the security impacts of climate change.
So, no country or continent is immune, including the countries of the Western Balkans.
And while they are all different challenges, we do not have the luxury of deciding which we will respond to.
We must and we will address them all at the same time.
This is why NATO leaders, at our Brussels Summit this summer, took bold decisions to tackle today’s and tomorrow’s threats.
And to tackle them together, in NATO, and with our network of partners around the world.
In Brussels, we agreed an ambitious agenda for our future security. It is what we call “NATO 2030.”
Concretely, we are continuing to strengthen our deterrence and defence.
By investing more in our security, including in high-end capabilities, and by boosting the readiness of our forces.
At the same time, we are stepping up to face new challenges.
Strengthening our resilience, increasing our cyber defences, and addressing the security impacts of climate change.
To make sure we reduce vulnerabilities and remain ready to address any threat from any direction – whether man-made or natural.
We are also investing in the latest technologies, to sharpen our technological edge.
Just last month, we took concrete steps to establish a new Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic and a billion-dollar Innovation Fund in NATO.
Together, we are continuing to tackle instability and fight terrorism, by stepping up our training and capacity building support for partners.
And finally, we are deepening and broadening our relations with other countries and organisations that share our vision and democratic values.
To safeguard the rules-based international order that underpins our peace and security in this more dangerous and more competitive world than ever.
So, our longstanding partnerships with the countries of the Western Balkans, including with Serbia, are a vital part of this.
I know we can count on our continued strong relationship.
And I look forward to 15 more years – and even more! – of a constructive and fruitful NATO-Serbia partnership that brings tangible benefits to us all.
So thank you – hvala!
I wish you very productive days in Belgrade.
And I look forward to be in person in one of our next meetings.
Good luck. We can count on you and you can count on us.