Today’s International Scientific Conference “Serbian-American Relations” hosted by the National Assembly was co-organized by the PFG with the US and the Institute for National and International Security.
The gathering organized with the aim to asses and advance Serbian-American relations and attended by MPs, Serbian and American professors and experts, members of the Ohio National Guard, ministries of the Serbian Government and the diplomatic corps began with a minute’s silence to honour the victims of 9/11.
The conference was opened by National Assembly Deputy Speaker Prof. Dr Vladimir Marinkovic who opined that it is good that the National Assembly and its MPs are actively promoting the Serbia-US relations, which have been expanding in the past few years, as is the fact that Serbia now has friends in all the US institutions. The two countries’ relations are strategically important for Serbia as is the fact that more and more people in Serbia are in favour of their advancement. Marinkovic added that one of the most important results of said cooperation is the increased number of US companies doing business in Serbia, employing over 17,000 people, and the US investing over three billion dollars into Serbia in the last 10 years as well as granting over a billion euros in donations. Deputy Speaker Marinkovic said that Serbia will continue the cooperation and to work with the Serbian diaspora in the US, reminding the attending of the very strong Serbian Caucus in the House and Senate and friends ready to work on the development of the entire region and help make Serbia economically strong and a member of the EU. The National Assembly will continue to develop its relationship with the Congress and Senate, stressed Marinkovic reminding the attending of this year’s 75th anniversary of Operation Halyard, pillar of the two countries’ continued cooperation and past alliance.
The Head of the PFG with the US Dragan Sormaz pointed out the importance of having this meeting at the National Assembly today, on 9/11, which shows that Serbia has been and will continue to be an ally in combating terrorism, adding that no one wants to see a recurrence of what happened in the US 18 years ago. The terrorist attack of 9/11 claimed 3,000 lives, 10% of which were not US citizens, two Serbian nationals among them, said Sormaz. He went on to remind the attending of the alliance between Serbia and the US in the two world wars and the relationship between the wars, as well as the contribution of the Serbian diaspora in the US to the development of cooperation between the two countries. Sormaz opined that continued development of said cooperation is still more than needed as it the appointment of a Special US Representative for the Western Balkans because the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue will never come to a successful end without US involvement. Sormaz said that Serbia and the US should reset their relationships and advance it because the US had been Serbia’s strategic partner and Serbia should become a credible ally to the US.
Dr Darko Trifunovic, Director of the Institute for National and International Security, reminded the attending of the friendly alliance between Serbia and the US through history, saying that Ambassador Kyle Scott’s mandate has seen significant advancement in these relations.
In his keynote address First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivica Dacic said that the conference deals with a complex topic and one of the country’s top foreign-policy priorities. He stated that the relationship between Serbia and the US has been complex from its very beginnings in 1881 and has gone through many stages, different in character, from the alliance in World War I and II to the last three decades which were an especially hard period and a reminder that challenges make it imperative to strive for a continuous dialogue and cooperation. He opined that today this relationship is marked by a positive dynamics and Serbia is eager to prove itself as an active and reliable partner and pillar of regional stability.
“The Republic of Serbia has made it clear that it wants to advance its relationship with the US, grounded in their rich common history, alliances and common strategic commitment to making the region a secure and economically stable democratic part of the united European community. The positive dynamics of the bilateral relations with the US are very high on our list of foreign-policy priorities not only because of the modern challenges but also because of the shared values that our ancestors fought for in the course of our shared history”, said Minister Dacic.
US Ambassador to Serbia Kyle Scott spoke about the 140 years of diplomatic relations and strong historic ties between the two countries. He opined that the prospects for a continuous advancement of relations are good because these relations are characterized by common values as well as struggles. He spoke of the war alliances between Serbia and the US opining that the last three decades should not define the relationship because since 2000 we have worked together to build the vision of Serbia in the global community of nations and the US has given the country over a billion dollars in assistance. He said he wanted Serbia to look to the future and see the big picture in the next 100 years.
Biljana Popovic Ivkovic, State Secretary at the Ministry of the Interior, General Aleksandar Zivkovic, State Secretary at the Ministry of Defence, and Major General John C. Harris Jr. of the Ohio National Guard spoke about advancing political, security and military cooperation between Serbia and the US. Popovic Ivkovic of the Ministry of the Interior reminded the attending of the historic friendship between the two countries in the fight for freedom. Though the relationship had fluctuated through time, Serbia has made it clear that it wants to be the factor of stability in the region, she said emphasizing the importance of cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism, drugs, smuggling, trafficking in human beings and illegal migrations. Popovic Ivkovic stressed that she is proud that Serbia has positioned itself as the leader of the region in the fight against terrorism, hoping that with US cooperation the disputed customs tariffs would be rescinded and the Brussels dialogue continued. General Aleksandar Zivkovic of the Ministry of Defence spoke about the country’s military neutrality and the Serbian Army and Ministry’s cooperation with the US armed forces in defence matters, while Major General John C. Harris Jr. of the Ohio National Guard spoke about his personal and the experience of his soldiers of Serbia and the rich exchange of experiences between the Serbian Amy and the Ohio National Guard via the partnership programme.
The participants of the conference exchanged experiences and views on the Serbian-American relations from a security and geopolitical viewpoint, educational and scientific cooperation, importance of American donations for the development of public services etc.