27 October 2010 - NATO INTEGRATION, KOSOVO TOP AGENDA OF PARLIAMENTARIANS’ VISIT TO SERBIA
Serbia’s Euro-Atlantic integration aspirations, Kosovo, and the situation in South Serbia, were the key themes of the visit of a delegation of 8 members of Parliament from the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s Sub-Committee on Democratic Governance to Serbia on 22-23 October. The visit took place at a key juncture for the country’s future, as Belgrade prepares for new talks with Pristina, and the government awaited a decision by the Council of the European Union (EU) to refer Serbia’s membership application to the Commission for an opinion.
Realism and pragmatism were at the heart of the current government’s approach to NATO, the delegation heard. Serbian parliamentarians and defence officials alike emphasized how the NATO debate in Serbia was still very emotional, marked by the 1999 Kosovo air campaign, which left Belgrade with scars still visible today. Public support for NATO membership was low, at 20-25%. Parliamentarians of the ruling coalition therefore called for understanding, time and patience, as the current government attempts to restore a rational and pragmatic public discussion on NATO. While recognising that the 2007 parliamentary declaration on neutrality was binding on the current government, and that the issue of NATO membership would have to be decided jointly by state authorities and the population, parliamentarians from the ruling parties made it clear that they saw membership as the only conceivable end to Serbia’s NATO integration path.
In the meantime, the current government favoured a progressive approach, aimed at using, to the fullest extent possible, the opportunities provided by the Partnership for Peace, including through the conclusion of an Individual Partnership Action Plan with NATO in 2011. Public diplomacy was seen as the biggest problem at the political level. State Secretary of Defence Dusan Spasojevic thus called on Allied nations to “work together [with
Defence reform and modernisation of the Serbian armed forces was also one of the government’s key priorities in relation to NATO. The adoption of new strategic documents had accelerated the path towards a full professionalisation of the army – effective as of January 2011 – and an increased participation in international peace missions – including recent deployments to UN missions in
Realism also characterised discussions on
The key word in the delegation’s discussions on Kosovo was “compromise”. Serbian parliamentarians and government officials all stressed the need to solve this issue peacefully through dialogue, and Belgrade’s readiness to enter new talks with Pristina, starting with technical matters and then moving on to more difficult issues. According to Minister for Kosovo and Metohija Goran Bogdanovic, future negotiations were a “historic act that will finally provide reconciliation”. Parliamentarians emphasised that reaching a compromise was essential to achieving stability, and that it would also help
Commenting on the situation in North Kosovo, Minister Bogdanovic reminded delegates that the North was a compact entity, and that its infrastructure had always been turned towards
The delegation’s visit to Bujanovac, one of the three Albanian-majority municipalities in
The delegation also visited the new “South” Base, a state of the art military facility and the only one of this kind in
Findings from this visit will inform discussions on the report by Marc Angel (Luxembourg) “The Western Balkans, 15 Years after Dayton: Achievements and Prospects” [208 CDSDG 10 E] at the NATO PA’s upcoming Annual Session in
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