In Belgrade, parliamentarians hail strength of NATO-Serbia relations and call for increased dialogue to solve remaining challenges in Western Balkans

18 November 2021

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On the occasion of the 15th anniversary of Serbia’s membership in the NATO Partnership for Peace, 43 parliamentarians from NATO and partner countries celebrated the successes of this constructive and mutually beneficial relationship.  

Prime Minister Ana Brnabic told participants that Serbia’s partnership with NATO has developed significantly since its inception in 2006. “Serbia does not aspire to become a NATO member but it wishes to increase its cooperation with the Alliance to contribute to preserving peace and stability in the region and the world”, she added. 

The country collaborates with the Alliance across many areas, such as defence transformation, military interoperability, civil preparedness, science and technology, integrity and transparency, and gender equality. Addressing participants through video, NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana stressed that “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”.  

NATO PA President Gerald E. Connolly (United States) highlighted that the long-standing relationship between the Serbian National Assembly and the NATO PA has contributed to fostering greater mutual understanding. He also underscored that values-based cooperation is indispensable to ensure the stability and security of both the Western Balkans and the Euro-Atlantic area. “As democratic societies – inside and outside the Alliance – have come under persistent pressure”, he noted, “we must recommit ourselves to safeguarding and defending our democratic institutions”. 

The Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence Nebojsa Stefanovic stressed that the advancement of regional cooperation is indispensable to the economic development of Western Balkan countries. Initiatives in this area are complementary to European integration efforts and can contribute to enhancing the quality of life of all citizens in the region.  

Regional cooperation is also a key factor in ensuring the stability and security of the region.  

Participants discussed, in particular, prospects for further progress in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue and for overcoming the current political crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They agreed that resolving differences through dialogue is crucial for the stability of both the Western Balkans and the Euro-Atlantic area.  

Nemanja Starovic, State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia, stressed his government’s commitment to addressing remaining political and security challenges in the region through dialogue and praised KFOR for its role as a provider of stability in Kosovo. Gyula Somogyi, Minister Plenipotentiary and Chief Political Advisor to the KFOR Commander, added that “KFOR remains committed to providing a safe and secure environment for all communities in Kosovo.” 

Speakers and participants recognised the serious political challenges confronting Bosnia and Herzegovina at this time and the importance for all political forces to cooperate for Bosnia and Herzegovina to make further progress towards European and Euro-Atlantic integration. At the same time, the discussion highlighted the many obstacles which could hamper an agreement between internal political actors on the way forward. 

Both State Secretary Starovic and Josip Brkic, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, emphasised that all countries in the region share a common strategic vision based on integration into the European Union, but recognised that they must remain committed to the reform process to progress on this path. In turn, Ambassador Emmanuele Giaufret, Head of the EU Delegation to the Republic of Serbia reaffirmed the EU’s “very strong political commitment” to the enlargement process, noting that “Europe is not complete without the Western Balkans”. 

During this three-day seminar which took place from 15 to 17 November, government officials, diplomats, and local and international experts also addressed domestic economic challenges and opportunities, the interference and destabilisation efforts of external players in the region, and the challenges related to media freedom, disinformation, environmental degradation, COVID-19, and cyberattacks. 

This seminar was the NATO PA’s 101st Rose-Roth Seminar and was organised with the generous support of the Swiss Government and the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance. The main goals of Rose-Roth seminars are to promote exchange and mutual understanding and to assist partner parliaments to develop the tools for effective and democratic parliamentary oversight of defence and security. 

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