West too often applies double standards towards Serbia: Deputy Foreign Minister (Part-2)

West too often applies double standards towards Serbia: Deputy Foreign Minister (Part-2)

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Russian Journalist Alina Arsenieva Interviewed Serbian Deputy Foreign Minister Nemanja Starovic

Alina Arsenieva with Serbian Deputy Foreign Minister Nemanja Starovic Image @zaabbas

In the first part of the interview, Serbia’s Deputy Foreign Minister and State Secretary of the Ministry, Nemanja Starovic, spoke about the pressure on Serbia from the European Union and the United States on the issue of anti-Russian sanctions and explained why Belgrade would never join them.

West too often applies double standards towards Serbia: Deputy Foreign Minister

In the second part, the diplomat explains Serbia’s relations with the countries of the region, as well as the EU and the PRC, talks about the stalled negotiations with representatives of the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo and the double standards of the West, and also comments on the statement of the British Secretary of Defense on the allegedly signed in Belgrade agreement on countering assistance “The evil influence of Russia in the Balkans.”

Alina Arsenieva:  What is Belgrade’s attitude to the adoption by the Parliament of Montenegro of the resolution on the genocide in Srebrenica?

Nemanja Starovic: First of all, I must say that the adoption of declarations is the sovereign right of each state, and we cannot interfere in the internal affairs of Montenegro. However, it should be noted that the adoption of this resolution contradicts the opinion and expectations of the majority of Montenegrin citizens, which was clearly shown by the results of the last parliamentary elections on August 30, 2020.

I assume that this is about the implementation of a larger plan, and we will see the same in the coming weeks and months in other countries of the region. The global goal is to once again plunge Serbia into the darkness of the 90s. With our heads held high and with serious results, we are passing through the third decade of the 21st century with dignity. And since those who do not wish us well, cannot stand in the way of our obvious economic development, economic convergence with other European countries, cannot destroy the successfully created authority of official Belgrade in the international arena, then the only thing left for them is to try to immerse us again. into the chaos of the 90s.

We strongly oppose this. I would repeat what the President of the Republic of Serbia said to our compatriots in Montenegro and all the Balkans: “Head up! Those who try to humiliate or belittle you will never succeed. “

Alina Arsenieva: Before the adoption of the resolution on Srebrenica, Prime Minister of Montenegro Zdravko Krivokapic has repeatedly stated that Montenegro “must maintain the best possible relationship with Serbia.” Are his words at variance with deeds, or have some steps been taken in this direction?

Nemanja Starovic: Of course, we expected that the coming to power of the new government in Montenegro would be a new stage in relations between our countries. Especially considering the fact that the new ruling coalition consists primarily of political parties, which have received the electoral support of the representatives of the Serbian people in Montenegro. And even according to the results of the last census, this is approximately 30% of the population.

Unfortunately, our hopes and expectations did not come true. We see a number of decisions by the government of Montenegro, which obviously do not benefit the relations with the Republic of Serbia. I must emphasize one fact that is completely incomprehensible to us: the government of Zdravko Krivokapich has not yet withdrawn the decision of the previous government to expel our ambassador Vladimir Bozovic from Podgorica and declare him persona non grata.

We see no reason why this was not done. A number of other decisions followed, which do not benefit the development of our bilateral relations. Disappointment for Belgrade is less of a problem, however.

The biggest problem is the disappointment of the representatives of the Serb people in Montenegro, who, apparently, were deceived. I mean the intentions voiced before the historic elections of August 30, 2020, and the actions of the Zdravko Krivokapic government from the moment of the elections to the present day.

Alina Arsenieva: Is the ultimate goal of declaring the Republika Srpska a “product of genocide”, as some analysts suggest?

Nemanja Starovic: Of course, we expected that the coming to power of the new government in Montenegro would be a new stage in relations between our countries. Especially considering the fact that the new ruling coalition consists primarily of political parties, which have received the electoral support of the representatives of the Serbian people in Montenegro. And even according to the results of the last census, this is approximately 30% of the population. There is a clear intention of political Sarajevo, which we have seen for many years. We are talking about the dominant political currents among the Bosniacs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which, unfortunately, receive support from a significant part of the political West. Everything is moving in the direction of the unitarization of Bosnia and Herzegovina, so that the Republika Srpska would be deprived of any powers through the formula “one person – one vote”. Thus, the collective rights of the Serbian and Croatian peoples, which are determined by the Dayton Agreements, would be leveled (since Bosnians make up 50% of the population of BiH, and Serbs are only 32%, Croats – only 14%. – Note by FAN).

The entire Serbian people in Serbia, in the Republika Srpska, and in all the Balkans are immensely grateful to our friends from the Russian Federation, who with the help of a veto at the UN in 2015 prevented the adoption of a resolution proposed by Great Britain that would define the Serbs as a “genocidal people”

One of the dimensions in which this plan is being implemented is an attempt to label the Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina as collective guilt, stating that the Republika Srpska was formed through some kind of “genocide” and therefore has no right to exist. Of course, this will not be successful.

West too often applies double standards towards Serbia: Deputy Foreign Minister

We very often faced the fact that vital decisions for our country, our people and the future of all states in the region, and especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina, are made by individuals in the West who have no understanding and awareness of either historical truth or reality, nor the realities of our region. Yugoslavia is placed on a par with the colonial empires, which is the prism of their personal experience, and not the historical reality on the Balkan Peninsula.

Many say that the Serbs “once came to Bosnia and Herzegovina”, not realizing that they are an autochthonous people who have lived in this territory for more than a thousand years. Thus, any attempts to impose the stigma of collective guilt and to bring the existence of the Republika Srpska into some kind of “genocidal design” will fail. We will not allow anything of the kind.

In this regard, I must emphasize one more point. The entire Serbian people in Serbia, in the Republika Srpska, and in all the Balkans are immensely grateful to our friends from the Russian Federation, who with the help of a veto at the UN in 2015 prevented the adoption of a resolution proposed by Great Britain that would define the Serbs as a “genocidal people” … We are confident that if such initiatives arise again, our friends from the Russian Federation will support our country and our people in the same way.

Alina Arsenieva: Returning to the problem of Kosovo. How can you negotiate with Pristina if its representatives demand exclusively bilateral recognition? They have not fulfilled any of the conditions of the Brussels Treaty, while Serbia has fulfilled all obligations. Why does the West turn a blind eye to this, blaming exclusively Belgrade for everything?

Nemanja Starovic: It is extremely difficult to negotiate in such conditions. This was also evident at the recent meeting in Brussels, when the dialogue was resumed after months of stagnation.

I think that if there was anything positive about this meeting in Brussels, it is that the European mediators, including the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell , and the EU Special Representative at the talks, Miroslav Lajcak, could see with their own eyes what the lack of understanding of reality and common sense was the new Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti .

His only idea, the only purpose of his speech at this stage of the negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina was an attempt to obstruct, make any dialogue meaningless and provoke our side, official Belgrade, so that we step back from the negotiating table.

Of course, we saw through his intentions and did not fall for these provocations. However, the essence of his speech was that he did not accept anything that had been agreed upon during ten years of dialogue. He believes that the story begins in February 2021, from the day he won early elections to the parliament of our southern region, and refuses to fulfill any obligations arising from agreements that have been agreed or already signed.

we are still waiting for concrete steps from the EU to follow this positive rhetoric. After all, the European Union is not only a mediator, but also a guarantor of agreements since 2013 – the first framework agreement and all subsequent ones.

From the technical point of view, this greatly facilitates our situation – after all, it is obvious to everyone, even European representatives, that official Belgrade is a serious, responsible and trustworthy party that fulfills its obligations, and that the problem is unequivocally and unequivocally from the opposite side of the negotiating table.

West too often applies double standards towards Serbia: Deputy Foreign Minister

That is, in a technical sense, this strengthens our position. But, unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world, and over the past years and decades, we have observed many times that the political West too often applies double standards. If suddenly, for some reason, we would refuse to fulfill our obligations, the sky would collapse on our heads!

So, we see a reasonable and acceptable for us rhetoric of the European mediators, who clearly indicated that it is Pristina that creates problems in the dialogue process, and that the dialogue is actually sabotaging. However, we are still waiting for concrete steps from the EU to follow this positive rhetoric. After all, the European Union is not only a mediator, but also a guarantor of agreements since 2013 – the first framework agreement and all subsequent ones. Unfortunately, there is no such determination for concrete steps in Brussels at the moment.

Even the previous administration of Donald Trump, represented by the President ‘s Special Representative, Richard Grenell, showed a much greater willingness to take concrete actions, with which it punished Pristina for its unconstructive approach. We are not seeing anything like this from the side of Brussels.

I will say one more thing. We are very cautious and concerned about the fact that the dialogue is in a kind of stagnation, not at our desire, but due to a lack of goodwill on the part of Pristina. Experience has taught us: when the dialogue is stagnant, when there is no progress, the Pristina side tends to take unilateral steps, up to the threat of security to the Serb population in Kosovo and Metohija, as well as to other residents of the region who consider Serbia their homeland.

Unfortunately, we have seen many times that Pristina is used to the fact that her one-sided and often aggressive actions were sometimes even encouraged by her sponsors in the political West. Suffice it to recall the tragic events of March 2004, the terrible pogrom of the Serb population in Kosovo and Metohija. As a result, the political West abandoned the principle of “standards before status” and unilaterally granted the Albanians the desired status of the so-called “independence” of Kosovo and Metohija just a few years later.

Serbia is now on the path of rapid economic development, which was not prevented even by the coronavirus pandemic. But we are also talking about what we often call a “fully functioning state” – and we managed to build it. So, this is the economy and the cohesion of society – and everything that constitutes the elements of a strong state. 

That is why Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Brussels asked both Albin Kurti and European mediators to prevent any danger for the Serbian population in Kosovo and Metohija. It was not a threat, it was not even a warning. It was a gracious request from the President from the clear position that Serbia is no longer so weak to allow anyone to abuse our compatriots and silently watch the new columns of refugees. We will not allow this.

Alina Arsenieva: So the situation has changed?

Nemanja Starovic: I think the situation has changed not only in the very sphere of international relations. First of all, compared to the period of 10, 15 or 20 years ago, the changes are obvious in its own internal capabilities, which the Republic of Serbia has managed to build from 2012 to the present day.

This is primarily about the economy. Serbia is now on the path of rapid economic development, which was not prevented even by the coronavirus pandemic. But we are also talking about what we often call a “fully functioning state” – and we managed to build it. So, this is the economy and the cohesion of society – and everything that constitutes the elements of a strong state. For example, the President of Serbia often emphasizes that now the Armed Forces of the Republic of Serbia are at least 20 times stronger than they were just 10 or 12 years ago. This does not pose a threat to anyone in our region, we have no aggressive intentions.

West too often applies double standards towards Serbia: Deputy Foreign Minister

We want never to be shot again in this region. After all, we all suffered in one way or another from the wars in the 90s, and even after them. By effectively strengthening the power of our armed forces, we strive to ensure that no one even thinks about the possibility of threatening our state and our people in a violent way.

Alina Arsenieva: How is cooperation with China developing? Why is Brussels opposed to Beijing’s influence in the Balkans, while the EU countries are developing cooperation with China?

Nemanja Starovic: This is a very important issue for us, taking into account the fact that our cooperation with the People’s Republic of China is more and more intensive from year to year. If we summarize all the areas of our cooperation, including, of course, foreign direct investment from China and other financial relations with the aim of developing our road and energy infrastructure, we will receive a package that amounts to about $ 10 billion. For a state of our size and level of economic development, this is an extremely, extremely significant amount.

I want to note one more point. Quite often in European capitals they talk about the so-called “debt trap” in which countries developing economic relations with China may find themselves. In the case of Serbia, this cannot happen, given that all our projects of economic cooperation with China are so-called “healthy projects.”

Of course, suspicion arises among our partners from the EU because of such intensive cooperation between official Belgrade and Beijing. However, we constantly point out that the volume of our cooperation with the People’s Republic of China in terms of investment or trade exchange is more than a hundred times less than countries such as Germany, France or Italy, which have been cooperating with China for many years.

And here we again observe a policy of double standards. What they allow themselves, they want to restrict us, in accordance with the Latin proverb “what is allowed to Jupiter is not allowed to the bull.” We do not agree to be the bull from this proverb, and constantly emphasize our right to develop cooperation with the People’s Republic of China on real and constructive grounds.

I want to note one more point. Quite often in European capitals they talk about the so-called “debt trap” in which countries developing economic relations with China may find themselves. In the case of Serbia, this cannot happen, given that all our projects of economic cooperation with China are so-called “healthy projects.” There is no danger of a “debt trap”, we are thousands of miles away from it.

Perhaps this can happen with some neighboring countries. But when it comes to Serbia, the size of our debt in the ratio of public debt to GDP is less than 60%. This corresponds to the Maastricht criteria, which are valid in the European Union itself, and which violate about half of the EU countries.

So, we are not exceeding the maximum debt limit despite the fact that we are developing our infrastructure and despite the fact that during the coronavirus pandemic we have invested more than 8 billion euros in support of our industry and our citizens. With this in mind, there can be no question that Serbia will find itself in a “debt trap” due to cooperation with the People’s Republic of China.

As a historian and political scientist, I can say that relations between great powers, primarily the United States and China, are now increasingly viewed through the prism of the so-called “Thucydides trap”, which we have known since the time of the great ancient historian, the historian of the Peloponnesian War

Alina Arsenieva: Is there a connection between Brussels’ opposition to Beijing’s influence in the Balkans and the fact that China has recently been designated as an enemy of NATO, like Russia?

Nemanja Starovic: We, as a state with few opportunities in the international arena, unfortunately, cannot influence relations between the great powers. But, of course, we are watching what is happening. Often, observing this relationship, we are guided by the well-known African proverb “when elephants fight, the grass suffers; when elephants make love, the grass suffers. ” We try to stay away from all these relationships, to the extent that this is possible.

Of course, we are watching everything that happens, and we are not happy when it comes to aggravation between the great powers, which are either our traditional friends, or the states with which we strive to further develop and strengthen relations.

As a historian and political scientist, I can say that relations between great powers, primarily the United States and China, are now increasingly viewed through the prism of the so-called “Thucydides trap”, which we have known since the time of the great ancient historian, the historian of the Peloponnesian War – thus he explained the inevitability clashes between ancient Sparta and Athens.

Many now view the relationship between America and the People’s Republic of China precisely through this prism — a power with an established status as a world hegemon cannot calmly watch the sharp rise of another power that is challenging it. Nevertheless, I hope that reason will prevail, and solutions will be found, how to resolve differences peacefully, and the world will not move in the direction of major conflicts.

West too often applies double standards towards Serbia: Deputy Foreign Minister

Alina Arsenieva: What signal does British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace send when he says that an agreement has been signed in Serbia to counter the “malicious influence of Russia”?

Nemanja Starovic: I must say that we were extremely surprised by this statement of the British minister. We urgently analyzed all the documents that were worked through and considered during all our meetings with partners from the UK, and came to an unequivocal conclusion, which we announced publicly.

Not a single clause of the agreements that have been concluded mentions either the Russian Federation or anything that could even in the broadest sense be interpreted as a so-called “malevolent influence”. We very quickly and decisively denied this statement.

Alina Arsenieva is a renowned Russian Journalist with a focus on Russian and European approaches towards the Post-Soviet Space.

This content originally belongs to riafan.ru

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