INTERVIEW Nikola Selaković: We do not agree that the recognition of Kosovo is the only Serbian choice

This is how the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikola Selaković, sees the process of resolving the Kosovo issue, in which the new head of the White House, Joseph Biden, gave the wind in Pristina’s back a few days ago, telling Belgrade that it should focus on mutual recognition.

Biden included his “instruction” on Kosovo in his congratulations on Serbia’s Statehood Day. Has our state reacted through diplomatic channels to this, according to many, inappropriate gesture?

– I publicly said what I had about that greeting card. What will you do more than the reaction of the Minister of Foreign Affairs?

* Even after Biden’s speech, you do not rule out the possibility that he will be inclined to reach a compromise …

– Biden knows this part of Europe and its problems well over the decades. However, they cannot be solved in one go. I am not one of those who will say that we have an automatic bad position of the new American administration towards us. I am convinced that with our state policy, which has shown great perseverance and rationality, and with our new ambassador in Washington, we will be able to work much harder to attract interlocutors who will be ready to listen to us. We will point out that, no matter how well someone knew the situation in the region from the period of the 1990s, that this is 2021 and that a lot has changed. Serbia has changed, with which we can talk seriously. It behaves patiently and responsibly in the region and is a key factor in maintaining peace, political and economic stability.

I LISTENED WITH VUCIC TO THE RECORDED Eavesdropping

* WHAT epilogue of the wiretapping scandal of President Vučić do you expect?

– I am a close associate of the president and I had the opportunity to find out more than a year ago that he was wiretapped and to listen to some of those conversations together with him. And I want to stop with this with every comment on this case and leave the answering to the competent state bodies.

* Did you have information that Vučić was being assassinated at the opening of the monument to Stefan Nemanja?

– It is clear to anyone who observes what is happening in Serbia that President Aleksandar Vučić is the generator of everything positive that our country has managed to do in the previous period. It has become clear to someone who has a bad intention to stop the changes that make this country better, that he can do that if Vučić is removed in any way. It is certain that this was possible during the unveiling ceremony of the monument, I believe what our investigative bodies say.

* An “innovative solution” was mentioned at the meeting between Presidents Macron and Vučić. Is there any initiative from Belgrade that would imply that kind of solution at this moment and has it been presented to anyone?

– There are always such possibilities, and what exactly they contain is not talked about in the media. When there is what the media has called an “innovative proposal,” it is discussed with those who can influence decision-making. In the previous 13 years, the countries of the West have not talked to us about this topic, especially those that have recognized the self-proclaimed so-called independence of Kosovo. A number of them believe that this is a matter that has nothing to talk about, but there are also those with whom they talked without their rigid position that only Serbia should recognize the separatism of Kosovo Albanians and thus normalize relations. That is not our position and we are fighting against it.

Nikola Selaković / Photo by Petar Milošević

* Can we rely more on China and Russia in the continuation of the political battle for Kosovo and Metohija? The mediator of the dialogue in the form of the EU proved to be immature, the agreements whose guarantors they are were not respected …

– Our friendship with Russia and China has been proven in a number of critical moments for our country and people. From providing support to the UN Security Council, to preventing the entry of the so-called Kosovo into international organizations. On the other hand, it is extremely important for us to continue on the path to EU membership. It is the type of society we want to belong to. When the fathers of modern Serbia more than 180 years ago thought about obtaining the status of an autonomous principality, on the edge of the Ottoman Empire, and after that they fought for internationally recognized independence, they sent our most talented people to school in Vienna, Berlin, Paris … to return from there to build our Serbia. Today, Serbia has its “I”, makes decisions independently and goes to the EU, preserving its friendships with Russia and China and its determination to be militarily neutral. We also want to be able to defend ourselves if it occurs to anyone to attack us.

* Is it possible to achieve EU membership if the recognition of “Kosovo” is a condition for us?

– No international act or organization has set that before us in the form of conditions for membership. There is talk of normalization of relations, of no recognition.

WE DO NOT INTERFERE IN THE ELECTION OF THE PATRIARCH

* The election of the patriarch is approaching. As a man attached to the Church, you observe the open affection of the opposition sex towards Bishop Grigorije, and there is speculation that the government has its own candidates …

– You can also see the affection of certain church dignitaries towards certain members of the former regime. I look at it as things that are daily politics. The church has its own elections according to its own rules, we do not interfere in that. My wish, as a believer of the Serbian Orthodox Church, is to get a patriarch who will continue to lead our church and people from the throne of Saint Sava as his predecessors did, honorably and honestly through difficult circumstances, but bearing in mind that his task is to preserve what he got when he came to that place.

* On that road to the EU, Brussels reproaches us for not harmonizing our foreign policy with them, for not imposing sanctions on Belarus, for not voting for the Resolution on Crimea in the UN … Will that be a serious brake?

– What Serbia did not accept was because it would cause serious damage to itself. The percentage in which we follow the decisions of the EU Foreign Policy Service is higher than 60 percent, and that is a high percentage. They expect Serbia to unconditionally and without thinking accept everything that Brussels decides on the foreign policy plan. You can expect that from someone who is a member of the EU. The process of harmonizing foreign and security policy lasts until you become a member, and then this question no longer arises.

* Israel has recognized Kosovo, and according to the Washington agreement, Serbia should move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by the summer. Will that happen?

– After the meeting in the White House, President Vučić was very clear, saying that if Israel shows respect for Serbia, we will know what step we will take. I don’t think this gesture was an expression of respect.

* Can the nonsense about the position of our ambassador in Podgorica, Vladimir Božović, be resolved? He hopes to withdraw the decision on his expulsion from Montenegro …

– I hope so too, and whether that will happen does not depend on us.

* How do you assess the fact that on the eve of the local elections in Niksic, the Serbian leadership is being targeted again as someone who interferes in the internal affairs of Montenegro?

– Such stories have nothing to do with reality. Unfortunately, it is already a common thing that when you have a personal problem on the domestic political scene, you look for the culprit in others. We show the greatest patience with regard to various untrue claims and provocations. Serbia views Montenegro as a neighboring and independent state. Almost 30 percent of the members of the Serbian people live in it, and we wish the best possible fraternal relations with it on an equal basis. At the same time, Serbia did not recognize the separatism of a part of the territory of Montenegro and sent its ambassador and members of its army to it.

* There is a view that with the erection of the monument to Stefan Nemanja, Belgrade ceased to be the capital of Yugoslavia and became the capital of Serbia, do you agree with that?

– With the unveiling of the monument to Stefan Nemanja and the completion of the works on the Temple of Saint Sava, Belgrade received a serious stamp of its Serbian identity. It is a city of cosmopolitan spirit, with open gates on its coat of arms and which gladly receives anyone who comes to it in good faith. Belgrade became the capital of Yugoslavia because it was the capital of Serbia. And most of those who attacked the monument to Stefan Nemanja did so because they do not like the fact that it is dedicated to Stefan Nemanja, and that it was erected in Vučić’s time, and not because of the place where it is, because of its size or what it looks like.

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