26.09.2019. - 19:16
Address of the President of the Republic of Serbia at the General Assembly of the United Nations
Ladies and gentlemen,
I have the honor to address you as the President of the Republic of Serbia, country of good and honest people, who gave me their trust and honored me to represent them here in front of you, in a world where they – through their hard work- regain the place that belongs to them.
Last time I was here, two years ago, in this same place it was said that the situation in the world was harder than in previous 2016. I wouldn’t say that in 2019 it is any easier; on the contrary. My dear friends, you have noticed that all of us like children gather in this big hall when we need to hear what great powers think about us and our future. A bit scared a bit worried we are happy that it is finished and we were not mentioned in their speeches. Unfortunately, we look with mockery those who were mentioned, because we were not in their shoes. And in such a way, we have survived another year. And I do not speak about one but about all great powers. I come from a small country, indeed the biggest one in the Western Balkans, which had suffered the most in the World War One, I come from people that had survived the most ferocious sufferings and Jasenovac genocide in the WWII and people who more than anything wants to have peace, stability and possibility to progress in the 21stcentury.
Former Yugoslavia and its legal successor Serbia was one of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement. Today we are on our EU path and it is a strategic commitment of our country, but stronger than ever in this distinguished hall and at any other place we will advocate not only respect for the right, independence and sovereignty of small countries, but also always to be capable to preserve equality and our right to freedom and independent decision-making, by acting together.
That’s why I am going to speak about Serbia and the region; because one does not go without the other. Let me paraphrase Ernest Hemingway – Serbia is not an island, but – I proudly say, part of the Balkans and it is stronger if those around it are stronger. That is why I strive for the region, almost to the same extent I strive for Serbia.
That is why we are so eager for the Balkans to accept the policy of cooperation; that’s why we will always strive for talking to each other. We’ll always advocate the policy of peace and cooperation, because it is the only way for creating the necessary stability, without which there is no economic growth and progress.
I am coming from the country which had to face terribly difficult reforms in 2014. We were on the brim of bankruptcy and total disaster. Today, Serbia has no problems with public finance and I want to say wonderful news to the citizens of my country. We expect that one of the biggest world credit agencies even tomorrow will not only increase the outlook but also the credit rating of our country.
According to projections by the IMF experts, GDP of Serbia will cumulatively grow by 12.5% or 4% a year in coming 3 years. This result will not be reached by any other country in the region.
The IMF envisages that GDP per capita, which is an adequate indicator of the living standards, will be 10.394 US dollars in 2023. It is an increase of about 45% comparing to 7.207 US dollars from the last year; so, almost twice more in only five years.
Precisely with its stable economic situation, Serbia attracted in the first 7 months of this year 2.32 billion euro foreign direct investment, which is much more than in the same period last year, and it was the most successful year for Serbia. And finally, Serbia has far the lowest unemployment rate in the region -10.3%.
Additionally, we invest in the future of Serbia through knowledge, and now we are known for export of IT products and software – last year, that export exceeded one billion euro.
Now, there is an important question:
Do we live well; do people in the region live well? No. We need decades of peace, hard and diligent work and great successes in order to bring ourselves closer to the developed European countries. Nevertheless, under such conditions and due to the economic progress, Serbia chose the independent foreign policy, independent decision-making as its path towards the future, and that is why we do not hide anywhere and not even in this hall, but we praise with good and friendly relations we have with the People’s Republic of China, Russian Federation and with better and better relations with the USA. Because our job is to take care of our people and we do not care what someone else in the world might tell us. Whether we were buying gas or chocolates, we chose the most quality and the most affordable goods, and we do not care what other big powers think of the respective, because we think we are entitled to think and decide about our own destiny and what’s the best for our own people, and not what other big and powerful ones think.
You all know that we are facing problems regarding territorial integrity of Serbia, actually that we are facing the pending issue of Kosovo and Metohija.
The unresolved problem of Kosovo and Metohija affects more than anything economic progress and future of the young ones in the region and in Serbia. That is why I will speak about efforts to resolve it, despite all the obstacles.
Serbian writer and diplomat Jovan Dučić used to say that “enemies are only our friends in disguise that are apart from us only by some kind of misunderstanding or prejudice”. The centuries-long problem of Kosovo and Metohija is far from misunderstanding or prejudice, but we have courageously and realistically, with will and faith, started the quest for lasting solution.
Nobody cares more about solution of this difficult burden than Serbia, because it would provide to our country, but also to the entire region, peace, stability, cooperation, economic prosperity and progress on the European path. That is why we expect the world, especially big powers, to see, understand and support our positions and arguments, as well as not to support moves that are going in opposite direction, like they did in crucial years- 1999 and 2008.
Like the American President John Kennedy said: “We cannot negotiate with people who say what's mine is mine and what's yours is negotiable." That is why the lasting solution- the way I see it- should be reached in such a way that neither of the Parties would gain everything, but they would gain enough.
Even though we do not recognize the unilaterally declared independence of the so-called “Kosovo”, just like less and less countries does, because in accordance with the legally binding UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999), Kosovo and Metohija is the Autonomous Province within the Republic of Serbia, under the administration of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo-UNMIK, in desire for peace and stability, we had the dialogue with Albanians who live there, and with the facilitation of the European Union. We reached- with our concessions- certain progress and witnessed it by signing the Brussels Agreement. However, obligations taken by the respective Agreement were met only by Serbia. We continued the dialogue despite frequent tensions and incidents in Kosovo and Metohija and despite various unilateral moves of Priština, which made it difficult, all until it stopped due to the most unreasonable unilateral moves of all- due to 100% tariffs on import of Serbian goods, which actually means full termination of flow of goods. Since they imposed tariffs, on 21 November 2018, we lost about 350 million euro until 21 August this year. Tariffs that are still in force also jeopardize normal and dignified life of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija. In all this time, Serbia reacted moderately and responsibly to Priština’s unilateral acts not imposing counter-measures and trying to calm the situation down.
Not only interests of Belgrade and Priština are intertwined through the problem of Kosovo and Metohija, but also those of various international stakeholders. And as long as it continues in that way, Kosmet will be a source of endless political manipulations and instabilities. That is precisely why the presence of the United Nations through work of UNMIK is necessary as a guarantee of safety for Serbs living there.
Despite everything, I believe that the agreement between Serbs and Albanians is of utmost importance for stability of the Balkans, and that those two nations have a role in our region that Winston Churchill meant for France and Germany, when he spoke of uniting Europe. We are ready to continue to make efforts for reaching solution for the issue of Kosovo and Metohija. If that weren’t the case, we would not be starting to build highway section next year from Nis to Priština.
Serbia has always been a cross-road and as such it became the seat of the Transport Community. We have finished highway towards the North Macedonia; in the beginning of November we inaugurate highway towards Bulgaria, we are building highway towards Montenegro, and there is an ongoing plan to connect with Romania by a better road.
We build railroads towards Hungary, modernize railroads towards Montenegro and North Macedonia, and it is my wish to revive the railroad between Belgrade and Sarajevo.
Three days ago I had a big and important meeting with Prime Ministers of the North Macedonia and Albania. And we agreed to start working for ourselves, for our region, not to unite but to enable free flow of goods, capital and services, to start creating common market; to start with something a bit revolutionary, because nations in the Balkans do not need to serve only to the others, but together they can do the best and the greatest thing for themselves. Until today we fought for who is going to be in favor of one, two or three big powers and which power would create a better future for us. I am not naïve at all and I know that in the future we will depend on the big ones to a great extent, but everything we can do ourselves, we shouldn’t and we would not leave to the others. And that is why the Balkans should belong to the Balkans’ nations, sovereign and free people that will know how to fight in the best way for their own future. We want the same for all other nations worldwide and we will always fight for that in this distinguished institution.
In about ten days, Serbia is starting to build also a highway between Belgrade and Sarajevo, just like we have already built many roads and railroads or just like we are building them, because we want to be closer to all our neighbors, to get to know and understand each other better. And there is also a highway to Banja Luka. Then, there will be less accumulation of easy political points by cross-border insults, and more cooperation. One of the ways to achieve the respective is establishment of the Regional Economic Zone. And no one should be afraid that the idea of a new Yugoslavia is hiding behind this idea or that it is an expression of desire for Serbian hegemony, just because it is coming from Belgrade. I believe that small, divided markets of ours in the Western Balkans would be far more interesting to everyone if we would act together. And the Regional Economic Zone would not be a substitute for the European Union, but it could be an expression of our concern for ourselves, at least until we finalize that long process of accessing the European integration.
Distinguished Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Serbia respects all Member States of the United Nations and their territorial integrity and sovereignty. We have never asked, nor will we ever ask for something that is not ours. We expect to get the same level of respect. We do not give ourselves the right to divide the world into a good or bad one, or to evaluate what is right or what is wrong, but we are proud of our freedom-loving tradition and contribution which, throughout history, we had been giving in fight for law and justice.
We advocate that all open issues in the world are to be resolved in peaceful manner and through dialogue, with respect of the international law and applicable UN Resolutions. We want to cherish old friendships and build new ones. That is why we proudly say here in this big and the most important hall throughout the world that we will do our best to improve our cooperation with African, all Asian and Latin American countries. That’s also the way how we see the future of Serbia and the future of world. Friendship, however, is not something that was given once and for ever; it should be kept and continuously nurtured and in that regard you can always rely on Serbia.
And as I said – we are on our path towards the European Union and we have partnership relations with Western countries, including more and more intensive cooperation with the USA, but we are proud of our excellent relations with Russia and China. Cooperation with friendly African, Asia-Pacific and Latin American countries is also in focus of the Serbian foreign policy.
“If there is anything that a man can do well, I say let him do it. Give him a chance.” With these words of great statesman Abraham Lincoln – Honest Abe, I would like to thank you for your attention.
And at the very end, I would just use few Serbian words which will be very well understood in the entire region:
Balkan balkanskim narodima! Živela Srbija!