Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Vuk Jeremic Interviews
The Wall Streat Journal: Kosovo's Disastrous Precedent PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 28 July 2010.

Serbia will never recognize this unilateral declaration of independence;  
We seek peaceful compromise.
by Vuk Jeremić

On Feb. 17, 2008, the ethnic-Albanian authorities of Serbia's breakaway province of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence against the will of the U.N Security Council and in contravention of my country's constitution. We made it immediately clear that we would never recognize the unilateral declaration of independence, implicitly or explicitly. This position will not change. Serbia will continue to use all diplomatic resources at the disposal of a sovereign state to oppose Pristina's attempt at partitioning our country. No democratic and proud nation - whose territorial integrity is under threat -would act differently.

From the onset of this grave crisis, we responded to the unilateral declaration of independence peacefully. In October 2008, the General Assembly of the United Nations overwhelmingly approved a resolution seeking the legal opinion of the International Court of Justice on the lawfulness of the unilateral declaration of independence.

After many months of deliberation, the court delivered its findings. It neither endorsed the view that this unilateral declaration of independence was a unique case, nor Pristina's claim that Kosovo is a state. Moreover, the court failed to approve the province's avowed right of secession from Serbia, or any purported right to self-determination for Kosovo's Albanians.

Instead, the court chose to narrowly examine the language of the unilateral declaration of independence. This strictly technical approach made it possible to say that the text of the declaration itself did not violate international law. The Kosovo Albanian authorities are deliberately misinterpreting the court's views as a legalization of their attempt at secession.

This may produce extensive and deeply problematic consequences for the international community. Ethnic minorities across the globe could take advantage of the opportunity to write their own declarations of independence according to the Kosovo textual template. This would put them in a position to plausibly claim that such texts sufficiently legitimize their respective acts of secession, and for their proclaimed independence to be in conformity with international law.

The inherent dangers of such a scenario must be prevented. Otherwise, the borders of every multi-ethnic state would be permanently threatened by secessionism, producing lasting instability throughout the world.

The court has left it up to the U.N. General Assembly to manage the political repercussions of the advisory opinion. This has been confirmed by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who stated that the General Assembly "will determine how to proceed on this matter." The forthcoming debate will therefore focus on the consequences and implications of Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence in light of the court's findings.

We must ensure that the outcome of this debate makes a positive contribution to global governance. We must find a realistic approach to close the Pandora's box opened up by Pristina. The only way forward is to commence peaceful dialogue between the parties that produces a compromise, a mutually acceptable solution to all outstanding issues.

The consequence of a failure to agree on Kosovo would be the establishment of a universally applicable precedent that provides a ready-made model for unilateral secession.

Serbia is committed to working with the international community to prevent such a disastrous scenario. What we seek is an equitable outcome that both sides can embrace. This is the only way to reinforce shared priorities, to normalize relations, and to complete the democratic transformation of the Balkans into a stable, prosperous region fully integrated into the European Union.

Mr. Jeremic is the foreign minister of the Republic of Serbia.

Recasting Serbia’s Image, Starting With a Fresh Face PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 16 January 2010.
By Nicholas Kulish - The New York Times   

THE public face of Serbia for years has been that of a wizened war criminal in the dock in The Hague. Now, as the once-outcast country presses for membership in the European Union, it is increasingly represented by the gap-toothed grin of its energetic young foreign minister, Vuk Jeremic, all of 34 and a graduate of Cambridge and Harvard.

It is not just appearances. He is a minister in the most westward-leaning government Serbia has ever had, one that is aggressively pursuing membership in the European Union and good relations with the United States. Yet at the top of his agenda stands the issue that brought so much trouble to Serbia: the breakaway province and self-declared nation of Kosovo.

To the consternation of powerful supporters of Kosovo’s independence, including the United States, the Serbian obsession runs much deeper than a handful of ultranationalists from the generation of Slobodan Milosevic. Even young liberals like Mr. Jeremic, whose fluent English sounds more Bronxville than Belgrade, cannot let go of Kosovo, though it could endanger Serbia’s chance to move beyond its recent troubled past.

"The fact that this kind of fervent, pro-European politician in Serbia happens to have this position on Kosovo confuses a lot of people," Mr. Jeremic said in an interview on the eve of the Orthodox Christmas here last week.

"This place, Kosovo, is our Jerusalem; you just can’t treat it any other way than our Jerusalem," he said.

As if to underscore the point, his mentor and psychology teacher two decades ago at the First Belgrade High School, the current Serbian president, Boris Tadic, spent the holiday at the Visoki Decani monastery in Kosovo, under guard amid protests by local ethnic Albanians.

Mr. Jeremic quickly added that Serbia was not pressing its case through the use of arms, directly or in the form of paramilitary groups, but through institutions like the International Court of Justice, which will rule on the manner in which Kosovo declared independence. But the stakes are different, with vastly improved relations with the European Union and an end to Serbia’s isolation on the line.

Mr. Jeremic is at pains to explain to Western audiences that Serbia’s reputation from the Milosevic years had overshadowed the reality that it is now a democracy, and one whose voters twice chose pro-Western candidates in the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2008 — despite the inflamed nationalist sentiment in the wake of Kosovo’s secession.

He was appointed foreign minister at 31, too young and inexperienced in the eyes of many Serbs to be trusted with their most important national issue — the impending secession of Kosovo. Yet, he has fought hard for Kosovo, lobbying governments around the world against recognizing its independence and becoming along the way one of Serbia’s most popular politicians.

Mr. Jeremic’s stridency on Kosovo has led his opponents to charge that he was a closet nationalist, talking one line when he was abroad and quite a different one at home in the Balkans. "Personally, I don’t think I’m a nationalist," he said. "I’m half Bosnian and half Serb."

Mr. Jeremic’s great-grandfather on his mother’s side was Nurija Pozderac, a prominent Muslim politician before World War II who joined Tito’s Partisans to fight the Nazis and was killed in 1943. His paternal grandfather was an officer in the king’s army and spent much of the war as a prisoner at Dachau. Once he was liberated by the Allies, he returned to Serbia on foot, Mr. Jeremic said.

HE described a normal childhood in Belgrade, including a close relationship with his psychology teacher, Mr. Tadic. But his father, who worked for the state-owned oil company, and his mother went into exile after running afoul of the regime, and Mr. Jeremic finished high school in London before moving on to Cambridge, where he studied theoretical physics.

His time at Cambridge, which coincided with the war in Bosnia, helped him to understand Serbia’s image abroad in a very personal way. "It was hard to explain that you come from Serbia and you’re not a children-eating radical," said Mr. Jeremic, who had family members fighting on both sides of the war in Bosnia.

Mr. Jeremic opposed the regime of Mr. Milosevic and was a founder of the Organization of Serbian Students Abroad in 1997, but it was during the NATO bombing of Serbia that he hardened his resolve to work for his country. He said he had high school friends who were also opposed to Mr. Milosevic’s reign but were called up for compulsory army service at the time of the airstrikes in 1999. Once they were wearing their uniforms, they were "legitimate targets," as he put it ruefully, and some were killed.

He recalled thinking at the time: "This regime, this government, this guy, Slobodan Milosevic, he has to be removed, because he’s going to get us all buried. If he stays, he’s going to get us all buried."

Mr. Jeremic traveled to Serbia to support the student movement there, known as Otpor, the Serbian word for resistance. After Mr. Milosevic’s ouster Mr. Jeremic followed Mr. Tadic through a succession of ministries as an adviser, taking a break for a degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, before himself becoming foreign minister.

With Serbia’s scant resources and tattered public image, his options for fighting the diplomatic might of countries supporting Kosovo, like the United States, Germany and Britain, seemed limited. But Mr. Jeremic, who still looks and sounds a bit like an overachieving college class president, turned himself into a one-man road show, traveling to 90 countries in the two years since becoming foreign minister. Last year alone he spent 700 hours in the air, or roughly 29 days, much of that in a 30-year-old French-built Falcon 50 jet that was bought for Tito.

MR. JEREMIC sees his age, which many consider a weakness, as one of his assets. "When you’re young, and when you come and they see you for the first time, a lot of them are just kind of surprised. They say, ‘Who’s this kid?’

"That’s actually a good thing because it opens up their minds. They’re curious. They want to hear what you have to say to them because you’re different," he said. An afternoon with Mr. Jeremic, whose wife, Natasa Lekic, is a news anchor on Serbian public television, is a pleasant but intense experience, not complete without a glass of Serbian Carigrad red wine and a stream of articulate defenses of the country’s claim to Kosovo.

Smoking a cigar and sipping his wine, Mr. Jeremic refused to say what Serbia would demand if it managed to force Kosovo back to the negotiating table by winning its case before the International Court of Justice. He insisted that the mistake the United States and its allies made before Kosovo’s declaration was dictating rather than discussing terms.

Their other big mistake, he said, was expecting Serbia simply to acquiesce to the loss of the province, cowed in the face of American and Western European recognition for Kosovo. "This energy we invested, you know, in going around the world, has surprised a lot of people," Mr. Jeremic said. "A lot of people didn’t expect us to dare to try."
European Parliament - Serbia's Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremić pledges EU future for Belgrade PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 09 November 2009.


European Parliament web site
November 11, 2009

Serbia's Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremić said Belgrade will apply for EU membership before the end of the year, with the aim of joining within seven years. Speaking to us during his visit to the European Parliament on 5 November, the youthful Mr Jeremić (34) stressed his view that disagreements over Kosovo independence should be separated from negotiations over the EU. He also spoke of the cultural heritage and the strong relationship with Moscow that Serbia can bring to the Union.

When do you think Serbia will join the European Union?

It is very difficult to predict, but I think it will be in about five to seven years. For some Western Balkan countries EU accession is becoming imminent (Croatia is close to joining). It is also a political decision amongst existing EU members. Serbia has to make sure it gets there as soon as possible.

When are you going to table Serbia's application?

We have a very strong intention to apply before the end of this year. Our domestic debate, about which way we want to go politically, is already over. We had two different polls last year with Presidential and Parliamentary elections and both answered "yes" to an EU future.

The Serbian people have not always been favourable towards the EU, what is the level of support at present?

At the end of last year and the start of this one support reached a high of 85%. Polls now show that 70% of the population is favourable towards membership of EU.

Did opinion change when many EU countries recognised Kosovo (which was part of Serbia) in 2008?

Well, it is something that isn't adding to the support, it is not positive. We have managed to compartmentalise this issue with our European partners who have recognised Kosovo. We are maintaining strict separation between EU integration and determining the future status of Kosovo. This is the official policy of Serbia and the official policy of the EU. It is very important we keep it this way.

What can Serbia contribute to the EU?

The biggest contribution is peace and stability. Other contributions would include our historical and cultural legacy. Our customs would also add to the diversity in the EU.

It's very difficult to imagine a stable, peaceful and prosperous part of Europe that has a big black hole right in it. I am an optimist and I hope the entire Western Balkans is going to accede to the EU in this generation.

Would you describe Serbia as an anchor of stability or as a bridge between Europe and Russia?

In the sense of peace and stability in the Balkans it is definitely an anchor. If you look at the map physically, you would definitely know where to put that anchor.

As for Russia, we have a historical relation which goes back centuries. We have the same alphabet, we share the same faith. We are culturally very close, we have been partners and allies in world conflicts and today Russia is also an important supporter when it comes to our diplomatic efforts to defend our territory and sovereignty.

Russia also supports us when it comes to our wish to become a member state of the EU. So, Russia is a good friend and Russia is always going to stay a good friend of Serbia. And I think one day when Serbia joins the EU, Serbia can help improve the understanding between Russia and the EU.

Visa free travel is a matter of weeks away. What benefits will it bring to Serbian citizens and particularly to the young generation?

It is going to be a great relief, like the falling of a huge boulder. It has been particularly frustrating for us in the former Yugoslavia because we used to travel freely everywhere in the world - both east and west. So that was really a time that lots of people remember and going back to that situation is going to bring a sigh of relief: "We are normal again".

This is especially important for the younger generation because they have grown up in an atmosphere of isolation, this new generation has never had a chance to see what Europe is about. We say that being an EU member is a great thing and these guys have to see what exactly that means.

You held talks with EP President Jerzy Buzek. How can the EP help Serbia in its European ambitious?

The European Parliament is going to play an increasingly important role in the life of Europe after the Lisbon Treaty. We are looking forward to working very closely with the EP. There are interesting times ahead.

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE - A chance we can't miss PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 17 April 2008.





A chance we can't miss

Copyright © 2008 the International Herald Tribune All rights reserved


AP INTERVIEW: Serbia encouraged by signs of opposition to plan for Kosovo independence PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 27 July 2007.

The Associated Press
Friday, July 27, 2007


Serbia's foreign minister says his government is encouraged by signs of opposition in some European countries to recognizing Kosovo as independent and believes that Western negotiators could compromise on the future of the breakaway province.

Vuk Jeremic said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press that Serbia would use a new period of negotiations over the future of the breakaway province to press for a solution short of independence_ a position that is unlikely to resonate in talks in Washington on Friday.

Jeremic is scheduled to meet with officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who have said repeatedly that that the United States supports international recognition of Kosovo's independence soon.

This week, Rice assured officials from Kosovo that the U.S. would move to recognize Kosovo soon after a new period of international negotiations. She is expected to repeat the position to Jeremic and to tell him that Serbia can speed up its integration with Western Europe by letting go of Kosovo.

But Jeremic seized on recent indications that some European countries are uncomfortable recognizing Kosovo without approval of the United Nations Security Council.

The EU's 27 members have been generally united in their support for a U.N. resolution that would empower the union to deploy its mission to the province and replace the current U.N. administration there, as part of a scheme of supervised independence.

Still, some members such as Spain, Slovakia, Greece and Cyprus have expressed reservations about the prospect of Kosovo gaining independence without a U.N. Security Council resolution — unlikely in the face of Russian opposition.

Although Kosovo remains a province of Serbia, it has been under U.N. and NATO administration since a 78-day NATO-led air war halted a Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists in 1999.

In April, the U.N.'s special envoy on Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari, recommended Kosovo be granted internationally supervised independence.

There are concerns that the EU could split over the issue if it remains unresolved. Following a conference of EU foreign ministers in Brussels this week, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said that the officials had not reached a consensus.

Last week, the United States and the EU were forced to withdraw their latest draft of a resolution on Kosovo's future from the Security Council. Russia, a veto-wielding member of the council, opposed the resolution on the grounds that it was a hidden route to independence.

"There are a growing number of countries who realize that the cost of imposing a solution outside the security council is high and are therefore starting to think about whether there could be a more optimal solution," Jeremic said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin repeated his country's position on Kosovo on Friday, saying that "today, Serbs are asserting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of their country."

"Our position is well known. Peace in Europe cannot be built without taking into consideration the fundamental norms of international law, including the fundamental principles of the Helsinki Accords," he said while accepting the credentials of the new Serbian ambassador, Stanimir Vukicevic, at a Kremlin ceremony.

U.S. and European officials have agreed to allow 120 days for further negotiations that would include talks with Kosovo and Serbia in a last attempt to reach an agreement.

Though expressing pro-American sentiments, Jeremic was critical of the U.S. negotiating position on Kosovo.

"If you are pushing parties in the negotiations, then it doesn't make much sense that you are announcing in advance what should be the outcome of these negotiations," he said.

He also criticized repeated U.S. assertions that further delays in granting independence to Kosovo could lead to violence by ethnic Albanians frustrated by the process.

"It's a very dangerous thing, if we are talking about the frustration of an ethnic community at the non-delivery of their maximalist demands and the threat of violence," he said. "Threatening violence should not be tolerated by the international community."

He said that Serbia was committed to integrating in Western Europe and would not resort to violence whatever the outcome.

"Serbia is committed to peace and will stay committed to peace under any circumstances," he said.

But Serbia will not accept Kosovo's independence.

"No sovereign democratic country in the world would be prepared to accept independence and infringing of its own sovereignty," he said.

Blic - Vuk Jeremic, Serbian Foreign Minister, on resolution of Kosovo crisis PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 05 July 2007.

BLIC, 5 July 2007

Vuk Jeremic, Serbian Foreign Minister, on resolution of Kosovo crisis

Interviewd by Ivana Cvetkovic

Serbia would even accept continuation of time-framed negotiations over Kosovo and Metohija

Serbia would even be prepared to accept the continuation of time-framed negotiations on Kosovo’s future status, provided only they were substantive and fair, and conducted without prejudice to their outcome, said Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic for the “Blic” daily. He underlined that, although it was not a good idea to put a timescale on further negotiations, it would be far more important if they were fair and open. He added that the Serbian side was ready for a compromise regarding the duration of these negotiations only if they would be substantive in nature.

- We insist that the European Union speaks in favour of the new negotiations and assumes leadership in this respect, Minister Jeremic said for BLIC, responding to the message from Brussels that the EU will take responsibility and make a decision on Kosovo supported by the UN Security Council, if Russia persisted in its negative stance.

Does this mean that Serbia counts on the EU to push through the idea of further negotiations?

- We trust and believe that common sense will prevail among all actors in the process and that unilateral steps will thus be avoided. It is crucial that the largest possible number of EU members support the idea of further negotiations. Let me clarify this point, I do not expect the EU to conduct future status negotiations and bring them to a conclusion, because such negotiations can take place only under UN auspices. Nevertheless, the EU should play an important role, because the future of the whole of the Western Balkans is with the EU.

How will the opposing positions of Russia and the United States affect the further process?

- The lack of an agreement means that, at this point in time, we cannot expect adoption of a resolution in the Security Council. Consequently, there are only two directions in which the situation can evolve. In other words, to continue to search for a solution that can get the support of the Security Council or to take unilateral action which would be extremely dangerous, both for our own and other regions of the world.

If some countries recognize an independent Kosovo unilaterally, how will that affect Serbia’s relations with those countries?

- If a country decides to act unilaterally in violation of Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, we will have to re-examine the quality and the substance of our bilateral relations with that country. Should this happen, we would pay particularly close attention to the attitudes of our neighbours, as they bear special responsibility for safeguarding peace and stability in the region.

What does this specifically mean?

- I do not wish to be specific. To disclose such moves would be tactically unwise for my country. Serbia would certainly re-examine its relations and react. However, it must be clear that Serbia should not bring isolation on itself once again.

Will recognition, if any, of independent Kosovo by EU member states affect Serbia’s further process towards the EU?

- Kosovo’s status decision is not linked with Serbia’s further European integration process.

How realistic are announcements by the Serbian Government that Serbia can become an EU candidate country on 15 December 2008?

- It is very realistic that we will manage to complete Stabilization and Association Agreement negotiations by September this year and have that agreement signed by the end of the year. The coming year will be see serious challenges to the reform process, that is, to our readiness to comply with all the obligations under the SAA. I believe that by the end of 2008, appropriate reform efforts will be made thus enabling the EU to decide on granting Serbia the status of a candidate country by the end of that year. This is a very ambitious plan and our country will have to race against time. But should we succeed, we will have all the records beaten, which I believe we will.

Compliance with the requirement of cooperation with the ICTY will be the initial indicator of how realistic such efforts will be. Do you think that the EU will accept to sign the SAA if we hand over all indictees except for Mladic?

- I would not like to dwell upon any individuals. What is of paramount importance is the existence of full political will on the part of the Serbian authorities. It will result in appropriate and transparent security activities demonstrating that Serbia is really doing its best to complete its cooperation with the ICTY. This will be the main criteria on which the EU will base its decision regarding the signing of the agreement. There must be full cooperation with the ICTY and this cooperation must be completed. However, I would not like to put any deadlines on it or link it with individual cases or arrests of individuals concerned.

Are any deadlines for the arrest of indictees discussed in your meetings with international officials?

- We are not discussing any deadlines. It is important that there exist a clear political commitment and a clear political readiness, and the willingness of the state to translate it into action, which should be transparent and clear to all, including Office of the Tribunal Prosecutor and representatives of other countries. What is crucial is trust. And I think that trust has been built.

Will it be long before Serbia appoints its ambassadors to fill the vacancies throughout the world?

- This question will be addressed shortly. In the meantime, the intensity and the quality of our relations with all the countries where, under the circumstances, we have not yet appointed ambassadors are at a very high level.

Will the ambassador to Montenegro be a politician, a renowned personality or a career diplomat?

- The position of ambassador to Podgorica will be one of the most important positions in Serbia’s future diplomatic network. For this reason it should be held by someone who best represents the interests of Serbia. The name of this person will be made known following the consultations in the Government but, as long as I am the Foreign Minister, Serbia will be represented by persons who, I believe, will best serve the interests of our country irrespective of whether they are prominent members of a political party or career diplomats.

Is there an agreement as to the location of the Serbian Embassy in Podgorica?

- This is one of the subjects that will figure on the agenda during my visit to Podgorica tomorrow.

New human resource capacities as a priority

- Our priority is to build new quality human resource capacities in diplomacy who will be able to come to grips with the challenges of diplomacy in the 21st century because, today, a successful diplomat is more of a lobbyist than a diplomat in the classical sense. I have already made arrangements with the Foreign Ministers of Sweden, Russia, Greece, Italy and Germany to include our young diplomats for training at their diplomatic academies, said Minister Jeremic for the “Blic” daily.

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