The Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia Ivica Dacic spoke, via video-link, at the opening ceremony of the VI cycle of the Young Leaders Academy SERBIAN-AMERICAN LEADERSHIP ACADEMY, organised by the Serbian-American Friendship Congress.
THE FOLLOWING IS THE SPEECH OF THE SPEAKER OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF THE REPUBLIC OF SERBIA IN ITS ENTIRETY:
"Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for the invitation to take part in today's work of the Young Leaders Academy within the Serbian-American Friendship Congress. I appreciate your desire which brought you here to study all aspects of the relations between Serbia and the US as deeply and minutely as possible, and I am sure that your ultimate goal is to put your knowledge in the service of developing those relations, wherever you might work or whatever you might do.
The National Assembly, as one of our most important institutions, pays great attention to the relations between Serbia and the US, not only through its regular work and within individual parliamentary committees, but also through the organisation of specialised, thematic gatherings, where the Serbian-American Friendship Congress and my colleague Vladimir Marinkovic play a crucial role.
The relations between our two countries and our peoples have a long and rich history, last year we marked a great jubilee – 140th anniversary of diplomatic relations. It is a long tradition and it in itself testifies to the fact that Serbia and the US look to each other, despite the fact that we are geographically very distant and that there is a great disparity in the size of our countries, as well as our economic, diplomatic and military strength.
I can say with a great deal of pride and satisfaction that this long period of cooperation is marked by alliance, friendship, and at times even close brotherly relations, which is a great capital that our peoples must preserve and develop further. Of course, some years were none too good, we had setbacks, even open conflicts, as it was the case in 1999, and we will not and must not forget those days either. But both Serbs and Americans had enough strength to step forward and move forward looking at what connects us, not what separates us.
I have personally, as Prime Minister and later as Minister of the Interior and Foreign Affairs, encouraged our rapprochement, because I believe that we need each other. I am especially proud of the fact that in the last few years we have remembered the most glorious days of our alliance - in the First and Second World Wars, a time when we stood side by side and showed our love for freedom, peace and democracy in the fight against evil and destruction. These are the values that have united us throughout history and must be preserved by all our future generations.
When you are a small country, such as Serbia, it is not always easy to have good relations and partnership with the great America. But if you are wise and looking to the future, then you know very well that you cannot achieve any important state or national goals without the US. So it is to this day. Serbia and the US have different positions and policies on some, for us, the most important issues, such as the relations to Kosovo-Metohija. But we know very well - both in Belgrade and in Washington, that despite these differences, we can work together to reach a compromise and a long-term solution that will bring peace and stability to our region.
The US support in that sense is very important to us, because we share the same interest, and that is putting an end to long-standing conflicts and turning a new page in the Balkans. America has recognised Serbia as the most important partner to reach that goal, which is another reason why we see that we should stand by and not against each other.
Speaking of the developments in Ukraine, I will emphasise the principled positions that unite us. Serbia has very clearly spoken out against the war and for respecting international law and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, just as the US has done. We do not agree, for example, on the issue of sanctions against Russia, but we have had different views on that for years, it hardly recent.
Serbia simply strives to protect and defend its own interests, exclusively its own, not someone else's, and our current attitudes are the same ones we have had for years. The US has clearly stated that it understands our positions and that our cooperation has not lost momentum. Together, we will solve the problems we are both interested in and whose solution we can contribute to, there is a definite strong will for that in both Serbia and the US.
The US is a strong supporter of our strategic commitment to membership of the European Union and its support is vital for our efforts in the accession process. In short, our most important state goals intersect in many points, and in those points both our countries find a motive and starting point to further deepen cooperation in all areas.
I have always been more than willing to support the work of forums, like yours, which aim to improve mutual understanding between Serbia and the US. Both our countries, despite all of our differences, are experiencing rapid and great changes, but it is important that we preserve the long thread of partnership and friendship that has marked most of our common history. I am sure that similar motives have brought you e to this Academy, especially as regards today's topic: Serbian-American relations. I wish you to continue to work in a good atmosphere and in good will, and I am sure that the relations between our two countries would benefit from it.