Moderator: Dear colleagues, good afternoon and welcome to the Palace of Serbia. The First Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia and Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic and the United States Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland will address you at the press conference today. Mr. Deputy Prime Minister, would you, please?
Foreign Minister Dacic: I would like to warmly welcome Ms. Nuland. This is her first visit to the region since she has been assigned the duty of United States Assistant Secretary of State for 50 countries, practically, in the world and for several very important organizations, such as the OSCE, NATO, etc.
However, from our point of view, this is the first high-ranking visit by the U.S. Administration since the new Government of Serbia was formed and, for that reason, I would like to warmly welcome her, and to say that our relationship with Washington and the United States of America is a priority of Serbia's foreign policy and, in those terms, that we want to keep on developing and strengthening our relations.
I believe that it is in the interest – in Serbia’s highest possible interest – to find the common denominator with the foreign policy of the United States. Also, with all respect due to that State, because as the United States is interested in the entire world, I believe it is important for them, too: if they want peace in this region, and stability in this region, to find common language and common interests with the largest country and the greatest nation here in the Balkans. For that reason, it is important that we form a relationship of mutual confidence, of mutual predictability of our policies, so we need not avoid difficult subjects nor tell lies nor give false promises.
The Government of Serbia took this same stand during the prior term of office, which resulted in this. We managed to take crucial steps in three fields: first, to take a historic step – the official start to talks about Serbia's membership in the European Union, which happened in January this year. None of it would have happened if there had not been the Brussels Agreement and progress in the dialogue with Priština. At that time, Serbia did not making any false promises and everything that we discussed here – with Hillary Clinton and Catherine Ashton when they were here, and Ms. Nuland, too – has been realized and specified in the Brussels Agreement. The third big thing Serbia managed to accomplish over the past three years was to significantly improve its international image.
Nowadays, Serbia is not a problem, but rather a factor of problem solving. For that reason and in those terms, I would like that we reach a level in our relationship where your visit here is not of historic importance but of ordinary (inaudible), regardless of our desire to make these visits historic.
We have an interest in common – that Serbia become a member of the European Union. We expect the US to support us in the reforms the Serbian Government is implementing.
Serbia's interest is to be a factor of peace and stability in the region. It is in Serbia's interest to prove itself a serious political actor as Chairman in Office of the OSCE next year. The day after tomorrow, in Vienna, at the session of the OSCE Standing Council, I will present Serbia's plan for chairing the OSCE next year; Serbia will consider that a big challenge, a big danger, and a big opportunity. We will take the OSCE side, namely the basic principles of the OSCE from Helsinki, because it is the 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act next year.
Serbia will keep moving toward Europe and it will continue its dialogue with Priština. The reforms that we are implementing are part of our negotiating efforts, and the chapters that we open with the European Union will result in Serbia being prepared, administratively, to become a member of the European Union in five to six years.
We have developed a good relationship with the United States in many fields. Our trade exceeded USD 700 million last year. It can be even larger. Serbia should make, and is making, a business environment that is attractive to foreign investors because it is in our interest.
Serbia also wants to arrange its society on the basic principles of civilization, parliamentary democracy, rule of law, the battles against corruption, against terrorism, and against organized crime – especially international crime – a society in which basic human rights and freedoms will be respected. Therefore, we expect our bilateral relationship with the United States of America to develop in this manner, too.
So, once again, I welcome you and, you know, whenever large countries come to Serbia, the first question our press asks is, “Why have you come?” I must say that I am very glad we have met, we have had a very pleasant conversation, and Serbia is absolutely committed to improving its relationship with the USA.
Moderator: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Prime Minister. The United States Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Ms. Victoria Nuland, will address you now. Please?
Assistant Secretary Nuland: Thank you, Minister Dacic. I am delighted to be back in Serbia. As you said, this is my first chance to be here as Assistant Secretary.
As you also said, the last time I was here was in 2012, with Secretary Clinton, in my former role, and I have to say how impressed I am and how impressed the United States is with the progress here in Serbia. The elections, your progress as an EU candidate – which the United States very strongly supports – and now, starting in 2015, your assumption of the very, very important role of Chairman in Office of the OSCE.
I am here, indeed, to emphasize that the United States wants to deepen and broaden our work together with Serbia across the board, on regional security issues, on Euro-Atlantic security issues, our economic relationship, where I think we have a lot of American investors who are doing quite well here, but we have even more who want to come and we can and will do more together. We very much support the ambitious economic reform plans of the government and we want to work with you; as I said, we will talk more about this with the prime minister, to see them implemented. Because rule of law, justice, fighting corruption, opening up the economy, are all essential for Serbia to fulfill its full potential – regionally, and as a place where investment will come and more American business will grow, which is something that we both very, very much want.
We are also here as an interagency delegation. I am proud to have members of the Department of Defense and our uniformed military with me today to work on our security relationship, which is an increasingly important relationship as we seek to advance security and stability together. That is something that the U.S. and Serbia can do more of in the region, and around the world.
We also had a good talk today, and I was very grateful, for the opportunity to talk to the minister about continuing the Dialogue process and ensuring that we complete it. The United States has a profound interest in the full normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo. We very much support the role that Minister Dacic played, and continues to play, in supporting the Dialogue. I was very gratified by my morning in Kosovo, where I found people across the political spectrum truly committed to getting back to the Dialogue process as soon as the government has been formed.
We also talked about our interest in stability and development in Bosnia and the work that we want to do there.
And of course we talked about Ukraine. And Serbia, in its future role as Chairman in Office, will play an essential role in continuing and advancing the key OSCE role in creating transparency and stability there.
So, we have a lot of work together. I am looking forward to it, and I want to thank the minister and the Government of Serbia for their hospitality today.
Question: There has been talk about additional U.S. sanctions against Russia, including talk about targeted sectoral sanctions. Would you please tell us the timeframe for these, what can be expected, and their nature?
Assistant Secretary Nuland: I spoke about this a little bit in Dubrovnik a couple of days ago, and before that, earlier in the week, when I testified before the Senate. I think the United States’ position has been quite clear, the President’s been clear, Secretary Kerry has been clear. We want to see an end to flows of weapons and support for fighters across the border, we want to see border security monitored by the OSCE, we want to see Russia break its support for separatists, we want to see the separatists come back to the peace table and to a ceasefire. This is the same list that the European Union has, that the major countries there have, and we are all continuing to make that case. We will judge Russia, as I said in Dubrovnik, not by its words but by its actions.