Welcome to the international conference hosted by the Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies (CEAS), this year taking place under the slogan "Walk through Walls".
The conference is part of CEAS' regular annual project Belgrade NATO Week, which has enjoyed the support of NATO Public Diplomacy Department (PDD) from the very outset, for seven years now, and also of the US Embassy to Serbia for several years. From this year, the Embassy of Czech Republic is also supporting us. CEAS emphasizes the excellent cooperation it has maintained with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Serbia ever since the project commenced.
The slogan of this year's Belgrade NATO Week, “Walk through Walls“ and the conference panel titles were inspired by the works of Marina Abramović, world's renowned performance artist of Yugoslav origin. In its work, just like Marina, CEAS often walks through walls. Still, we highlight that our word play for the needs of #BelgradeNATOWeek by no means reflects her views.
For our conference guests we have provided an organized visit to Marina Abramović’s exquisite retrospective exhibition, “The Cleaner”, displayed at the Museum of Contemporary Arts. The lines in front of New York’s MOMA waited to see Marina’s exhibition all day long. And then someone says CEAS is not influential!
One of the topics on the conference agenda will be the expectations from the upcoming meeting of heads of state and government of NATO Member States and military leaders, to be held in London, on 3-4 December, 2019. This meeting will mark the seventieth anniversary of the Alliance's establishment and will discuss its future in the era of new global challenges and threats.
During the conference, we are going to focus on: the importance and main forms of Serbia's partner cooperation with NATO, the importance of strengthening Serbia's cooperation with the USA, the role of Russia in the region and the new frameworks and contents of regional cooperation.
@CEASSerbia hopes that the leaders at London's conference will also reiterate the importance of KFOR mission in Kosovo.
It was precisely in London, at the 1990 Summit, almost immediately after the fall of the Berlin wall, thirty years ago, which is also being marked these days, that the NATO leaders agreed to “extend the hand of friendship“ to the Central and Eastern European countries.
The contribution of the USA, believing in the strength and rightness of their principles of individual freedoms and democracy, is immeasurable in their assistance to millions of Eastern European citizens to peacefully initiate their constant struggle for establishing and maintaining these postulates.
For Serbia, Western Balkans and NATO, there is another important anniversary. It has been twenty years since the NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia ended, to curtail the decade-long war conflicts in the region. In Serbia, it was marked by a series of commemorative meetings last spring. During his visit to Belgrade, when he met President Vučić and participated in the extraordinary Belgrade NATO Week organized by CEAS for the occasion, former Commander of the US Army in Europe, Lieutenant General Frederick Ben Hodges, laid flowers at the memorial dedicated to the children killed during 1999 NATO aggression, in Tašmajdan park.
While the competition of the global powers is in full swing and the EU and US are riveted by major internal challenges, along with the cold showers about the EU enlargement certainty, the regional cooperation in the Western Balkans is gaining a new momentum thanks to the political leadership of Serbia's President Aleksandar Vučić and the Prime Ministers of North Macedonia and Albania, Zoran Zaev and Edi Rama, demonstrated by the decisions taken at the recently held meeting in Ohrid. Facilitating the movement of people, goods and services and harmonized legislation among the three countries is surely a good initiative for the entire Western Balkans.
CEAS hopes that other countries in the region will join in soon. Thirty years ago, the region missed the historical opportunity to follow the pathway of integration and democratization together with other Eastern and Central European countries. This is why the meeting held in Ohrid on the ninth of November, where the Mini-Schengen was launched, while on the same date the anniversary of the fall of the wall in Berlin was celebrated, bears a special importance and symbolism.
It is time to also leave the series of unnecessary administrative and political obstacles and dangerous actions to the by-gone times, as they do justice to the name „Balkanization“ attached to negative trends in the Western world, twenty years after the armed conflicts in the region ended. Same as ''stabilocracy“, the political failure that many advocated for in the past couple of years, which is partly responsible to the present reality of hard-line position on the EU's further enlargement, which its makers, now its fiercest critics, tend to overlook, deliberately or not.
To spite them – oh, yes, we are not giving up on that accessory - CEAS is trying to contribute to Serbia's anchorage in the political West as strongly as possible, despite the major internal and geopolitical challenges and flux, while keeping all the good elements of its own style and discarding the political failures that everybody is sometimes prone to.
The Prespa Agreement, bringing the multi-decade dispute between North Macedonia and Greece to an end, is an example of the new trends followed also by the Ohrid Agreement. They represent the region in new, well-deserved positive colors.
However, it is not good that the dialogue between the official Belgrade and Prishtina is late to resume, despite Serbia's demonstrated constructiveness, due to Prishtina's unilateral acts and falling short of what had previously been agreed in the dialogue. The still negative trends in the region, which might also have security implications, include the fact that the government in Bosnia-Herzegovina has not come in office yet, more than a year after the elections.
On the other hand, Serbian Government established the proposals of new national security and defense strategies, which will be pending for consideration and adoption in the Parliament shortly. The procedure of adopting the second cycle of the 2019/2021 Individual Partnership Action Plan between Serbia and NATO has recently been completed. Serbia has significantly reinforced its bilateral cooperation with NATO Member States from Central and South East Europe in the past couple of years, to mention but a few good trends in Serbia, and there are many more. We discussed them at previous #BelgradeNATOWeek.
November is the month of marking the Armistice Day in the World War One, to which Serbia provided an unproportionally large contribution. We were reminded of this, as well as of Serbia's other valuable contributions to the world, by both Serbian and American officials of course, during the years and series of promotional videos by the US Embassy to Serbia, such as the one about Serbia's flag hoisted on the White House. This is why this year, just as last year, the participants of our conference are going to wear the conference lanyards with Natalie's ramonda, a symbol used in Serbia since 2012 as an emblem to treasure the Armistice Day. The emblem consists of a green and black ribbon symbolizing the Albanian Commemorative Medal, an one-rank state military medal endowed to all members of the Serbian Army who withdrew across Albania in the winter of 1915/1916 and Natalie’s ramonda flower, also known as the Phoenix flower – which can be revived if watered even after withering – which partly reminds of the resurrection of the Serbian state after the WWI.
We were pleased to see the Deputy Assistant State Secretary of the United States and State Department's envoy for the Western Balkans, Matthew Palmer, the first foreign speaker who addressed the participants of Belgrade NATO Week project six years ago, during his last visit to Belgrade was wearing this accessory the importance and beauty of which CEAS has been promoting.
This year, seventy-fifth anniversary of the World War Two's Halyard Operation is commemorated. During the Halyard Operation, the Yugoslav Army, with the help of the local population, saved 512 allies' airmen from August 1944 to February 1945. The Halyard mission is considered to be the greatest operation of rescuing soldiers behind the hostile lines. Thanks to the support of the Halyard Mission Foundation, the guests of #BelgradeNATOWeek will be able to see the exhibition on this mission, a historical contribution to good Serbian-American relations.
The aim of the ''Walk through Walls“ conference is to reach as many decision-making positions in the political West as possible with an objective assessment of developments and trends in Serbia, especially those less known, discussed and written about. Serbia today and its role in the region are still often observed by default or tendentiously, through the lenses of the nineties, or not measured with the same yardstick as other regional players. It is time to lift the barriers created also by domestic designers, made of both natural and artificial fabric, placed to separate Serbia from the political West.
Vintage is rarely trendy in politics. Too many old creations have already got recycled in the previous attempts to resolve the remaining open issues in the Western Balkans and were not accepted, to the detriment of the citizens in the region and also of the political West. A chance needs to be given to new designers and models.
CEAS hopes that our annual conference will become a political catwalk for such endeavors. #MiniSchengen is one of this year's collections that #BelgradeNATOWeek invites you to pay a special attention to. Skirts have always been fashionable, and so has the classic Schengen visa regime, but only the #MiniSkirt became en vogue. There was resistance in the beginning, criticism and abomination, but mini-skirt became and remained trendy. We hope the same happens with #MiniSchengen. Can you sleep well, Mary Quant?
Naturally, the aim of every Belgrade NATO Week is to enable as many stakeholders in Serbia to hear what Serbia does in its partner cooperation with NATO, its Member States and partners, what it plans for the future and what the key factors determining Serbia's direction are. We believe it is time the barrier of ignorance about Serbia's relations with NATO was lifted, to walk through the walls of unquestionably traumatic recent history and also the walls erected by disinformation campaigns.
During the conference, the findings of the latest survey designed by CEAS for the needs of this year's Belgrade NATO Week will be premiered. We are going to compare them to the results of a similar last year's survey.
Just so we know what to launch for the upcoming seasons.
And here is what Conde Nast Traveler says about some trends in 2019 Belgrade and Serbia in the report „Why you should book your trip to Belgrade this fall“. Check it out, it shatters some barriers of prejudice and opens new horizons.
It is well known that CEAS advocates for its positions sometimes going through walls, media and other mine fields, so we thought we should try something easier this year – walk through walls and keep opening some doors. Even for last year’s #BelgradeNATOWeek CEAS managed to open one – that of the Serbia Palace, the artistic, architectural and historical jewel of Belgrade. That is why our guests will be able to make a tour of the Palace where the conference is taking place, with a custodian.
We have only just thought that we got all the key puzzles of this year's Belgrade NATO Week right, from brilliant speakers to the prestigious venue to the latest tailor-made survey and promising new collection of «Mini Schengen», when The Economist published an interview with Emmanuel Macron, President of France. President Macron, by the way, paid a very successful visit to Serbia in summer 2019.
In the above interview, having also challenged the EU enlargement as well, the French President, inter alia, assessed that NATO was clinically dead because of the US, and that Europe was on the brink of an abyss. And then some say that France is the Capital of fashion trends!
@CEASSerbia has not recovered from the shock yet, but we are not clinically dead. Belgrade NATO Week has just begun. Rumor has it that due to his statement of the status of @NATO, which threw @CEASSerbia and, in particular, its director #MsMilic @jelennah169, into despair in the midst of the final preparations for this year's #BelgradeNATOWeek, Emmanuel Macron became even more popular in Serbia ☺
Jens Stoltenberg, an exquisite Norwegian designer and another Serbian friend, at the helm of the NATO political and security house, the trends of which CEAS has been following most often, commented on Macron's 2020 fall-winter line as follows: "Any attempt to dissociate Europe from North America would not only weaken the trans-Atlantic alliance, but would also bear the risk of dividing Europe. European unity cannot supersede the trans-Atlantic unity". In a manner of speaking, the American VOGUE is one and only.
We hope that the cooperation between Serbia and NATO and strengthening the bilateral relations with the USA and other NATO Member States, and those soon to become ones, like North Macedonia, is a trend that Serbia's political top brass is gradually accepting, and despite the challenges of constant sales and other incentives to compulsive shopping spree, it will become a must have item of Serbia's foreign and security policy – akin to a little black dress.
Another famous French trendsetter, the timeless Coco Chanel, advised that the moment before we leave home we should look into the mirror and remove the first detail that catches our eye. Often times it works like that in politics. Less is more.
Not at #BelgradeNATOWeek! For our 2019-2020 fall-winter show of information and ideas exchange, we have managed to put together an enviable line-up of prestigious national and foreign speakers.
And a show would not be a show without surprises. Who would have guessed there could be miracles!
And, while Presidents Vučić and Macron were struggling with some Arnagnac, we have prepared goodie bags for our guests, with ''Sliwowitz“, pear brandy (''Viljamovka“) and quince brandy inside. NATO bombing, aggression and tragedy must not be forgotten and don't have to be forgiven. But we must move on. Through walls, through trauma, even with black humor. This year's #BelgradeNATOWeek will therefore be on secret mission – who hits you with depleted uranium, you hit back with cholesterol, sugar and alcohol in unlimited quantities. Instead of S 400, @CEASSerbia is getting armed with ''Rubin“ Rose.
Visit the web page of the Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies and its sections on reports and events, or follow #BelgradeNATOWeek and @CeasSerbia on Twitter or the photo gallery below, to see what trends we have been following and launching so far and what top models we hosted at previous #BelgradeNATOWeek.
On the other hand, CEAS still insists that any similarity between #BelgradeNATOWeek and other fashion weeks is accidental. Yet, we are now off to think what to wear for the #BelgradeNATOWeek catwalk through the walls of Fall/Winter 2019-2020.
CEAS is present. How about you?
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