Speech delivered by CEAS Director Jelena Milic at the opening of the Seventh Spring Belgrade NATO Week

Dear guests, welcome to another high level event that Center for Euro-Atlantic Studies organizes within our high flagship annual program “Belgrade NATO Week” which enjoys support of the Public Diplomacy Division of NATO (PDD).

There are several important reasons why we, CEAS, with the support of the Royal Norwegian Embassy to Serbia which is NATO Contact Point Embassy and Serbian administration bodies, have decided to pull our efforts and resources and organize extraordinary - spring edition of our NATO Week. 

NATO, MSs and partner states are commemorating 70th anniversary of NATO foundation by series of high level events. In the same time Serbia is also commemorating 20 years since NATO bombing of FRY. We will never forget the victims of course, we shall always remember them. But despite tragic events from the past, from which mistakes both sides should learn, this kind of events are CEAS humble effort to contribute so that such tragedies happen never again. 

Serbia wants to improve its partnership with NATO based on its policy of military neutrality, as well to contribute to preservation of regional peace and stability in the region. Serbia and NATO will hopefully soon adopt second round of the IPAP. 

But, the stalemate in dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, caused by Kosovo administration unacceptable decision to impose tariffs on goods from Serbia and B&H, is, among other negative implications, becoming a security threat. This is also why CEAS and its partners organize this event - to try to ease all channels of communication which can contribute to an avoidance of misunderstandings and abasement of very complicated current situation. 

Unfortunately, only in last several days we all have been witnesses of reduced level of trust and level of communication  between all formal actors, caused by decision of Kosovo administration to carry out anti-corruption operation in North Kosovo with suspiciously unusually large number of personnel, vehicles and weapons. The operation has international implications as Kosovo units allegedly hurt UNMIK personnel and upper handed two of them. One of them is a part of Russian staff of UNMIK. 

I hope that today’s event, that is organized in cooperation with Atlantic Council of the United States too, which will address very relevant issues like; NATO Future Challenges, NATO and EU, NATO’s engagements in the Southeast Europe, including in the Mediterranean, NATO in the Western Balkans and Serbia, will also at least a bit contribute to better understanding of latest events and help restoration of communication and trust, too. 

Very prominent USA diplomat Nicolas Burns – and I paraphrase here- described the AC as the TT-organization with fastest growing influence in DC. 

CEAS is honored to host again Atlantic Council delegation during their visits to Serbia, this time along with Mr. Arne Sannes Bjørnstad, Norwegian Ambassador to Serbia,  and a  great friend of Serbia. 

Today with us are Atlantic Council’s  Executive Vice President Mr. Damon Wilson and  Ms. Judy  Ansley,  Senior Advisor, at the Atlantic Council Future Europe Initiative Program and member of Board of Directors of the  U.S. Institute of Peace. Among other high level posts that our guest have hold throughout their rich carriers, both of them maintained high position in National Security Council (NSC). 

Mr. Wilson and his team are visiting Western Balkans with a group of Congressional fellows, and have arrived to Belgrade after serial of high level meetings in Pristina and Tirana. Yesterday and today they had meetings with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, Minister of Interior Nebojsa Stefanovic  and  this morning with President Vucic. I hope they will today share with us some impressions from this and the other meetings, too. 

As you all know the AC has put together a year and a half ago report Balkans Forward, that has been, which is not always the case, very well received by high level representatives of Serbian administration. It is accurate and honest report with extreme consideration worthy recommendations how to further anchor the region of the Western Balkans into the Euro-Atlantic structures in everyone’s best interest. 

So, without further ado, I pass the floor now to our panelists and moderator. 

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