The first conference of the Belgrade Strategic Dialogue, titled “The New International Reality – Challenges and Prospects” was held in Belgrade on June 29 at Belgrade City Hall. The goal of the conference was to provide the meeting point between Russian, EU and Western Balkans actors in discussing the prospects of future policy change. This event was organized by Foundation BSD, registered two weeks prior.
The conference was divided into three panels, dedicated to the Balkans relations, European relations and the role of the media in shaping the public opinion. The main messages were of Serbia’s commitment to military neutrality, and further EU integration, but not without criticism towards various European Union policy decisions.
Keynote speaker was Ivica Dačić, Acting Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia and Minister of Foreign Affairs. In his speech he underlined that Serbia will continue with the policy of military neutrality, but also spoke in harsh terms of uneven levels of cooperation with USA and some European countries.
Sergei Zheleznyak, a deputy secretary of the General Council of the Party “United Russia”, representative of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation and member of the State Duma for International Affairs Committee, has said that Russia desires “peaceful and rich Europe”, but juxtaposed that EU “in its current state does not respond completely to the wishes of citizens”. Main messages from this panel were that EU needs to focus on its own reform, continue with the enlargement process, “since the Union is the largest peace project”, and to maintain cooperation with Russia.
Marko Đurić, Vice President of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), presented a new slogan “Balkan to Balkan peoples”. He stated that this does not denote isolation and raising of walls, but openness and connection, for which the help of Great Powers is needed. He said that the basic principles in the region should be cooperation, economic integration, independent domestic and foreign policy and infrastructure integration.
During his appearance, Duma representative stressed that the Russian Federation supports platform or concept “B4”. Despite the request to explain the concept and name the participant in this process, he just stated that “the platform is supported by people in different countries in the Balkans who support military neutrality, in spite of compulsory membership in NATO”.
Even though Russian media have announced that current Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić will be present at the conference, he did not attend the event itself, but has hosted the Russian delegation in his official capacity, stating that “Serbia as an independent and militarily neutral country chose EU integration as a foreign policy priority, but that it would not disrupt good relations with Russia”.
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