Dačić for Telegraf: Conflict in Kosovo and Metohija could escalate, it is clear who can provoke it
If Kosovo joins the Council of Europe, it will not mean the verification of their statehood on the international level
There were rumours that he would be either the Minister of Internal Affairs or the Minister of Foreign Affairs. In either case, he would sit in the same cabinet chair for the second time. That is what actually happened when Ivica Dačić was appointed First Deputy Prime Minister of the new Government and once again, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia. His goal is, as he has told Telegraf.rs in an interview, to achieve the best possible international position for Serbia in the coming period. And to be the best minister. He notes that we must not allow the Brussels Agreement to be derogated from, that is, to be considered no longer valid, when it has not even begun to be implemented, and that Albin Kurti, who says that the Agreement does not exist, is obviously the main factor of destabilisation and the main factor of any possible threatening the peace and stability in the region.
In this regard, he is skeptical that the European Union will force Kurti to implement the Brussels Agreement. The dialogue between Belgrade and Priština is getting further and further away because the search for a political solution is not being pursued, he says.
Escalation of the conflict in Kosovo and Metohija can certainly happen, and it is known exactly which „EU child“ can cause it, and he points out that the most important thing is that the Serbs are not the ones who cause incidents.
In an interview with our portal, Minister Dačić also said what would happen if we imposed sanctions on Russia, how officials of the so-called state of Kosovo are using the war in Ukraine to deal with Serbia, which countries besides Russia and China are ready to lend Serbia a hand at any moment, and what it will mean for Serbia if Kosovo becomes a member of the Council of Europe.
Would it be wrong to say that you took over as Minister of Foreign Affairs in the time of crisis for our country?
It would certainly not be wrong. On the other hand, I do not remember when we had really good moments in the past 20 or 30 years, therefore if we are waiting for some better moments to come, I think it would be like „waiting for Godot“. In any case, I cannot say that the problems are new. These are the problems which have burdened the entire region for the last few decades, and those who deal with this region more thoroughly would say, even in the last few centuries. It would be very frivolous to think that these problems depend exclusively on some personal or personnel solutions in the Government, they also depend on geostrategic circumstances, on how much understanding we have from the great powers, because it has never happened that this region makes all its decisions completely independently.
So, you are right. There are many problems. On the geostrategic level they especially escalated with the war in Ukraine, when our position multiplied in terms of reflections of the events occurring from different international centres. Everyone expects us to take someone’s side, but we would like the most and above all to take care of Serbian national and state interests, and that is what we are doing. That is, the interests of Serbia and its citizens.
For how long will we be able to resist the pressure to align with someone and will we fully succeed? They are pressuring us to impose sanctions on Russia, we neither do it nor want to do it?
I think that in order to understand such position, it would be necessary to understand that in addition to these international issues, we also have our own internal problems, that is the issue of preserving our territorial integrity and sovereignty. In this regard, every move we make at the foreign policy level is reflected on this level as well, on the status of Kosovo and Metohija. That is why it is very important to maintain balance, which means not to create new enemies where there is no need for that, and on the other hand, not to lose friends whose support is needed regarding our issue of Kosovo and Metohija.
Not to mention economic issues that are related, in the first place, to the issue of energy sources, since we do not have alternative sources of gas. We have to take care of our bilateral relations with Russia as well as of other friendly relations. For example, relations with Hungary, which helps us a lot in these moments. The third thing is that we cannot support sanctions as a principle of problem-solving for moral reasons, because these sanctions are mostly directed against the common people and not against an individual.
You just answered part of the question about what could happen to us if we imposed sanctions against Russia and what if we didn’t...
I would really like if someone carefully analysed this situation, and took into account the Western countries saying that we should impose sanctions against Russia. What do I mean? I mean that they are to put on paper what the consequences would be. Evidently the consequences of this would be the loss of Russia's support as regards the status of Kosovo and Metohija. That consequence does not exist for the West, that is what they want it. It is not as simple as some people think, that we belong to the Western world and should therefore impose sanctions against Russia.
We condemn violation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, it is indisputable. But we are not the only country in the world. We are the only one in Europe, but there are also many countries in the world to which it is allowed. Exceptions to sanctions against Russia are allowed. It is allowed to some of them, and we are being criticised. After all, we are not the exponents of Moscow, Washington nor Brussels. We have to take care of our national and state interests. Why am I saying that? Because Kosovo's membership in the Council of Europe will soon be on the agenda of this organisation. I wonder how those countries that are forcing us to impose sanctions against Russia will act. They will vote in favour of Kosovo. So what is offered to Belgrade?
What will it mean specifically for us if they join the CoE?
Essentially, this will not mean verification of their statehood at the international level. That is because the Council of Europe is a regional organisation. Membership in the United Nations is crucial for that, and they have no chance of becoming a UN member. First of all, we had an extremely successful action of recognition withdrawals, we worked to make many countries change their decision to recognise Kosovo, and at the same time, that many countries that do not recognise Kosovo maintain that position. So, today they cannot count on more than 83 votes out of 193 members in the UN General Assembly.
That being said, we are relatively safe there. Surely, they can become members of the Council of Europe because they have a sufficient number of countries in Europe that have recognised them, since decisions are not made by consensus there. But it certainly will not happen in the EU, the OSCE and other international organisations in which consensus is needed.
Kurti has no intention to comply with the Brussels Agreement
To what extent are the officials of the so-called Kosovo taking advantage of the situation in Ukraine to deal with Serbia?
They are. This is how they do it - they present Serbia as a zone of Russian influence and in the West they say that they are pro-Western oriented and that we are pro-Russian; and that we represent Russian interests, which is completely insane. The Russians have nothing to do with the Brussels Agreement. The essential question here is whether they (Priština) will observe the Brussels Agreement or not. We must not allow derogation of the Brussels Agreement, that is, to allow that the Agreement ceases to be valid. Well, it has not even started to be implemented.
Albin Kurti, for example, said that it did not exist. The Prime Minister says that these are bad signals, how do you see it?
Of course they are bad signals. This indicates that he has no intention of observing the Agreement signed by the European Union. Both Hashim Thaci and I signed that Agreement, of course, but the European Union is the guarantor of the Agreement. How can you have a serious conversation with such a politician, who is obviously the main factor in the destabilisation and the main factor in possible threatening the peace and stability in the region. That is why the European Union should show by what means they intend to convince and force Kurti to implement the Brussels Agreement.
Will they do it?
I do not believe they will. Here we experience some kind of hypocrisy. Why don't they apply all their options? I do not believe that they cannot do it, that they have no influence.
They do not wish to do it?
It is obvious that they do not wish it. Or it is obvious that, still, there is a certain notion that it is their child, that they created it. The problem is that their child, especially Kurti, is a serious threat to peace and stability in the region.
In this regard, the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina has never been more distant, and it seems that it will be even more distant.
Because, I repeat, the narrative is not focused on the search for a political solution. The narrative is artificially directed by Kurti to suggest that everything has already been resolved and that Serbia now only needs to accept Kosovo's independence. Also, they want to extend such state sovereignty to the north of Kosovo. That will never happen and they know it, so they are trying to do it using various tricks, such as preparations related to registration plates, wanting the Serbs to pay all those fines. And, of course, to intervene by force after that and integrate the north of Kosovo into that so-called independent state of Kosovo. This is absolutely unacceptable to Serbia and, of course, if the event go down that road, it can dangerously threaten peace in the entire region. This is where we come to the point where the EU must come out and say whether they will react or not.
Does this mean that an escalation of conflict in Kosovo and Metohija can occur?
Of course it can, but you know exactly who could cause it, so rap the one who can cause it on the knuckles. I don't know why anyone is addressing Serbia in this regard, given that Serbia has fulfilled all its obligations. Why don't they address Russia and Ukraine with the theory that both sides are responsible? How can Serbia be responsible for failing to apply the Brussels Agreement? Arrogance and hypocrisy present here are obvious, but that is the reality. We cannot escape from it. We will be active. As you can see, President Vučič is one of the key factors of stability in the region.
Will we, the Serbs, be to blame once again in case of escalation of conflict even though we know who, as you said, needs to have his knuckles rapped? The same as they condemned us when the Serbs left Priština’s institutions.
Nobody condemned the Albanians when they left the Serbian institutions 20, 30 years ago. Why should we care who condemns us. We only need to know what we want. The Serbs have their own goals and our goal is to achieve all of them in a peaceful manner. One thing we must not allow is that the Serbs are to blame for some incidents. If someone attacks the Serbs, the Serbs will defend themselves. But everything else that the Serbs can control will be occurring in a peaceful manner, according to President Vučič's instructions.
When did you visit Kosovo last and are you planning to go there soon?
I have a problem, they don't allow me to enter Kosovo. They don't want to issue the permit, and I cannot go as an ordinary citizen. I could try to go as an ordinary citizen, but they wouldn't let me enter. So, here we are experiencing situations like this one, which is completely contrary to the agreements we reached with them to have such visits announced and then approved.
And they do not get approved after all?
They do not get approved. It is completely unnecessary. I did not intend to go to Priština, each of us intends to go to areas where the Serbs live. And each of us speaks about the implementation of the Brussels Agreement, not about things that would be counterproductive.
How many countries have withdrawn their recognition of Kosovo so far and are there any indications that more other countries will do the same in the near future?
It's not advisable to talk about that at the moment. We are still at the stage when the Washington Agreement is hovering over us, although Priština does not observe even the Brussels Agreement, let alone the Washington Agreement. We are of the opinion that we should not yet announce which countries have withdrawn their recognitions, until we see whether the application for Kosovo's membership in the Council of Europe is accepted. However, I can say with certainty that there are 193 UN member countries. When all this started, more than 110 countries recognised Kosovo.
We agreed, I proposed it to the President and he accepted, to have a state campaign that is still ongoing, aimed at working with those countries to review their decisions. So today there are countries that recognise Kosovo but do not vote for Kosovo, like Egypt, Peru, and Hungary, after all. Hungary has recognised Kosovo but no longer votes for Kosovo. This means that they cannot count on more than 83 votes out of 193 countries in the UN. It is capital value for us. Otherwise, we would have to rely only on Russia and China as permanent members of the Security Council who can prevent voting in favour of Kosovo by vetoing it.
It is realistic to expect that the Security Council passes a decision in favour of this issue, unless someone vetoes it. If we consider the worst case scenario for us, even if it is voted in the Security Council, it cannot be voted in the UN General Assembly. Therefore, to avoid depending on others, we will continue this action.
Apart from Russia and China, which other country is ready to lend us a helping hand at any time?
A large number of countries. Those are EU member countries - Spain, Cyprus, Romania, even Slovakia and Greece. Hungary, for example, recognised Kosovo but will not vote for Kosovo in the Council of Europe, did not vote for Kosovo to join Interpol either, and will not vote for Kosovo in the EU if they apply for membership. Not to mention other countries like India, Indonesia, South Africa. We have countries in Latin America that are on our side, such as Brazil, Argentina, Cuba, Venezuela, but I have to point out that there are also some countries that are Muslim and have not recognised Kosovo. Palestine is not a member of the UN, but the fact that Palestine is against Kosovo is very important, primarily because of the Muslim world and the Arab world. Then we have Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya... These are all big countries that have not recognised Kosovo. Iran, Iraq… Very important.
Last weekend you attended the International Conference of La Francophonie. There were a lot of topics, many members, which issues are troubling them?
France is a colonial power and has designed this organisation well, it is aimed to promote the French language, culture... and has more than 80 members. In this way they exercise their political influence. Other countries are not so well organised in this field, although English language is spoken in many countries in the world. They only have the Commonwealth, but no one outside the Commonwealth can be a member. They (La Fracophonie) also welcome those who have no connection with the French language and who are not in the first place francophone countries.
In this regard, Serbia has also found its place there as an associate member and we wish to become a permanent member. Since I became minister 8 years ago, we have been to every gathering and we wish to gain political benefit from all of them, because 80 countries are present there in one place. Secondly, to obtain for the country and its the citizens as many of these various programmes related to La Francophonie as possible - French language, culture, art, scholarships... To teach French language as much as possible in schools, to thereby create more opportunities for our people to study in French. All this has its advantages, especially if those programmes are funded by that organisation. However, our primary interest is political, that means our presence there.
The topic of this conference was digitisation. I was one of the few who talked about digitisation because we have achieved a lot in this field. Nobody even mentioned it. It is important to be present there, to meet with the French president, with the Canadian prime minister, that is all of great importance to them. Irrespective of the fact that France was a colonial power, those countries still maintain some special and specific relations with this country. So it was a very useful meeting. You know, Africa is the friendliest continent to us. I am absolutely against anyone who underestimates the influence of Africa. Tito was no fool when he had Africa supporting him, it is a quarter of humanity. Africa has 54 countries, 54 members of the UN. Out of 193. Honestly, I look forward to visiting those countries more than some countries that look down on us.
Whether it is in the West or in the East. Everyone thinks that when I talk about it I always mean the West. It is not just the West. Big powers in the East do not always see you as an equal. We must work on our relations with Asia. Do you know how big the Pacific area is? I informed myself and I am very happy to learn about the results of elections in Vanuatu. And I don't think anyone paid attention, but I did, because a friend of mine has become minister of foreign affairs there. So you have to be up to date. Every vote out of those 193 is important, we need to have a majority and we have already achieved that goal.
Why Minister of Foreign Affairs again and not Minister of the Interior?
How much more difficult is now to be the Minister of Foreign Affairs compared to when you held this office before?
Basically, it is the same job, only the problems are a somewhat bigger because Ukraine, that is, the war in Ukraine is now an additional factor. An OSCE ministerial meeting will be held soon. I was the chairman in 2015 and now Poland takes over the chair. A meeting in Lodz is to be held next week, and they do not want to invite Lavrov. We have a meeting of 57 OSCE countries to which you are not inviting one or the other... The question arises as to what is the point of existence of that organisation. How should we act in this situation? How can we take sides, when every day resolutions against Russia, China, Iraq, Venezuela, or Ethiopia, Zimbabwe or some other countries that are our great friends, are passed. Zimbabwe is the only country that voted against the bombing when the Security Council was deciding on it in 1999. And we are now to impose sanctions against Zimbabwe?
What kind of experience have you gained as President of the National Assembly of Serbia?
I have not gained any experience that I didn't already have. I have been a Member of Parliament since 1992.
Still, it is a little different on the other side.
Yes, but I was elected in all mandates from 1992 until today. I even received a jubilee award for 30 years of service. It is true that being the president is different from being an MP. I kept telling that to President Vučić, and he kept explaining what the difference between me and him was. There were some protests in Novi Sad at that time we were not in power in Vojvodina, when (Bojan) Pajtić was still in power. At that time I was Minister of the Interior. He says: „This meeting is going well'“ I say: „You see what the difference is, I am waiting for it to end“. When I was Minister of the Interior, I never looked at the result of a game, I waited for it to end and that no incidents occur.
It is the same in the position of president of the Assembly. Here your task is to ensure that everything ends peacefully, and MP’s interest is to discuss extensively, to make a move that the citizens who watch it live will characterise as positive. So there is some difference between being the Assembly president and an MP.
Why Minister of Foreign Affairs again and not Minister of the Interior?
Both options were discussed. I told President Vučić that it was up to him to assess from what position I can help him the most and the best.
So, the President decided.
He proposed me for the Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2014. It was his idea. It did not even occur to me. To be honest, it never occurred to me to be the Minister of the Interior either. I am a politician in the first place, and I think that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs leaves more space for politics. In internal affairs you have to deal every day with issues that have nothing to do with politics.
Would it be significant and in what way for our country if the peace talks between Zelenski and Putin really took place in Belgrade ?
Of course, we would not reject something like that, but on the other hand, we do not need to stand out a lot in this matter and be solving some world problems when we have our own that we have not solved. In this regard, irrespective of the fact that such ideas appeared, I think that they have found some other destinations. The negotiations will hardly be conducted here because every party proposes a country of its choice. In the beginning, Belarus was the place where Russians and Ukrainians met, but now it is no longer Belarus, now they meet more often in Turkey. Turkey somehow got that „privilege“ to be a contact country for Russia, and I think that Turkey is also getting some economic privileges. I don't think we should get involved at all costs and meddle in world topics and problems. If someone wants us to help, we are ready.
What will be your goal and biggest challenge as Minister of Foreign Affairs?
I said that I want to be the best minister in the Government. That is what I told my colleagues.
What does that mean for them?
That they also have to be the best.
That's right. Whoever wants to participate, let him participate. If they do not want to, let them give way to someone else. I am not talking about political qualifications at all. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a little different. I have never brought in people from my political party there. We have no political aspirations, but there should be people who will be dedicated to that work in the best possible way, and that is my goal. The goal is to achieve the best possible international position in the coming period.
The year 2023 is approaching, what would be your wishes for Serbia and what for yourself?
As you know, 1 January is a specific date for me because it is my birthday. I can never separate those things, especially since I have many political commitments on that day at the international level as well. For example, the inauguration of the President of Brazil, according to their Constitution, takes place on 1 January. Our President sent me there twice as his envoy, to attend that event which is on the same day as my birthday.
Personally, I would like it if politics were less and less a part of people's lives, that is, if that issue became irrelevant and the issue of everyday life and a better life became important. I can wish for it, but it certainly won't happen, that all our problems are solved, but at least let's create good prerequisites for our children to live better.