Ivica Dačić: Anyone who wants Serbia to capitulate should say so openly

06. Nov 2022.
AT THIS TIME, when Serbia is caught between the West and the East, exposed to unfavourable offers for Kosovo and Metohija and threats that it will face an economic apocalypse if it does not impose sanctions against Russia due to the conflict in Ukraine, the “hot potato” that is the position of the Minister of Foreign Affairs has been returned to the President of the Socialist Party of Serbia Ivica Dačić.

The public expects him to keep bringing about withdrawals of the recognition of the false state of Kosovo - during his first mandate, he effected 18 of the 27 in total - as well as to keep a balance between the wishes of Washington and Moscow, of Brussels and Beijing.

On the strategy he has developed, on whether Serbia will remain neutral according to the principle of the observance of the international law, and whether his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov will return his telephone call if Serbia does impose sanctions against Moscow, he has spoken to the newspaper “Novosti”, which he had visited together with his closest associates.

How are we going to respond to the many pressures in the matter of Kosovo and Metohija, the increased number of envoys, unfair solutions that are being offered?

- We must be aware that we will never get a solution which would be ideal for us. Nor one that would ideal for Pristina, but they are not my concern. We are at a place with no ideal solutions, where we must carefully measure what we may and may not accept without our vital interests being jeopardised.

The Scholz and Macron plan posits that Serbia should accept Kosovo's admission to the United Nations in exchange for an uncertain European perspective...

- This is based on the position that Kosovo’s independence is a done deal, but we don't accept that.

We want a discussion, and we have always constructive and suggesting compromises, but such agreements cannot be made backwards. The conclusion form the session of the National Security Council is that this proposal is unacceptable. We all voted in favour of this conclusion. We are not getting a chance to talk, even though their starting point - that Kosovo is an independent country - is unacceptable to us. As for the question, are or are you not formally recognising Kosovo while agreeing that Kosovo become a UN Member State, this is a very difficult question for us.

There is an opinion in a part of the public that sanctions should be imposed against Russia. If the Government puts this matter to the vote, will you vote “Yes”?

- The National Security Council adopted a decision back in March that we would not impose sanctions against Russia, and we are respecting that. I think it was the right decision and that it protects Serbia’s interests, which was clear to see over the previous months. We are under intense pressure for such a decision, but this is our policy, and we will continue pursuing it as long as it fits our interests. If you are in trouble and falling down in an abyss, and you grab onto a branch or someone’s hand, you will surely not let it go before finding another one to hold onto. The one who is forcing you to let go off it, is telling you to kill yourself. And where is that other hand? Is anyone extending it to us?

Give us a hand, and then we will see. When Britain adopted the Resolution on Srebrenica, we were able to call Lavrov. But what if we impose the sanctions, and he does not return our calls anymore?

Which red signal will tell us that we cannot bear it anymore and that we will impose the sanctions? Will this moment come if investors from the West withdraw, or if the visa regime is reinstated?

- The matter of sanctions and the matter of Kosovo and Metohija are interconnected. We may view it as just a conflict between Russia and Ukraine, but in our case, we have to see it through the lens of our situation, which concerns the problem of territorial integrity and possible consequences of our decisions in terms of Kosovo and Metohija. It is in our interest to find the best possible solution for Kosovo and Metohija, rather than be emotionally torn about whether we love the East or the West more and what kind of consequences our potential decisions may have on, for instance, vote on Kosovo in the United Nations. With its behaviour, the West is pushing Serbia more and more into the arms of the countries which support our territorial integrity. Not just Russia, but China, too. And Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Cuba.. The EU is now going to force us to reinstall the visa regime towards Cuba. We have had to cancel the Serbia-Tunisia Visa Waiver Agreement dating back to Tito's time, due to migrants.  The Tunisian media are now citing articles from World War One, when our soldiers were greeted in Tunisia with shouts of “Long live the Serbs!”

We must make decisions, but also consider the consequences. Russia will survive. If they have survived Montenegro's sanctions, they would survive ours, too. But this is not the problem.

The territorial integrity of Serbia is just as important as that of Ukraine, but they are trying to say that ours is unimportant. We have always voted in accordance with the principle of international law, while the Eastern and Western countries voted by applying it selectively. We have not recognised Crimea, Ossetia, Abkhazia, the Turkish part of the Cyprus... All those who want us to capitulate should say so openly, rather than try to make it seem like we capitulated because have not imposed sanctions against Russia.

How are we to act in these circumstances?

- We will stick to our policy. We must see what the West proposes with regard to our territorial integrity, as everything else arises from that issue. It is hypocritical that someone is trying to use our relationship with Russia to solve the matter of Kosovo and Metohija in an easier way, by making us lose the good relationship we have with Russia. Or if this is the question they are asking us - why would Russia protest if we impose sanctions against them? Well, why is the West protesting against the fact that we have not imposed sanctions on Moscow?

Every major power expects us to act the way they want us to. But we have to think of what is in Serbia’s best interest. I have never said “Long live Russia”. Why wouldn’t we hold onto the other hand, if it were to be extended to us? However, this cannot be the first item on the agenda: impose sanctions against Russia, and then the second item: accept Kosovo’s admission to the UN and the Council of Europe. Who would accept that? At this time, there are no proposals that we may take into consideration and say that we should reconsider our position relating to the sanctions. They have made no political offer. They think finances will solve the issue, but they are not being very generous financially, nor in terms of the EU membership.

Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany Annalena Baerbock has openly said that Serbia cannot be in the EU if it does not recognise Kosovo. The exposé of Prime Minister Ana Brnabić states that the European path of Serbia is inevitable. Is it, if its price is a loss of territory?

- No one has said that it is inevitable on those terms and that it must be paid by territory. We wish to take part in European integration, which is a normal desire, as we are in Europe. But no one has ever said that we should harm our own interests for the sake of it. There is no established EU policy on that matter. These are bilateral issues. Certain countries may ask us to do something, and we will decide what to do. I believe that it is in the interest of the European Union to be its Member State, as I do not believe it is in their interest that the largest nation in the Balkans is outside EU.  It would be great if we could find the lowest common denominator with the major powers from the West and East.

Will there be new derecognitions of the false state of Kosovo?

- If it is needed - there will be. We are ready. At the moment, 27 countries in total have withdrawn their recognitions. You know 18 of them, and we haven't found out the other nine. We have a ready answer if Pristina starts to ask for admission into some international organisations again.

At the moment they are trying to be admitted into the Council of Europe...

- Yes, we have successfully postponed that issue. Week by week, since sessions of the political committee are held each week. The next chair is Iceland, and we must talk to them. Our most difficult position in terms of being outnumbered is in relation to Kosovo and Metohija in Europe.

However, potential admission of the so-called Kosovo would set up a precedent, as an unrecognised territory has never been admitted to the EU. Thus, recognition and admission to the Council of Europe are not exactly the same. As regards other international organisation, the situation is very different. There are 193 UN Member States, and, objectively speaking, Kosovo may not get more than 83 votes. Even that is a big change compared to the time when as many as 110 countries were recognising Kosovo.


IN DECEMBER, the Socialist Party of Serbia is to hold its congress. You have previously said, perhaps in the heat of the moment, that you will step down from your position of the President of the party. Are you considering this?

-  I just said that to see how people would react. I’m joking. All kinds of things cross a person’s mind in the heat of the moment, even such a nonsensical idea as stepping down. I would like for that congress to show that the idea we are talking about is bigger, wider and more complex than any of the personal solutions. Our ideological heritage goes back to 1903 and the Serbian Social Democratic Party of Dimitrije Tucović. with just the name changed multiple times later.  The next year marks the 120th anniversary of this political ideology in Serbia.

Would you maybe prefer to be a Secretary-General of the party, like Xi Jinping?

- Tito, Stalin and Lenin were Secretaries-General. Pedro Sánchez is the Secretary-General of the Spanish socialists. But no. A President is a President.


Your family was happy when you became the Speaker of the National Assembly, since they were able to “check” on you through live broadcasts. What is their reaction how that you are once more preparing for a trip around the world?

- As soon we she sees that I am not on TV, my wife calls me to ask where I am. When I became the Minister of Interior, my mother cried. My father was a policeman, and he was never at home. For the three months when I had nothing to do, I was at home, and I loved it. I got to know my family better. At one point I even considered the idea of remaining without any political position. My family is not very happy at the moment, because I am the Minister of Interior again, which requires many trips and meetings.

Source/Photo: Novosti / D. Milovanović