B. Tadić: Address to Peace Summit 2023, Session VI-A: Europe and the Middle East

Thank you, Mr. Marion. I am really very honored to have the opportunity to express my thoughts, my views regarding European security and the European future in the context of the global conflict. The situation in which we find ourselves today is totally unpredictable, and unfortunately, I have to say the situation is going to be even more unpredictable in the future. No one is able to explain what is going to happen with us, with the world, with ordinary people in the future because conflicts are becoming more prevalent and severe, and many, many unsolvable problems and disputes are affecting all of us, all around the world.

Europe is our continent. We are living in Europe. This is an old continent with old culture. But you can find much diversity, many different identities. I fully agree with the former Minister of Defense of Austria, Mr. Fasslabend, who said that we are faced nowadays with two different approaches: One is rational, one is emotional. But in the middle of those two approaches, we have the issue of identity, which is at the same time very rational and very emotional. The issue of identity is in the foundation of many disputes all around the world, especially in the European Union. Many wars that happened in Europe were because of not respecting different identities.

Even today we are facing such problems in Europe, even though the European Union is thinking globally, which is one of the biggest achievements in terms of peace and in terms of solving such a difficult and very sensitive problem. This is why, as President of Serbia and before that the Minister of Defense and Minister of Telecommunication, I was always intending to bring my country into the European Union, not only Serbia, but the whole region of the Western Balkans, which was traditionally the very soft stomach of European security.

We usually say that the Western Balkans can produce more history than we can consume, which is bringing many tensions not only in our corner of Europe, but elsewhere. But we can see that there are many, many soft stomachs of security all around the world in accordance with Zbigniew Brzezinski’s main theory.

Nowadays we see this in the South China Sea and we see many tensions between the two Koreas. We see many tensions not only in the Atlantic area, but also right now in the Pacific. Things are changing, becoming more and more unpredictable. I have to say that many times when I was appearing on different forums all around the world in the past few years, I was facing the fact that even great politicians and well-known analysts, weren’t able to predict political processes.

I remember a few years ago when I was participating on an advisory board of one international bank with the big players—Bramano Prody, Javier Solana, Igor Ivanov and Joschka Fischer—no one was predicting Brexit in Great Britain. That happened only a few months before the referendum in Great Britain. A few months after that I was in the United States. That was just before elections between Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Only one person among the American institutions said Trump was going to win. Only one person. We were together in New York talking about what would happen with the United States, and then Trump won. I’m asking myself if we cannot predict today, then what is going to be the situation tomorrow, next year?

A year before that horrible aggression of Russia against Ukraine, no one was predicting that war. Some people had been explaining that Russia was planning to do something like that, but the majority in the international community ignored that fact. What is crystal clear is that no one was trying to prevent that war. Even those people who said the war was maybe coming, they didn’t try to prevent war and war came overnight.

Now this is the second year we are faced with a war that is triggering many problems all around the world. We are living in an interconnected world. We can compare the world with the human body: Everything that is happening in one cell in the human body has an impact on the other cells.

What is happening in Ukraine is creating an impact in the South China Sea. We have a problem because we cannot isolate one aggression, one war from other potential aggressions. In that respect, Europe is not secure anymore, even though we are intending to become a member state of the European Union, which I’m going to repeat is the greatest achievement in terms of peace in the history of the world. The European Union is not secure anymore. It is totally involved in a war in Ukraine which is a war between Russia and Ukraine. The European Union is going to pay an extremely high price because of that kind of involvement.

The European Union is going to be one of the victims besides the Ukrainian people and the Russian people. Europe is going to be a victim of that war. I think that the main benefit from that war is that we are going to have other global powers, the United States and finally China. In that respect we can expect that the global situation and the international community are going to look different in comparison with the world we were living in up until two years ago.

What is going to be foundation of the new rules? I don’t know. But I know that things are triggering each other in a very specific way, and whenever we are not focused on the problems we are facing, we are paying an extremely high price. Whenever we are not preventing a new conflict, after a few years we pay an extremely high price. The last time I participated in this forum I said that prevention of conflict is much more important than solutions of conflict because whoever is preventing conflict is saving human lives. Whoever is preventing conflict is doing a lot in terms of peace in the future. He’s doing extremely important work. But this is not enough. Prevention of conflict is much, much more important in that respect.

We’ve been living after the Second World War, after 1949, under rules that are defined by the United Nations charter. But now I’m coming to the issue of the Western Balkans. Mr. Kurti was explaining his thoughts. He has already stepped out of the room. Unfortunately, he didn’t wait to hear how someone from Serbia is going to react to his statements, because this is a conflict. I think this is not fair. As a democrat, I would always listen to what President Kurti was going to say. I respect him even though we have totally different opinions.

But I’m coming to that issue because we have a problem. I’m going to explain to you how the Kosovo issue was triggering even a war in Ukraine. Whenever we are not focused on a problem within 1 minute, or within one year, we pay an extremely high price after a few years. When Albanians’ provisional institutions—not legitimate institutions—declared independence from Serbia, the reaction of the International Court of Justice when we asked their advisory opinion, was: Whatever they did, they didn’t violate international law.

That was a very strange decision because that decision in effect set an example for new separatists all around the world. That’s exactly what happened in Georgia, in Crimea in Ukraine, in Dombas in Ukraine, and that is exactly the first statement Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin delivered in his talks with the Secretary General of United Nations, Mr. Gutierrez, by saying if that was possible with Kosovo, it is possible with Crimea, Dombas, Lugansk and other regions in Ukraine.

Almost half of the countries of the world recognized immediately the independence of Kosovo. I pointed out in my speech in the United Nations Security Council that the world after this decision is becoming more dangerous than before. Immediately after that we had a war in Georgia and nowadays, we are facing a war in Ukraine. Whoever is supporting the partition of one country that is a member state of the United Nations is supporting war in Ukraine. For me, this is really ridiculous when I see some global powers nowadays trying to dismiss the fact that they supported Kosovo’s independence, which was in fact a partition of my country, which was a member state of the United Nations in accordance with the charter which was in effect from 1949. This triggered at the same time a partition of Ukraine.

Nowadays I see controversy in the policy of Western countries. They at the same time supported the partition of my country, Serbia, but now they are totally against partition of Ukraine. You cannot have a double standard in the international arena. If you have a double standard and especially if you are a big power, you are not taking responsibility for the future of the continent, of Europe, of the whole world.

We are now facing a problem. There are many, many Kosovos, many, many Crimeas all around the world, not only in Europe. Because of that, five countries of the European Union didn’t recognize Kosovo’s independence.

Slovakia, Romania, Greece, Spain and other countries, but also more than the majority of the global countries, member states of the United Nations, didn’t recognize Kosovo’s independence. The Serbian government right now is trying to have a principled position. Serbia is not recognizing the partition of Ukraine. In every international initiative in United Nations, Serbia was following the agenda without recognition of partition of Ukraine.

We are fully supporting the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Unfortunately, Ukraine didn’t support Serbia in the Council of Europe in the past few days. Regarding Kosovo, a member state in the Council of Europe, the situation is not in accordance with the principles and standards I’m mentioning because we have to take into consideration the fact that we have to keep principled positions if we want to be respected in the world in the future. If there is support for partition of some countries, I’m really very much afraid about the future of other countries.

In Africa, for example, there are many, many territorial disputes, even more than in Europe, even more than in Asia. You can see so many disputes and so many conflicts all around the world.

Dear friends, this is a UPF conference about peace. This is a conference in which we can deliver our different thoughts, different views, because we are all very much focused on global peace, reconciliation and security. I committed all my political life to support reconciliation, not only within Serbian society, but in our region.

I paid respect to the victims in Srebrenica, in Bosnia, Herzegovina apologizing for the victims among the Bosniacs and Croats. I did it because I truly believed that an honest approach is very important regarding our future. I was always working on reconciliation between Serbians and Albanians. As a young student, I supported the right of Albanian students in the 1980s to ask for independence from Serbia within the former Yugoslavia.

But I didn’t support the idea of independence. I was defending their rights because I truly believe that everyone has to be free to explain his thoughts and intentions. But we have to keep a principled position and to think about the outcome of our work and about our decisions. Thank you very much for your attention.

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