There were plenty of events in 2017 to raise the eyebrows or cause the heart to skip a beat
North Korea prompted international condemnation with its testing of ballistic missiles, the UN warned that the world is facing the biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II, with up to 20 million people at risk of starvation and famine in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria. And while SpaceX conducted the world’s first private flight of an orbital class rocket, terrorist attacks, hurricanes, floods and drought shook many parts of the globe. Europe continued to deal with the migrant crisis, Brexit, the Catalan challenge and uncertainty over the outcome of German elections.
On the brighter side, the IMF and World Bank confirmed stronger-than-expected economic recovery, particularly resilient in Europe. The Western Balkans and Serbia received some good news that they might be able to count on faster-track inclusion into the EU, provided they wholeheartedly embrace reforms. Many artists, musicians and dancers brightened our days, while random passers-by, friends and loved ones made us smile.
Was 2017 a year in which the glass was half-empty or half-full, in historical, political, economic and cultural terms? For this issue of CorD we asked members of the diplomatic corps to share their thoughts with us.
In your view, what was the most important event that took place this year, in your country and internationally?
H.E. Julia Feeney
Ambassador Of Australia To Serbia
Year Of Uncertainty
2017 was a year of change and uncertainty, here and around the world. Changes in political sentiment in the Western world, Brexit and tension around the Korean Peninsula made it an unpredictable year globally
Between Serbia and Australia, 2017 was a year of great growth in the bilateral relationship. We were able to welcome Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop to Belgrade, as well as the Minister for International Development Concetta Fierravanti-Wells. We held the first ever Senior Officials Talks between Australia and Serbia in Canberra and our cooperation in the United Nations grew. In July we were proud to launch the Australia-Serbia Glac Archaeology Project, which will see the Sydney University and Australian experts work with Serbian students and experts to explore important Ancient Roman ruins. This project will last for many years to come.
We were also proud to see the launch of the Australian-Serbian Chamber of Commerce and hope that business will continue to grow in this direction. More Australian IT and technical expertise firms have looked to Serbia as a choice location to find young minds.
In response to the rapid changes in the world and concerns about isolation and nationalism, Australia released a Foreign Policy White Paper to set the course for the next ten years
In response to the rapid changes in the world and concerns about isolation and nationalism, Australia released a Foreign Policy White Paper to set the course for the next ten years. Australia’s foreign policy is built on strong domestic foundations—a flexible economy, close partnerships with countries in our region, strong defence and national security capabilities and resilient democratic institutions. Our democracy and our institutions are robust and transparent, making Australia one of the safest and freest countries in the world. We recognise that an outward– looking Australia fully engaged with the world is essential for our future security and prosperity.
I hope that 2018 will be a year of continued growth in the Australia- Serbia relationship and a year of substantial progress for Serbia on its EU reform path. I believe that nations with flexible economies and resilient, democratic institutions will be the best prepared to face the uncertainty of the future.
H.E. Kati Csaba
Ambassador Of Canada To Serbia
150th Anniversary Reflects Our History
For Canada, 2017 was a very important year, with 1st July marking the 150th anniversary of our existence as a country
Our sesquicentennial was marked with a year of events and celebrations across Canada and in countries around the world, including a Canada Day reception in Belgrade and a number of art exhibitions, theatre projects, ballet performances and other cultural events here in Serbia. For a young country like Canada, this was a major anniversary, and we used the occasion not only to celebrate, but to reflect on our history, including the treatment of Canada’s indigenous peoples over the years and how to move forward with reconciliation.
From a broader global perspective, I think we have seen a concerning trend in 2017 around the growth of populism and nationalism
From a broader global perspective, without mentioning specific events, I think we have seen a concerning trend in 2017 around the growth of populism and nationalism in different parts of the world, stoking fear and insecurity and undermining democratic processes. As you know, I am a recent arrival in Belgrade, so I cannot comment on the whole of the past year in Serbia. However, we were pleased to have our Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Andrew Leslie, here for President Vučić’s inauguration ceremony in June, and also several high-level bilateral meetings. And, of course, I had the honour of presenting my credentials to President Vučić on 11th December, so that beautiful ceremony is still fresh in my mind. I am looking forward to a busy year in 2018, advancing Canada’s priorities in Serbia and continuing to strengthen our bilateral relations.
I take this opportunity to wish all CorD readers happy holidays and all the best in 2018!
H.E. Li Manchang
Ambassador Of The People’s Republic Of China
China Will Give New Contributions To The World
According to my view, the most important event that took place in 2017 was the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, held in Beijing during October
The Communist Party of China has 89 million members, a 96-year-long history, is the largest political party in the world and has been governing for 68 years, while China is also the country with the world’s largest population and second largest economy. The 19th Congress finalised the future development of China and emphasised a number of new ideas, thoughts and strategies – not only concerning China’s future and destiny, but also its inevitably important influence on the world.
The key word of the 19th Congress was “new”. Chinese development now stands at a new starting point. In the past five years, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, China has taken new steps: the economy is growing fast; it is at the top among the world’s most important nations; domestic production has increased from 54 to 80 trillion Chinese Yuan, assuredly the second largest in the world, while its contribution to global economic growth exceeds 30 per cent. China’s foreign trade, foreign investments and foreign reserves are among the highest ranking worldwide. Some 60 million of people have been lifted out of poverty, the income of the middle classes is increasing, while the country’s strength is growing continuously.
China brings to the world a new theory. The Communist Party of China, by combining the practise of social and economic development, catching the pulse of the times, propounds Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. For China, this has scientifically answered the historical question – where is China going after establishing a healthy society and provided a timeframe and path to future developments. For the world, Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era has widened the path of modernisation for developing countries and given Chinese wisdom and scheme to solve the problems of humanity.
China will give new contributions to the world. The 19th Congress of the Communist Party again presented China as a strong and responsible country that will promote the building of a new framework of international relations and a common future for humanity. China pursues firmly an independent peaceful foreign policy, respecting the right of all nations to choose their own paths, while safeguarding international justice. Regardless if a country is small or big, rich or poor, they all have the right to enjoy progress; every country should contribute its efforts to the common interest, strengthen the dialogue of cooperation and in reaching a common victory. Regardless of the phase of development at which China stands, it will never seek hegemony and will never seek expansion. In the future, China will continue promoting the “One Belt and One Road” initiative and the “16+1 Cooperation”, in order to achieve policy coordination, facilitate connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration, people-to-people bonds; to support the multilateral trade system, promote the establishment of free trade areas, promote the establishment of an open world economy and greater promotion of global governance reform. In this process, China praises and seeks the support of friendly countries all over the world, and Serbia as a friend is even more needed. China seeks to strengthen and deepen bilateral relations with Serbia in the new era, to improve the level of economic cooperation in the field of infrastructure, in agriculture, cultural exchanges and other fields.
H.E. Axel Dittmann
German Ambassador To Serbia
Improving Our Internal And External Security
Looking at the European Union, 2017 has been a year of challenges – and the joint search for solutions!
Terrorism has again taken its toll. The answer is even closer cooperation to increase our citizens’ security. Improving our internal and external security is one of the priorities of the EU’s so-called Bratislava Process. In addition, at the beginning of November we signed the agreement on permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) in the field of defence. Thus, the EU will be better able to conduct joint peacekeeping operations. The EU is also working on finding sustainable solutions on migration, with Serbia as a close partner.
We are working closely together to support Serbia’s strategic goal of joining the EU
Of course, the Brexit negotiations are an important topic – a fair solution is important both for the EU-27 and for the United Kingdom.
In 2017 we have seen elections in quite a number of Member States, one of them being Germany. Talks about the formation of a coalition are underway. Germany, in any case, will continue to support Serbia’s strategic goal of becoming an EU member. In Serbia we have witnessed presidential elections, with Aleksandar Vučić emerging as the clear winner, and a new government formed by Prime Minister Brnabić. We are working closely together to support Serbia’s strategic goal of joining the EU. In this regard, reform of the judiciary, rule of law and media freedoms are a priority. In 2017 Germany and Serbia have further developed their very good bilateral ties, culturally, politically and economically. I will do my best to support this positive bilateral trend and Serbia’s EU prospects.
Personally, I wish you a prosperous and peaceful 2018!
H.E. Jan Lundin
Ambassador Of Sweden To Serbia
After 25 Years Ikea Opened Its Door In Serbia
I shall remember 2017 in ”my” country as the year in which IKEA finally – after a delay of 25 years – opened its door in Serbia
This I see as the beginning of the real entry of this country into the global economy, to the benefit of us all. A lot is happening in Serbia right now, and I am confident substantial foreign investment will come provided problems in the area of the rule of law can be addressed in a satisfactory – and swift – manner.
Around the world, the economy both in the U.S. and in Europe shows good growth,
and Sweden is no exception
2017 was also the year in which the European Union managed – with the support of, amongst others, Serbia – to stabilise the migrant crisis that at one point threatened to destabilise the internal political situation in many EU countries. If a solution to the crisis over the Ukraine between the EU and Russia can finally be found, things look okay for Europe.
At the global level, we can only hope – or pray – that the situation in North Korea does not get totally out of hand.
H.E. Archbishop Luciano Suriani
Apostolic Nuncio In Serbia
Dialogue Among Peoples And Religions
I would like to briefly review some moments of Pope Francis’s Magisterium in the past year, which can also be significant and enlightening when it comes to some of the challenges being faced by people in Serbia
In 2017, the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation was commemorated. As we know, in Serbia, especially Vojvodina, there are members of ecclesial communities born of that event. Such an important anniversary teaches all believers in Christ the need to reflect on a past that, in the name of faith, has also unfortunately seen fratricidal struggles, and to pursue a common path towards unity. Receiving participants in a meeting on the Reformation in March in the Vatican, Pope Francis said: “All of us are well aware that the past cannot be changed. Yet today, it is possible to engage in a purification of memory.
We hope that 2018 will see significant progress on the path of peace-seeking in the world, which the Holy See especially takes to heart
This is not to undertake an impracticable correction of all that happened five hundred years ago, but rather to tell that history differently, free of any lingering trace of the resentment over past injuries that has distorted our view of one another.” Though with obvious differences, a similar spirit animated the dialogue in 2017 within the mixed Commission between orthodox Serbs and catholic Croats on the figure of Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac.
The need for dialogue between religions was underlined by the Pope in April in Egypt, during his meeting with the Great Imam of Al-Azhar: “In the field of dialogue, particularly interreligious dialogue, we are constantly called to walk together, in the conviction that the future also depends on the encounter of religions and cultures.
For the only alternative to the civility of encounter is the incivility of conflict; there is no other way.”
Further, he added with firmness: “Let us say once more a firm and clear ‘No!’ to every form of violence, vengeance and hatred carried out in the name of religion or in the name of God. Together let us affirm the incompatibility of violence and faith, belief and hatred.” Furthermore, attention to interreligious dialogue was also at the centre of the apostolic journey to Myanmar and Bangladesh in November.
We hope that 2018 will see significant progress on the path of peace- seeking in the world, which the Holy See especially takes to heart. Among other things, 2018 marks the important anniversary of a century since the end of World War I, which also had a decisive influence on the history of the Balkans. May this anniversary help us reflect seriously on the tragedy of war, which brings death, division and wounds that often take decades to heal.
The hope is that all leaders of nations will really place the ultimate goal of peace at the centre of their political commitment. The Holy See will never stop working to ensure that the human heart is healed of the wounds which imprison us sterilely in the past, and that harmony, justice and peace reign everywhere in the world.
H.E. Tanju Bilgiç
Ambassador Of The Republic Of Turkey To Serbia
Remarkable Improvement Of Turkish- Serbian Relations
Relations between Turkey and Serbia have witnessed a remarkable improvement in the last few years. Last year was no exception. In fact, 2017 represented a milestone in our relations, with the visit of our President, H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to Serbia from 9th to 11th October
This was the first visit at the presidential level from Turkey to Serbia since 2009. The visit was a huge success, thanks to the diligent work of the Serbian Government.
The most important outcome of the visit was the signing of a joint declaration that established a High-Level Cooperation Council, a mechanism of joint annual meetings of the two cabinets under the leadership of the two presidents. The Turkish experience with this mechanism is highly positive, as our relations with several countries have improved dramatically following the establishment of such a council.
The most important outcome of the visit was the signing of a joint declaration that established a High-Level Cooperation Council, a mechanism of joint annual meetings of the two cabinets under the leadership of the two presidents
This mechanism will allow us to institutionalise and formalise our cooperation in various areas, which will lead to more tangible results and better coordination. The most important development in Serbia, in my opinion, was the presidential elections of 2nd April 2017, which resulted in the election of Mr Vučić. This was very important for Serbia, because it signalled a continuation of the political and economic reform agenda that has been going on in the last few years. His election in the first round showed that the Serbian public strongly endorses the actions being taken.
I believe that the Serbian economy will continue to improve thanks to the stability provided by the current administration.
H.E. Kyle Scott
U.S. Ambassador To Serbia
Optimism With Reason
Last year on these pages I expressed optimism about Serbia’s further growth and progress. I also conveyed my confidence in America’s role as Serbia’s steadfast partner. Events have redeemed my optimism
This year brought peaceful elections of a new President and Prime Minister. The Serbian economy continued to grow. Serbia’s EU accession process moved forward, and Serbia is poised to open several more chapters by the end of the year.
Serbia launched an “internal dialogue” on Kosovo, an issue that is critical to peace and stability in the region. America’s support for Serbia has indeed been steadfast. The United States spent millions of dollars this year supporting reform in Serbia and has spent nearly one billion dollars over the last 15 years on assistance here. In the wider world, 2017 turned out to be a year of paradoxes: rapid changes occurring alongside reaffirmations of support for stability.
America’s support for Serbia has indeed been steadfast. The United States spent millions of dollars this year supporting reform in Serbia and has spent nearly one billion dollars over the last 15 years on assistance here
In the United States, the election of President Trump reflected a call by Americans for a shift in our country’s direction, but not a change in our policy in the Balkans.
In the EU, elections in several countries showed that their commitment to the EU remains strong, despite the crises of recent years. Turning to 2018, I’m again optimistic about Serbia’s prospects, and for continued strong partnership with the United States.
I plan to continue reaching out to the Serbian people and government to strengthen economic and commercial ties and to encourage stronger recognition of America’s efforts to support Serbia’s strategic goal of joining the EU.