At the start of July 2018, following elections dubbed by the media as historic, Mexico received a new president in the form of the left-centre candidate who promised to fight against inequality and corruption. The victory of Mr Andrés Manuel López Obrador, but also the changes that will follow at other levels of government, will not mean a change in Mexico’s longstanding position that the unilaterally declared independence of Kosovo is unacceptable, says H.E. Marco Antonio Garcia Blanco in this interview for CorD magazine. “Our position is based on principles, not administrations,” says the ambassador, adding that the Mexican Constitution defines these principles. He also notes that bilateral relations between the two countries are good and reminds that capital from Mexico stands behind the most significant greenfield investment in Serbia.
Your Excellency, considering that you’ve now been resident in Serbia for over two years, what are your impressions and are you satisfied with your cooperation with local partners?
My stay in Serbia has been very pleasant, although, with many challenges that I have been able to overcome thanks to the good and always positive disposition of all my Serbian interlocutors, whether they be governmental, business, cultural, civil society or media related. My primary objective is to contribute to invigorating, expanding and strengthening the bilateral relationship in all areas, to obtain shared benefits that increase the well-being of our peoples, all under the criteria of shared responsibility. It is up to both parties, Mexico and Serbia, to work together to cultivate the relationship and glean tangible benefits from it. Of course, there is still much to be done, but the bilateral relationship continues to register progress and, most importantly, both parties wish to continue collaborating down this path. On the other hand, I’ve been witnessing the efforts exerted by the people and government of Serbia to reach their objectives. And I am confident that they will achieve them.
Mexicos position over Kosovo will remain
In 2017 bilateral trade between Mexico and Serbia grew 19% compared to 2016, and 1,408% compared to 2010
Telekom Austria is the European unit of AméricaMóvil and, through its subsidiary VIP, has a presence in Serbia
You recently stated that relations between our two countries are excellent. What are the most important topics of cooperation at the political level?
Mexico and Serbia have a permanent political dialogue through high-level contacts that have been registered throughout the bilateral relationship, which this year celebrates its 72nd anniversary; through the Mechanism of Political Consultations in Matters of Common Interest, which meets periodically; through the Parliamentarian Friendship Groups that both legislative bodies have, and thanks to the multiple coincidences and cooperation that the two countries deploy in the multilateral sphere. The bilateral relationship enjoys the natural sympathy that both peoples and governments feel for one another, given the similarity of our historical challenges and aspirations for independence, peace, justice and development.
Mexico has not recognised Kosovo’s unilaterally declared independence. Considering the comprehensive changes at all levels of government following July’s general elections in your country, can the new government be expected to maintain this stance?
Our position is based on principles, not administrations. In this regard, Mexico’s position over Kosovo will remain the same; that is full adherence to the United Nations Security Council resolution 1244 (1999), which opened a political dialogue for a peaceful solution. Mexico will respect the agreement that will result from such dialogue. In this context, Mexico does not recognise the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo, while it does support the territorial integrity of Serbia. It is important to remember, with regard to this matter, that Mexico‘s foreign policy is guided by principles established in our Political Constitution, such as those of the self-determination of peoples; non-intervention; peaceful solutions to conflicts; proscription of the threat or use of force in international relations; the legal equality of states; international cooperation for development; respect, protection and promotion of human rights and international peace and security. This gives Mexico’s foreign policy a sense of predictability and certainty. In short, the change of government in Mexico will not mean any alteration in our support for Serbia on the issue of Kosovo.
How do you cooperate with the Serbian National Assembly’s group for friendship with Mexico?
An important component of our political dialogue is conducted in the parliamentary field. The growing importance of parliamentary diplomacy is a well-known concept to both Mexico and Serbia, and both countries have, within their legislative bodies, Groups of Mexican-Serbian Parliamentary Friendship, through which there are exchanges of information, viewpoints, perspectives and initiatives orientated towards a better understanding of the realities of each country and of international matters of mutual interest, with the intention of broadening the understanding of such matters and finding ways to cooperate in promoting better solutions. As Ambassador of Mexico, I have permanent contact with the chairs of both Parliamentary Friendship Groups, to support them. Mexico is grateful to Serbia for the support it provided in October 2017 that allowed the Mexican candidate to win the Presidency of the Interparliamentary Union. As President of the Interparliamentary Union, Senator Gabriela Cuevas Barrón visited Belgrade in May to participate in the Regional Seminar on the Development Goals to Parliaments of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. In this context, please allow me to invite your readers to visit the photographic exhibition “Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo: a smile halfway through the path”, which will be on display in the Central Hall of the National Assembly of Serbia between 3rd and 14th September 2018 and which showcases cooperation with the National Assembly of Serbia.
Mexico and Serbia do not have a satisfactory level of economic cooperation. Do you believe there is a way to achieve some progress in this area?
Yes, of course. In 2017 bilateral trade between Mexico and Serbia grew 19% compared to 2016, and 1,408% compared to 2010. However, the amount is very modest and does not correspond to the potential of both countries, so it is necessary to reinforce the joint strategy to promote the exchange of goods and services. In this regard, we already organised two seminars on business opportunities between our countries and identified and promoted the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Mexican and Serbian bodies in charge of promoting trade and investments, ProMéxico and RAS, respectively, institutionalising direct dialogue and cooperation between them. Moreover, BANCOMEXT, the Mexican bank for foreign trade, and AOFI, the Serbian Export Credit and Insurance Agency, signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Export Credits to promote bilateral trade. The Mexican Business Council for Foreign Trade, Investment & Technology (COMCE) and the Chambers of Commerce of Serbia and Novi Sad decided to relaunch their cooperation agreements, intensifying the exchange of information and services that allows an increase in bilateral trade.
Mexico and Serbia have a permanent political dialogue through highlevel contacts that have been registered throughout the bilateral relationship, which this year celebrates its 72nd anniversary
You have noted that the VIP mobile telephone network represents a major Mexican investment in Serbia, though we view it here more as an investment connected to Austria. Why is that?
Mexican company AméricaMóvil is the world’s fourth-largest telecommunications group and has a presence in various countries. Telekom Austria is the European unit of AméricaMóvil and, through its subsidiary VIP, has a presence in Serbia. VIP currently has a net investment in Serbia exceeding around a billion euros, with 2.1 million active lines that represent a market share of 24.1%, while generating 1,200 direct jobs. Moreover, VIP is the largest “greenfield” investor in Serbia. Through its European Unit, AméricaMóvil has 24 million mobile subscribers in Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia, generating 19,000 direct jobs. AmericaMóvil is interested in increasing its local market presence and has plans to make more investments and create new jobs.
Please tell us something more about Mexico’s recent general elections, which the media dubbed “historic”.
On 1st July 2018, Mexico reaffirmed its democratic practices with the largest electoral process in its history, in which 18,299 federal, state and municipal posts were decided, including the office of the President of Mexico. There were 32,520 national observers and 907 foreign observers from 60 countries. The electoral roll totalled 89.3 million citizens, of which 56.6 million exercised their right to vote (63.4%), and 156,792 voting booths were installed; that is, 99.99% of the total (156,807). The votes were cast in freedom and counted by 1,400,000 randomly selected citizens, who were previously trained. They were the main guarantee of respect for the vote. There were 2.7 million representatives accredited by political parties, representing a historical figure. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the candidate of the movement “Juntos Haremos Historia”, composed of the political parties “Movimiento de Regeneracion Nacional” (MORENA), “Partido del Trabajo” (PT) and “Encuentro Social”, won the Presidency of the Republic with 53.19% of the votes. The other three presidential candidates acknowledged the triumph of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who will take office on 1st December. Additionally, this will be the first time in 24 years that a Mexican President will have a majority in the Legislative branch, and a gender-equality composition was also achieved, with 51% men and 49% women in the Senate, and 51.2% men and 48.8% women in the Chamber of Deputies.
President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador considers social inequality and corruption as being the main reasons for the widespread violence in Mexico. Similar problems also exist in Serbia. Do you believe the new president can fulfil his pre-election pledges to reduce corruption and create new jobs?
Like any other country in the world, Mexico has a lot of challenges, and to face them the majority of the people of Mexico decided, in a democratic election on 1st July, to give their vote to Andrés Manuel LópezObrador as President of Mexico for the 2018- 2024 term. He comes from the centre-left side of the political spectrum and emphasised the importance of tackling corruption and inequality in Mexico. So, yes, we will see some important adjustments and changes in Mexico with the new government, in order to achieve such goals, and you can be reassured that all the Mexicans hope he will successful, particularly because he has a majority in both Chambers at the legislative branch (House of Deputies and Senate) and his initiatives will be supported there. Please note there are no politically extreme ideologies in Mexico and, despite all the weaknesses, shortcomings and contradictions that you can find today in Mexico, we are currently ranked as the 11th largest economy worldwide, the 10th largest democracy in the world, with 130 million inhabitants, the largest Spanish speaking country, the 6th most visited country, with 39.3 million international visitors in 2017, the 10th major food producer and the 14th largest United Nations budget contributor, among other strengths.
On 1st July 2018, Mexico reaffirmed its democratic practises with the largest electoral process in its history, in which 18,299 federal, state and municipal posts were decided, including the office of the President of Mexico
How important is it for the future of Mexico to improve relations with the United States and its president?
All relations with your neighbours are relevant. Mexico and the United States share common values and economic interests. Both countries believe in democracy, human rights, the rule of law, due process, transparency and accountability. We have (Mexico and the United States) a successful free trade agreement. Mexico is the third major trade partner of the United States. Over a billion U.S. dollars are traded over the border every single day, amounting to approximately $365 billion worth of annual trade. The U.S.-Mexican border is not the largest, but certainly it is a big one and maybe the most dynamic, with 300 million crossings annually in both directions. Just the border between Tijuana and San Diego (one of the 54 international border crossing points) registers more than 50 million crossings every year. We have several high-level bilateral mechanisms to attend the relationship and to process eventual differences. Some 12 million Mexicans live in the United States, and Mexico is the leading tourist destination for Americans. Where is the largest group of American expats living abroad? In Mexico!! We, of course, also have some sensitive issues, such as migration and drug-related issues, but from the Mexican point of view, the best way to face these common challenges is through cooperation, not blaming each other or building walls.
Can the two countries reach a compromise on the two crucial issues of trade and migration? How do the Mexican people view the U.S President’s initiative to erect walls along the entire length of the border with Mexico?
Yes. We did it before, and we can do it now. Please note that President Trump introduced a new approach to the relationship between the U.S. and not only Mexico but the whole world. Due to the relevance of the United States, everybody is learning to deal with the new approach and Mexico is no exception. On trade, we have (Mexico and the United States) since 1994 had a successful free trade agreement together with Canada (NAFTA), and the three countries are working together to reach –maybe in the coming days an agreement to modernise NAFTA. On migration, we all also know that it is a global phenomenon and even here in Europe is a permanent challenge.
The US-Mexican border is not the largest, but certainly it is a big one and maybe the most dynamic, with 300 million crossings annually in both directions
The United States, by being a successful country in many ways, is a magnet of attraction for migrants from all over the world, many of whom use Mexican territory to try and enter the United States illegally, with hopes of better life opportunities. We share a land border that runs for 3,152 kilometres. To get an idea of how big that is, imagine if we traced a line between Lisbon in Portugal and Minsk in Belarus, that crossed the whole of Europe. Obviously, due to the size of the border, there are unguarded areas where migrants try to get into the United States. In Mexico’s opinion, this is a common challenge that must be addressed through cooperation. To blame Mexico for the migratory phenomenon, that I repeat, is present all over the world, is not only unfair but also ineffective. In some way, for example, the Mediterranean Sea is an enormous natural wall between Africa and Europe, and obviously it is not enough to stop the incoming migration. That’s why Mexicans don’t believe in walls. In our opinion, regarding economic migration, if people are going to look for jobs somewhere in another country, and find them, it is confirmed that we are talking about a labour market with supply and demand that must be regulated with appropriate migratory laws. The future of the bilateral relationship is a common responsibility, and Mexico’s commitment is serious, constructive and based on a relationship of good faith to build a more competitive region in North America and to consolidate our common border as a space of prosperity for both nations.