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Jul 6 2021

Written article for Blic Daily

The article entitled "Serbia is a reliable partner to NATO", written by the Chief of the NATO Military Liaison Office Belgrade, Brigadier General Tommaso Vitale, was published in the Serbian daily Blic on June 26.

"Serbia is a long-standing, valued and respected partner for NATO. This point was made again very loud and clear by NATO Heads of State and Government, when they met on the occasion of the recent NATO Summit in Brussels this June. NATO leaders also pointed out that "Strengthening NATO-Serbia relations would be of benefit to the Alliance, to Serbia, and to the whole region."

Strengthening NATO-Serbia relations would be of benefit to the Alliance, to Serbia, and to the whole region

This year marks the 15th anniversary of Serbia's joining of the Partnership for Peace with NATO. The Partnership for Peace remains the overarching framework that informs the development of NATO-Serbia relations. Every sovereign country has the exclusive prerogative to choose its own path and its own security arrangements. This is of course valid also for Serbia. Serbia made a sovereign decision to become a partner of NATO, while at the same time maintaining its stated policy of military neutrality. We fully respect your country's decision not to join NATO, but we can still work together; and we have been doing just that all along, based, of course, on Serbia's request, as all NATO partnerships are demand driven.

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As a partner, Serbia can determine the pace, scope, intensity and focus of its partnership with NATO. There is a basket of opportunities, which Serbia can choose from. Our partnership is well-articulated throughout various domains of political, military and scientific nature. So far, we have achieved important results. For instance, NATO and Serbia work together to be better prepared for civil emergences, such as floods and forest fires. We are helping Serbia reform its security forces and institutions. NATO trains Serbian soldiers for international peace-keeping missions. Over 20 years, we have invested millions of euros to help Serbia to destroy over 230 tons of obsolete ammunition. And since 2006, we have been cooperating in the scientific area, through more than 30 joint projects within the framework of the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme. Serbia and NATO have also worked together to train Iraqi military medics, helping to support the Iraqi armed forces.

Practical cooperation is closely complemented by political dialogue, at all levels. This is an essential linchpin of NATO-Serbia relations and a key factor to strengthen mutual understanding and trust, as we have seen on the occasion of the visit by President Vucic to Brussels this past May. NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg praised President Vucic's personal commitment to Serbia's partnership with NATO and reaffirmed NATO's long-standing commitment to support the consolidation of stability across the Western Balkans region.

Overall our cooperation is much bigger and stronger than it appears to Serbian citizens, also because of a great deal of disinformation out there, which we counter through the provision of facts and the implementation of our shared values, as well as with our transparent approach and with concrete actions. We will continue to do our best to explain what NATO is and what principles and values underpin the development of our partnership with Serbia. We also stand ready to explore new ways to engage with the Serbian public opinion, which we highly respect. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic expressed his willingness to adequately celebrate our 15th anniversary of the Partnership. This would definitely be a great opportunity to deliver a very good message to the public: that Serbia and NATO, as partners, are working side by side for a better and safer future.

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Let me now turn to Kosovo. At their Brussels Summit NATO leaders reaffirmed their commitment to NATO's continued engagement in Kosovo, including through the NATO-led KFOR mission, mandated from the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 of 1999 to provide a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement, for the benefit of all communities in Kosovo. As such, KFOR contributes to wider stability in the Western Balkans. Allied leaders were also clear that any changes to our force posture in KFOR remain conditions-based and not calendar driven. Throughout, KFOR has established excellent cooperation with the Serbian Armed Forces. These have been valuable and helpful for ensuring mutual understanding and trust.

Finally, a few words on some important aspects of the recent NATO Summit in Brussels, which relate to NATO's ongoing adaptation to the ever-changing international security environment. From global competition, sophisticated cyber-attacks, and disruptive technologies, to brutal terrorism, disinformation, proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the security impacts of climate change and the rise of China, None of these challenges can be addressed by any country or event continent alone. It is against this backdrop, that NATO leaders agreed on an ambitious NATO 2030 agenda, to ensure that the Alliance can effectively face the challenges of today and tomorrow. They took concrete actions in eight key areas. They agreed, first, to enhance NATO as the transatlantic forum for consultations and joint action on all matters related to our security and to strengthen and broaden our political consultation and coordination. Second, to reinforce our deterrence and defence, by strengthening NATO as the framework for the defence of the Euro-Atlantic area. And recommitting to the Defence Investment Pledge made in 2014. Third, to strengthen the resilience of our societies, with a new resilience commitment by NATO leaders, including the commitment to develop NATO-wide resilience objectives, and concrete national goals. To safeguard our critical infrastructure. Fourth, to sharpen our technological edge. Fifth, to step up our work to uphold the rules-based international order, by widening our partnerships in the Asia-Pacific, with Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea, seeking new relationships with countries across Latin America, Africa and Asia, and further deepening our cooperation with the European Union. Sixth, to substantially step up training and capacity-building for partners. Seventh, to address the security impact of climate change, through the inclusion of regular assessments of the impact of climate change on our installations, missions, and other activities, and by integrating climate change into our exercises, defence planning and procurement and developing a methodology for assessing greenhouse gas emissions from military activities. In this respect, all Allies made a clear commitment to significantly reduce military emissions. And set concrete targets for NATO to contribute to the goal of Net Zero emissions by 2050.

Finally, our leaders agreed to develop NATO's next Strategic Concept in time for our summit in 2022, with the aim to reaffirm our values and reflect the significant changes in our security environment over the past decade."

Story by JFC Naples Public Affairs Office

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