President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Ms Speaker, deputies, ladies and gentlemen, friends,
I am genuinely happy to speak here at your National Assembly. It is a great honour for any leader, including the President of the Russian Federation. This is particularly true given that today is a special day with enormous significance for Europe, for Serbia, and for Russia: it is the 65th anniversary of Belgrade’s liberation from Nazi occupation. I sincerely congratulate you on this holiday, which is a part of our common history of victory.
Serbia honours everyone who gave their lives fighting for its liberation. I saw this for myself today, while laying flowers at the liberators’ cemetery, where Soviet soldiers are buried. I would like to thank the people of Serbia with all of my heart, on behalf of our nation, for their responsible and honourable attitudes toward the history of World War II.
There is no need to explain to the Serbian people which side in that war was in the right. You fought against the Nazis bravely and selflessly. But, as history shows, that kind of resistance to fascism was not present everywhere. Several European states did not rebuff the Third Reich. After all, the war and its losses might have been avoided if it weren’t for multiple European states supporting and fighting on the side of Hitler’s regime. Some nations preferred collaboration, systematically helping Hitler’s war machine by providing supplies. And it must be stated openly that those political regimes are clearly accountable: if there had been less support for Hitler, there would be far fewer victims of fascism. I am not saying this because I want to bring up demons from the past, but because these events need to be remembered – especially by those who are currently trying to rewrite history in their own favour, to achieve self-serving, personal political goals. Apparently, those individuals need the idea that supposedly, Hitler’s Germany and the Soviet Union were equally responsible for starting the war. Nobody can idealise Stalin’s regime, but the USSR did not start that war, which is a fact known to all honest people.
It is always unpleasant to see the distortion of historical facts, and sometimes, in cases when this pertains to an enormous tragedy, it is simply repulsive. In any event, our nation regards such actions as a show of disdain for the outcomes of World War II and disdain for the rulings made at the Nuremberg Trials. Russia stands for a fair analysis of history; we have always upheld this approach, and will continue to do so. I would like to say this here, in Serbia, today, on the 65th anniversary of Belgrade’s liberation from Nazi invaders.
Still, we do not need history’s lessons for scientific purposes. Rather, they must serve as a warning to all of us, so that we do not make same mistakes. They teach us not to invent pretexts for engaging in some kind of action – action that is often destructive. Instead, they teach us to join forces in the face of great threats – threats to the European continent or to the entire world. This is the underlying idea behind our nation’s suggestion to sign a new treaty and create a new, modern, effective system of European security – a system that is not geared against anyone, but rather, one that will consolidate and unite us regardless of our political alignment or ideologies.
In essence, we propose taking the important approaches and international principles that we are all employing today and making them legally binding. The most important element of these principles and of this overall idea is that we cannot address security issues in a way that threatens the security of others. It is often said that security should be indivisible, and that is the main lesson we learned from World War II, the sad events of the 1990s and, unfortunately, certain dramatic events in the recent history of this decade. I am referring to the crisis in the Balkans and the events of August 2008 in the Caucasus, which resulted from Georgia’s aggression. All of these events have demonstrated that the existing security system is inefficient and urgently needs modernisation.
Preparing and signing a European Security Treaty could be a starting point for creating a common security zone in the Euro-Atlantic region, and would provide equal and reliable guarantees to all states – I want to repeat this again: this should apply regardless of whatever military or other alliances that various states belong to.
I think that everyone in this hall understands how important it is to lay down clear rules in the future Treaty on security as regards prevention and peaceful settlement of conflicts. This kind of settlement can and should be done on a step-by-step basis. First, nations must commit to the non-use of force. Next, they must commit to confidence-building measures. Finally, measures are needed to develop constructive dialogue between the conflicting parties. These are the steps that must be followed, instead of occasionally making absurd and very dangerous political or pseudo-political decisions.
Time itself calls on us to switch over to a new standard for resolving common problems, which the global community has plenty of, and they are known to everyone: international terrorism, organised crime, issues of energy security issues in Europe and, of course, overcoming the global economic crisis.
In matters of European and global affairs, the time has come to try changing the international climate. I feel that the change in U.S. attitudes regarding several issues under debate is generally favourable to multilateral diplomacy. The approaches employed previously have been entirely compromised. The Russian Federation is ready to harmonise its relations with the United States of America and with our other partners. This includes peaceful, constructive relations with NATO in the interest of resolving our common challenges. We already have a strategic partnership with the European Union, and it may well become one of the vital pillars of a new Europe. We do not have and cannot have any hypersensitivity about new members joining the European Union, including Eastern European states.
Clearly, it is important for Russia that new EU members develop positive relations with the Russian Federation, so that European Union membership is not detrimental to our traditionally friendly relations with those nations – rather, it should be conducive to developing closeness and common understanding. Naturally, this fully applies to Serbia as well.
Deputies, ladies and gentlemen,
Russia and Serbia share a common understanding that contemplates strict compliance with international law, as well as rejection of unilateral, sometimes forceful methods for resolving international problems. The settlement of the Kosovo issue serves as an example of constructive political cooperation between our nations. The events that took place after Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence in February 2008 confirmed the harm that can come from attempts to adapt the resolution of complicated international problems to the notorious rationale of political expediency. We think that the Kosovo situation set an unacceptable precedent on using the lack of progress during talks as an excuse for unilateral action, including the recognition of new subjects of international law. International law must serve as the foundation for resolving the Kosovo problem; this should include UN decisions, resolutions by the Security Council and, first and foremost, resolution 1244.
In the future, Russia is ready to provide all necessary assistance to Serbia in regard to its national interests. I want to emphasise that we are categorically opposed to drawing incorrect parallels between the events in the Balkans and events in the Caucasus. As far as South Ossetia is concerned – this is our unambiguous, explicit position – we were repulsing direct military aggression. Everything done by the Russian Federation was in full accordance with the United Nations Charter. Naturally, Russia will provide all possible assistance to the two new republics in the Caucasus, promoting greater stability in the Caucasus region.
Friends, our relations – the relations between the Russian Federation and Serbia – are currently on the rise. This is not merely due to this visit (which, by the way, is the first visit by a President of the Russian Federation to the new Serbia), but also due to the level of partnership that we have achieved. We have open, good-natured, entirely constructive discussions regarding all the issues that concern us, and we are able to seek out the most competent resolutions to our problems, reach compromises, and find answers to our most difficult economic challenges, while striving for partnership in our international cooperation. Naturally, our economic relations serve as the basis for these processes. Last year, our nations reached fundamental agreements on strategic issues regarding joint projects in the oil and gas sector.
We hope that by implementing these agreements, Serbia will become a major regional player in the energy market, participating in the distribution and transportation of Russian natural gas. Just now, during our talks, we had quite an active, lengthy discussion on this topic. The decisions we made, as well as the potential volumes that will be transported through Serbian territory, should provide significant income for the Serbian budget. At the same time, we are looking to reconstruct oil refining sector and its flagship company, the NIS (Petroleum Industry of Serbia). Our work in this area is progressing according to schedule. We were just discussing this issue with Mr President, but I would like to express my gratitude to the Serbian National Assembly, which promptly ratified all the necessary documents. Without your support, we would not be able to implement these projects.
In addition to working together on energy projects, which are quite important for Europe, Russia, and Serbia, we strive to cooperate in other areas as well. These include infrastructure projects, which also came up in our discussion today, as well as high-tech cooperation, because without IT and high technologies, neither Serbia nor the Russian Federation will have any real future. We must encourage regular contact between entrepreneurs in our nations, and generally encourage the development of interpersonal contacts.
Easier travel regulations between our two nations went into effect in June of this year. In essence, we cancelled visa requirements for all those who are visiting for less than a month.
Today, based on the outcomes of our talks, we have signed an array of important documents. Currently, we have seven of them, but in reality, there are many more, and they serve to develop cooperation in all areas. Still, not all areas of our lives are centred on the economy. It is very important to maintain the spirit that has always been conducive to building special relations between our peoples. Plus, many upcoming events should give our cooperation new momentum: these include Spiritual Culture Days, which will take place next year in Serbia, as well as analogous Serbia Days in the Russian Federation, which will take place in 2011.
We are interested in further developing our relations. This will not only benefit Russia and Serbia, as well as the Balkans, but all of Europe as well. And this, I suppose is the most important international outcome of my official visit to Serbia.
Deputies, Ms Speaker, friends,
It is a genuine pleasure and an honour for me to stand here at this podium; I am aware that this is essentially the first time that the leader of a foreign nation has made a speech here, and I recognise that this gives me a certain level of responsibility. In order not to disrupt your work, I will end my speech now. I would like to once again sincerely thank you for inviting me to speak here and congratulate you on this happy day, which coincides with our delegation’s visit to Serbia.
Thank you. (In Serbian) Hvala.