Djuric: Relations with the US at the highest level in recent history

Marko Đurić
Source: VOA

The Ambassador of Serbia in Washington, Marko Djuric, pointed out that relations with America were one of Serbia's national and strategic state interests.

Djuric, in an interview for the USERBIADAILY portal, emphasized that there was a clear systematic approach and plan for cooperation with the US.

You recently stated that the year 2023 could be a positive turning point in the relations between Serbia and the US. In your opinion, what is the current situation and what can we expect in the coming period?

In the last ten years, we have built and continue to build a strong political and economic armature of Serbia's relations with the US, and each of our efforts and success is an additional brick with which we strengthen this building of ours. I do not need to emphasize that relations with America are one of our national and strategic state interests and that in this sense we have a systematic approach and a clearly defined plan. I would not like to reveal the details, but very soon we are expecting another in a series of good news in cooperation with America, and as this year progresses, there will be more and more of them.

When can we expect the start of the strategic dialogue between Serbia and the US? What topics will be most important at the very beginning of the conversation?

We are already talking a lot about the date of starting the strategic dialogue as an undoubtedly potentially key new platform for talks with America, with which we will further deepen every aspect of mutually recognized areas of further cooperation. Among them, the economy, energy, information technology, security, and dedicated industry, but also scientific, educational, and cultural cooperation, certainly have primacy.

You mentioned the possibility of visa liberalization, do you think it is achievable in the coming years or does it take more time?

It is absolutely achievable in the future and it is one of the biggest motivations and tasks on which we work intensively by order, in daily consultation with the immense support of President Vucic and our Government. It is this unity and cooperation of all our executive and legislative authorities that is key to achieving such an important goal.

Based on your stay in the US, do you think that the attitude and paradigm towards Serbia have changed in America? What is their current political position regarding Serbia?

The paradigm of Serbia has been drastically changed for the better in the last decade. It fills me with pleasure and pride to convey the successes of Serbia to my American interlocutors and to come up with new ideas for the further improvement of our bilateral cooperation. Almost every day I receive from them affirmations of a positive image of Serbia as a stable actor in internal and external politics, a trusted partner and a significant factor in the entire region, and a multilaterally promising country that still has a lot to show and prove what it can do.

The Congress of Serbian-American Friendship and the Faktor Plus agency recently conducted a survey that showed that the attitude of the citizens of Serbia towards the US is changing for the better, but that the process is proceeding rather slowly. In your opinion, what needs to be done in order to positively influence the attitude of the citizens, is it possible for those relations to return to the level they were at for the most part in the past?

I am deeply convinced that it is possible and I am personally doing my best together with my colleagues from the Embassy and Consulates General in Chicago and New York to bring Serbia closer to America, as well as America to Serbia. Today we are in a new era of relations with America, relations that have come a long way in the last ten years and reached a level that we do not remember in recent history. And that's just the beginning. Big things are ahead of us, and I believe that even stronger cooperation with the US, and especially the conclusion of new agreements - among which the one on visa liberalization is in perspective - will create new opportunities for connection, for joint economic, scientific, cultural, and academic projects, for the exchange of knowledge, experiences, and personnel, as well as the bringing together of our people in every possible sense.

In the same survey, 41.1 percent of respondents expect the US to help the development of the Serbian economy, 29 percent expect America to support Serbian interests in the dialogue with Pristina, and 17.9 percent of them expect the US to support a compromise acceptable to both Serbia and Kosovo. Which of these results do you see as the most realistic and on which issue can we expect the greatest support from the US in Serbia?

American support for Serbia as the economic engine of the Western Balkans, as US Commerce Minister Gina Raimondo called us, has not been questioned for a long time. It is certain that America is at the very top of our most important international economic partners, as evidenced by the continuous growth of bilateral trade in goods from year to year. On the other hand, we should have no illusions that a solution to the issue of Kosovo and Metohija will be possible without the active role of the US, which increasingly resents Pristina's frequent non-constructive moves and realizes that it is Belgrade that is truly open and ready to talk, while the other side does not stop doing everything to disrupt the atmosphere of dialogue.

An increasing number of American companies are investing in Serbia. Is Serbia working in the US to "attract" additional investments?

At the risk of giving the impression of non-subjectivity, I must say that I am proud of the work of my team at the Embassy in the last two and a half years, which certainly deserves a part of the credit for increasing American investments and the presence of US companies in Serbia. The second, essential part of the success of our country lies in Andricev Venac and in Nemanjina Street, where President Vucic, Prime Minister Brnabic, and our Government work diligently, tirelessly, and with dedication to establish and strengthen the foundations of Serbia as an investment destination, and without whose commitment, support and cooperation we as a country would not be recognized here in America as an attractive and stable market for investment.

Our country stands out in the IT sector, the fastest-growing industry today. To what extent is it recognized in the US and is there a possibility for additional cooperation and exchange of experiences of young engineers?

In America, they look with great respect at the upward trajectory of the ICT services sector in a small country like Serbia. When you convey to the interlocutors that last year we achieved exports of this sector in the value of 2.7 billion euros, which is a growth of 45% compared to 2021, and that the growth of ICT exports was 34% in January of this year alone, you cannot leave them indifferent or uninterested in the further expansion of bilateral cooperation in this, at the present time, particularly important industry. Our results speak for themselves and are a direct consequence of a well-conceived, well-thought-out, and stable internal policy led by our state leadership led by President Aleksandar Vucic, whose fruits are also reflected in our foreign policy.

This is precisely why today we are in a situation where 65 percent of total foreign direct investments in this part of the world are realized in our country, which is a fact that no one can ignore. In our Embassy in Washington, we work intensively every day on strengthening existing cooperation mechanisms and finding new ways to connect with America in order to contribute to the further growth of exports and the development of our entire ICT sector, as well as opening new opportunities for work, affirmation, and cooperation of our IT experts and companies with their American counterparts.