Interview With RTS

Victoria Nuland
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Belgrade, Serbia
July 14, 2015

Question: Ms. Nuland, thank you very much for this opportunity to talk to you. For our viewers, let’s start with the most recent events: the commemoration at Srebrenica and the incident that happened there. Does it seem to you, the way that things turned out to be in the end, that we still have a long way to walk towards reconciliation?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: Well, Bojan, let me start by saying, from the United States’ perspective, the gesture that Prime Minister Vucic made by going, the gesture of reconciliation, was really important and was very valuable to our shared goal of turning the page on history. As you know, our Head of Delegation, former President Clinton, made a point in his remarks of recognizing that gesture publicly. Obviously, it was horrible and it was regrettable what happened there, but I also thought of the grace with which Prime Minister Vucic responded – again, a hand of friendship. So, we were also pleased, ultimately, to see the Tri-Presidency in Bosnia reciprocate and regret the incident, and they have since, as the Prime Minister told me today, apologized formally. There is a lot of work still to do in this part of the world. You know that. We know that. That is partly why the United States is staying so strongly engaged, why we have been on this seven-country tour, with an interagency team, because we want to see every country in this region grow, prosper, become more democratic, and meet its Euro-Atlantic aspirations. But that’s also going to take healing, it’s going to take tolerance, and it’s going to take work by all kinds of people of every ethnicity and every faith.

Question: Many argue in Serbia that this reconciliation and extended hands and so on will not be as easy as long as part of international community tackles it in a way that always pinpoints one side in the past conflicts as perpetrators and others solely as the victims – as we saw in the recent proposal, the UK proposal for the resolution in the Security Council. Do you think that, finally, we can see that in that way of tackling the reconciliation issue, that there is a flaw?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: Bojan, we believe that, in order to learn from history, you have to recognize it. You have to call it by its name, so we did support the resolution. We regretted that it did not pass because it’s important to ensuring that things never happen again, to learn the lessons. That said, what’s very important is to move forward now, which is why we so strongly support the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, why whenever EU High Representative Mogherini holds a round, the United States is also there, observing, trying to help. We worked on those issues here today in Belgrade. I worked on them in Pristina as well, because that’s also part of moving forward, and it’s why the gesture of the Prime Minister in Srebrenica was important. Everybody has to move forward. And it’s also why we’re pleased to see Serbia working with the European Union on its membership aspirations and why we’re supporting the work that you are doing to meet the reform requirements, whether it is in the justice sector, the media sector, tackling corruption. We do a lot of work with you to try to help you meet those, to meet those criteria, because a Serbia that is embedded in the EU is not just good for Serbia, not just good for Europe – it’s good for the transatlantic community and for the United States.

Question: And for Serbia to be embedded in the EU, it’s important that the Pristina–Belgrade Dialogue progresses and ends with a significant result. The last round of talks was not very encouraging in its aftermath. How do you comment on that?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: Well, these issues are difficult. There are layers of history, layers of mistrust that are built up over the period and there are complicated structural and legal issues to untangle. But you have made progress. There’s been progress in the justice sector. There’s been progress in some of the commercial and human, or people-to-people, issues. We have confidence – and I have confidence personally, having been in both Pristina and Belgrade in the last couple of days – that the issues having to do with the Assembly of [Serb] Municipalities can be resolved, issues having to do with electricity, telecoms, the bridge, can be resolved. It’s just going to take a little bit more work and a little bit more will. We’re committed to helping you as you work with High Representative Mogherini. We’d really love to see that chunk of work done in the coming weeks. And that’s the work that will also help the EU to be able to signal the opening of some chapters for Serbia, which is very important as well.

Question: What do you think about the failure of the Parliament in Pristina to support the law on establishing the war crimes tribunal in Kosovo and their problem to accept some provisions for the Community of Serb Municipalities?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: Well, first on the Special Court, as I said in Kosovo, the United States was extremely disappointed that the Parliament wasn’t able to pass the statute. We have commitments that the government will try again in coming days and weeks. Frankly, this is also part of the process of turning the page on history and accountability and justice. And, frankly, if the issue doesn’t get resolved in Kosovo, it will probably get resolved in the United Nations, which will be less good, we think, for the way that this ought to proceed. As I said, I have confidence that the Association of Serb Municipalities issue can be resolved with good will on both sides. There is a little bit more flexibility and conversation required. We had good conversations in both Pristina and Belgrade in support of High Representative Mogherini’s dialogue, and we’ll continue to support that. I think it is resolvable in coming weeks, with good will.

Question: Do you think there is a future for Serbia in Europe without the recognition of the independence of Kosovo?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: We recognize Kosovo as an independent country. We would like to see all European states go in that direction. It’s, again, part of settling the map of Europe, part of living side-by-side as good neighbors with a clear legal understanding between you. You all will have to work through these issues. Obviously, the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade is a key piece of that. It’s a way of normalizing your relationship, we hope, ultimately, in that direction, but you’ll have to make that choice.

Question: In more ways than one, your engagement and your familiarity with the crisis in Ukraine is well-known. Tell me, Serbia is, now as the Chairman of the OSCE, actively involved in mediation. Would you say that it’s doing its job fairly and honestly and in an unbiased way?

Assistant Secretary Nuland: Absolutely. We had great consultations today with Deputy PM Dacic, primarily in his role as the point man for Serbia in your chairmanship. We’re working very, very closely, particularly on the issues of trying to see the Minsk agreements fully implemented. This is an absolutely vital year for that, as you know. We are very much looking forward to the OSCE ministerial here in December, but as Deputy PM Dacic and I discussed, we want to see Minsk largely fulfilled by the time of the ministerial; that’s our shared goal. I’m on my way from here to Kyiv. Mr. Dacic will be there at the end of the week, so we were coordinating our messages and our work ahead of that in support of the Minsk process and the Trilateral Contact Group. So, it’s very valuable.

And just if I might say, Bojan, if you think about where the United States and Serbia have come, how far we’ve come, you know, on every front now, even military-to-military, where we’re training together, we’re working together. Our work together in the OSCE, our work and support of your EU association, on the Dialogue, the support we’re giving on crucial reforms here, including justice reform, crime and corruption, media freedom. We’re working together in so many areas in support of your aspirations. Energy security, I didn’t talk about. So it really was great to be here. It’s a very, very rich and full agenda we have together, and it’s exciting.

Question: Thank you very much for this interview.

Assistant Secretary Nuland: Thank you.