Interview With Bojan Brkic of RTS

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Hyatt Regency Belgrade
Belgrade, Serbia
October 13, 2010

QUESTION: Your Excellency, your meeting yesterday with Serbian officials looked very cordial and upbeat. Do you leave Serbia with an impression that we finally are ready to move on in the new direction?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Absolutely. I have had that impression from a distance, but it was confirmed in all of my meetings and interactions yesterday. I think that the Government of Serbia led by your president is very committed to moving toward European integration membership in the EU, working closely with neighbors to stabilize and improve conditions in the region. So in my discussions with the president, the prime minister, the foreign minister, and the defense minister, I came away very convinced of the commitment and the extraordinary results of this government.

QUESTION: And you said yesterday that Serbia deserved a place in the Euro-Atlantic community of nations. How active America intends to be in relating that message to those European allies who might – may still be in doubt?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m going to be very active. I will be going to Brussels this evening. I will be meeting with EU leaders as well as officials from member states. I’m going to be very clear in what I think is the right course to take, and that is to begin the process for EU accession for Serbia.

QUESTION: And how coordinated, how synchronized are policies of the United States and the European Union when it comes to integration of the Western Balkans?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think they’re coordinated, but they are not yet as focused as I think we need to be. I believe that there has to be a lot of work done and attention paid, particularly to Bosnia-Herzegovina and to this dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo. But I’m very optimistic. I really am absolutely convinced that he people here in this part of Europe want to be in the flow of the Euro-Atlantic alliance and fully integrated into Europe. And that makes sense because Serbia has so much to offer the rest of Europe, and your experience in so many areas is going to be very beneficial. We have some important American companies like U.S. Steel that have big operations here in Serbia. Your military has become so professionalized and is really drawing the admiration of our own military. We have this unique relationship between the Serbian military and the Ohio National Guard, which is a real model. So on many fronts, what we see is very significant progress and we think it speaks well for the Serbian people.

QUESTION: And how long do you think that we will be able to leave Kosovo as one issue on which we agree to disagree? Will there come the time when we discuss with the EU our relations with the neighbors which are important for integration that – when the United States may actually demand that Serbia recognizes the independence?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we would obviously like that. And as President Tadic made very clear, that is not going to happen. But I think that there are many other steps that can be taken that will improve the daily lives of Serbs in Kosovo, and that’s the main concern of your president and your government.

Eventually, obviously, we’d like to see integration and recognition. We would like to see the entire region working together, trade relations, other kinds of commercial business and academic and other ties. But that’s down the road. I think this has to be taken step by step. And there was a very positive reaction in the international community beyond Europe and the United States to the really statesmanlike way that Serbia handled the International Court of Justice decision. I know it was at least a disappointment, if not a shock, to many people in Serbia. But it demonstrated a real sense of statesmanship. And then the way Serbia worked with the EU on the United Nations General Assembly resolution drew a lot of notice and praise.

So none of this is easy. These are hard issues. And as I said yesterday in Sarajevo and as President Tadic and I talked yesterday here in Belgrade, my view is that the world is moving so fast, and integration or disintegration – you have to choose. And integration carries so many benefits. We saw the effects of disintegration on Sunday with the violent protests – the kind of disregard for human rights and physical safety and the authority of the state and everything that was on display there. And I think most people, they want a good job, they want to raise a family, they want to read the books and listen to the music that they care about, to travel, expand their circle of experience. Giving people that chance, improving the economy, having more connections with the rest of the world is the vision that President Tadic has, and I think it’s the right one for the 21st century.

QUESTION: All of these things come as the result of economic development, which is not very easy for Serbia these days in the – under the circumstances of the global crisis, but America is one of the first to be seen to be getting out of the crisis. Will you encourage – after the improvement of the political relations, will you encourage the business community of the United States to invest more here, which will make our integration goes more possible?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We talked about that yesterday, and I certainly will. I think that you’re right that the political changes, the face that Serbia is showing to the world, is a very attractive magnet for people to come and look and see. We talked about some of the additional economic reforms to make the business and investment climate even more welcoming.

But I think there’s a tremendous opportunity for the economic side to grow. And I’m also reminded, as I was yesterday by your defense minister, that there are more Serbs in the United States than anywhere else in the world besides Serbia. And there is also a very active and successful Serbian American community, and I’m going to be reaching out to them because I think there may be some interest there as well. So we will try to be good partners on the economic front.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you very much for this interview.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. My pleasure.

PRN: 2010/T34-14