Dmitry Medvedev: Your country is an old friend of ours. We are bonded by common history, very close culture and common faith. Our peoples have the idea ingrained in their outlook that we are truly brotherly peoples. And Russia always, in the most dire situations, has tried to support the Serbs and has received in return support and understanding from Serbia.
Dmitry Medvedev’s address at the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia:
Madam Speaker, members of Parliament,
I am very glad to once again have the floor at the National Assembly of Serbia. Life can be symbolic sometimes, and perhaps one of such symbols is that I delivered a speech at the National Assembly ten years ago almost to the day. It was on 20 October 2009. A lot of time has passed, but from the perspective of history it is not much at all. But I can say with absolute certainty that our relationship, the special relationship between the Russian and Serbian people, has not changed at all. And it is a great honour for me to take part, together with all of you, in the celebrations of the 75th anniversary of Belgrade’s liberation from Nazi occupation and to once again have the floor in parliament, in the National Assembly of Serbia.
I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to you and the entire brotherly Serbian nation on the 75th anniversary of Belgrade’s liberation and to wish your wonderful country peace, prosperity, freedom and well-being.
We know that such battles as the Belgrade Offensive decided the fate of Europe and the entire world. Its memory is equally cherished by our peoples. I know there are MPs here who come from the regions that were liberated from the Nazis by the Red Army units together with the National Liberation Army of Yugoslavia. These were bloody, very tough battles. It is worth remembering that around 8,000 Soviet soldiers and officers are buried in your soil and more than 4,000 died during the Belgrade Offensive alone.
Of course, it is very important for us that the Serbian people remember their heroism and courage, and carefully preserve the graves of Soviet soldiers. All of Russia is sincerely grateful to you for this. And today I will lay wreaths at the Monument to the Liberators of Belgrade and the Monument to Soviet Soldiers with a special feeling of gratitude.
We very much appreciate the commitment of your nation, leaders of your state and parliament to preserve the truth about the war, to stand up to what nowadays is habitually called deliberate distortion of history. It was Serbia that recently brought together The Immortal Regiment movement representatives from across the world to the Memory of the Winners first international conference.
This is particularly crucial now when, regrettably, some European states are demolishing monuments to soldiers who liberated them from Nazism whereas henchmen guilty in the killing of a huge number of people are called national heroes. Meanwhile, open propaganda of Nazi ideas or aggressive actions by neo-Nazis are becoming routine.
This lack of memory is plain dangerous. It undermines major principles of international relations. Let me remind you that these principles were worked out exactly after World War II, not at any other time. The manipulations aim at re-engineering the world, substituting international law with made-up pretexts that make it possible to promote all sorts of illegitimate unilateral decisions, to justify any acts including the most destructive ones. All this creates conditions for tensions, conflicts and ultimately leads to instability in the entire world.
Unfortunately, Serbia had a first-hand experience of the aftermath of actions taken with neglect for international law and in contradiction to it. I mean the 1999 events.
Russia supported the Serbian people back then and is supporting them now and it is ready to render you all the necessary help in preserving your sovereignty and territorial integrity. We are interested in an exclusively peaceful resolution of the existing problem on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 1244. And we want the situation in the Balkans to remain stable and safe. And we are definitely striving to develop relations with all states.
Strengthening the positions of sovereign states, asserting national interests in global affairs is not in opposition to the model of globalisation or an open society. Nevertheless, whatever they may be telling us to the contrary, the peoples’ identity and awareness of their roots remain the foundation of any statehood, both the Serbian statehood, which is apparent, and our Russian statehood.
Let us face it: in its time, national and cultural revival in a number of countries made the decisive contribution to the overall process of democratisation of international relations. In fact, the international law appeared exactly when states began developing as independent and sovereign, when nations became aware of their right to sovereignty and independent development.
Actually, Belgrade was leading these processes at a certain period and played an important part in the Non-Aligned Movement. This is a significant historical legacy, which should be considered at present.
Only a multipolar world is fair today, and it is possible if grounded on respect for national interests, on non-interference in domestic affairs.
Equal relations, mutually beneficial relations help solve common issues when faced with common challenges that threaten all of us, and can yield sustainable, comprehensive and lasting progress for our states.
This is the reason why we and our partners are building the Eurasian Economic Union. Our integration association is based on equality, and let me specially stress this, it is based on pragmatism and the incorporation of each other’s interests. Meanwhile, the Eurasian Union is not a closed club, it actively develops international ties and has relations with a great number of countries.
In just a few days, on 25 October, we will be welcoming your Prime Minister Ana Brnabic in Moscow. I hope that our talks will result in the signing of a free trade agreement between the Republic of Serbia and the Eurasian Economic Union.
It is an absolutely practical pursuance of the course to enhance our cooperation. It will ease access for Serbian goods to a large Eurasian Union (let me remind you that it means over 180 million people) and will attract new investors and new partners to the Serbian economy.
We are also confident that your country’s plans on rapprochement with the European Union will not artificially impede our bilateral collaboration. We hope these plans will actually help enhance it even though the countries bordering on both the EU and Russia are forced to choose either the West or the East, with no alternative.
In reality one should not go west or east, one must just establish this cooperation in absolutely pragmatic terms – in the interests of their countries, in the interests of the peoples, without following ideological tricks, ideological clichés, and this means pursuing pragmatic cooperation.
That is why we are against such a destructive approach. Let’s face it, our EU colleagues have abandoned cooperation mechanisms with Russia such as summits, heads of government meetings or the Russian Government – European Commission format, the Permanent Partnership Council and industry dialogues. I am not sure it made everyone’s life easier. Russia definitely does not feel punished and does not miss the times when we met twice a year. However, these decisions have apparent consequences – it has become harder for us to solve other problems in Europe, to say nothing about the fact that business in Europe (and also in our country) has lost billions of euros which will never be brought back. This should be remembered. This is how problems in Europe are growing and you are perfectly aware of this as you live in the heart of Europe. Events in the Middle East or North Africa boomerang to our common European home in the form of migration mayhem or threats of terrorism. These events showed that regime changes – and we remember perfectly well who insisted on them – that posing external models, explaining what democracy should look like in a particular African country or the Middle East generate chaos on vast territories, lead to the annihilation of states and the complete spread of terrorism in the world.
In this situation, many in Europe openly admit that the European Union has sustained great diplomatic and economic losses for demonstrating the outward appearance of unity issues related to Russia. For this reason, as I speak in this high National Assembly, I would like to express words of gratitude for Serbia’s principled stand, which – despite powerful pressure – has not joined the sanctions against our country. And of course, we appreciate this and always will.
Nevertheless, I would like to say straightforwardly that Russia is interested in a normal partnership with the EU. We want to have a stable, economically successful, predictable and responsible neighbour.
I will give this number again for everyone to ponder. Before we entered that clinch, the volume of the Russian Federation’s trade with the European Union totalled 407 billion euros. And then it was cut in half. We have to calculate who lost what.
We want to determine the course for our economies ourselves, as well as foreign trade with Europe including the crucial issues such as providing supplies to meet fuel demands.
Let me remind you that President of Russia Vladimir Putin recently put forward an initiative to establish the Greater Eurasian Partnership, a format with other integration structures – the Commonwealth of Independent States, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and ASEAN. I see no reason why the EU could not join this work, the more so that some of this work is being carried out anyway.
Let me emphasise again: we, the Russian Federation, are open to equal and mutually respectful dialogue with the European Union but only on these principles and only with an understanding that this is the only way to build mutually advantageous respectful cooperation.
Our relations, the relations between Russia and Serbia, can serve as an example of such cooperation since your country is an old friend of ours. We are bonded by common history, very close culture and common faith. Our peoples have the idea ingrained in their outlook that we are truly brotherly peoples. And Russia always, in the most dire situations, has tried to support the Serbs and has received in return support and understanding from Serbia
This was the case in the 19th century, a period when the Balkans were liberated from Ottoman rule. Back then many Russian volunteers are known to have given their lives for Serbia’s independence. This was also the case after the 1917 turmoil in our country when Serbia accepted tens of thousands of people who were forced to emigrate from Russia. In fact, Serbia became their second home. In turn, my compatriots left a noticeable mark on the Serbian culture of that time. They helped develop science and set up the Serbian school of theatre and ballet. And the building of the National Assembly where we are now is also an example of the unity of Serbs and Russians because Nikolai Krasnov, a Russian architect, also participated in its erection. Not to mention that we were brothers-in-arms during the world wars.
It is momentous that we should keep the special spirit of these relations today. They are currently on the rise. I can attest to that as a person who spoke from this stand before. We were also friends back then, ten years ago. But now these relations are going through a very good period of growth.
The countries’ leaders maintain an active dialogue, hold talks and have achieved an exceptionally high level of mutual understanding and trust. We have approved a large package of documents for signing which encompass various fields – industry, transport, interaction of customs authorities, digital technologies, science and culture.
Our trade is growing. This is another very good and important sign. This year it grew another eight percent. We discussed with the Serbian Government how it should be calculated because the numbers differ. They are high in any case, but these statistics need to be re-examined.
The volume of Russian accumulated investment in Serbia exceeds $4 billion. We have plans to raise it by $1.5 billion in the coming years. Trade ties have become considerably more active.
Quite a number of projects are ongoing, including in energy. Serbia is our reliable partner in ensuring the transit of Russian fuel to Europe and has become a leader of the Balkans energy market including, among other things, thanks to the successful performance of the Petroleum Industry of Serbia, an enterprise that has Gazprom Neft as its principal stakeholder. I think the company has good prospects for increasing extraction and sales of petroleum products. And the key thing is that the company makes stable and quite significant contribution to Serbia’s budget and offers many high-paying and effective jobs.
A section of the TurkStream gas pipeline is currently being built across Serbia from the border with Bulgaria to Hungary. We have just discussed that issue with Ms Prime Minister. This is an advantageous project for the whole Europe. And we thank you, esteemed deputies of the National Assembly, for supporting this project. It has a special significance for Serbia and its economic development. Your country is strictly honouring its obligations, and my colleagues confirm that saying that everything is absolutely in order in this respect. We hope the construction will be completed by the beginning of 2020.
Another important area is the following. We participate through Russian Railways in the upgrading of Serbian railways. In fact, we are advancing them to a modern effective level so as to double down on the crossing capacity of Serbia’s transport network. Today we have prepared an agreement on the Belgrade – Bar section and on establishing a hi-tech dispatcher centre for train dispatching. We allocate Russian state finds for this, too.
There are other areas as well. Serbian foodstuffs have always been popular in Russia. And in light of the fact that your country did not join the sanctions against us, correspondingly, we have not initiated response measures and your foodstuffs largely compensated for food from other European countries in our market. While discussing this issue I told my colleagues that sanctions and so-called counter sanctions are nothing good, and of course, all that will end sooner or later.
But if we speak about our farmers – I mean both Russian Serbian ones – it is good for them. And they ask us to keep this regime for as long as possible. It will make it possible to build up cooperation. Let our partners from other European countries think about that, too.
There are also evident results in other areas. I believe we are all facing a colossal challenge caused by the advance in digital technologies and internet technologies. You know that our country has been developing in these areas fairly well in the past years. And your companies had a chance to learn about the activities of our Internet companies, the work of our hi-tech structures.
Currently we are establishing with Rosatom’s participation the Centre of Nuclear Science, Technology and Innovations. The future lies with it, too. I hope it will be useful both in terms of science and for solving most crucial and urgent problems including, for example, designing new drugs.
Naturally, our peoples want to meet up and to do so more often. About 70,000 Russian tourists come to Serbia each year and around 60,000 people from Serbia visit Russia. Apparently, these figures can go up. It all depends on our joint work in the area of tourism and in promoting these prospects.
I think our countries can do everything needed to support the peoples’ interest in each other. This is a reason for signing the Agreement on establishing culture and information centres. I think it will also do much good for our countries.
And one more milestone event. In accordance with agreements reached at the presidential level, we will hand over to the Serbian side The Petersburg Sheet of the Miroslav Gospel today whereas a certain number of Nicholas Roerich’s paintings will go back to Russia. It is indeed a momentous event. Your applause proves what a big role spiritual ties play in bringing the Serbian and Russian peoples together.
Large-scale Days of Russian Spiritual Culture are being held in Serbia this year. And of course, the 800th anniversary of the autocephaly of the Serbian Orthodox Church means a lot to us. Its founder St Savva, as is known, was a monk at the Russian monastery in Athos. Our specialists will keep helping in resurrecting churches in Serbia and the main church in Belgrade built in honour of the most revered saint in Serbia. I have no doubts that it will become another symbol of our cooperation.
Esteemed Ms Chairperson Maja Gojkovic,
Clearly the projects I spoke about cannot be implemented without your support. I know you communicate warmly and earnestly when you meet with my colleagues from both houses of the Federal Assembly – the State Duma and the Federation Council. Chairperson of the Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko has been here recently while Vyacheslav Volodin, Speaker of the State Duma, spoke here in summer. “Friendship Groups” have been formed which work in different areas. I would like to thank the National Assembly for this work, for such a friendly approach.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union had its 141st assembly last week. This oldest international organisation turned 130. The fact that Serbia’s National Assembly was honoured to hold such a significant anniversary event is evidence of your high international standing. My congratulations.
Thank you for the support of the Russia-Serbia relations. I believe that together we will be able to brilliantly develop, enhance these relations and take them to the top level for the sake of the progress of our countries, for the prosperity of our peoples, for common good and well-being. I am absolutely confident that it will be this way if we keep trying. I sincerely, from my heart wish you all success and all the very best.