The new U.S. ambassador in Belgrade: Serbia’s Door to NATO is Open

The new U.S. ambassador in Belgrade, Mary Warlick, has announced that the door of NATO membership is open to Serbia, stressing that Serbia is the one to decide if it wants to join the alliance.

Warlick said that “the United States fully supports the European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations of Serbia and is doing all it can to facilitate Belgrade’s efforts in this direction.”

Serbia joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace, PfP, programme in December 2006. Prior to becoming a PfP member, Serbia engaged in limited security and defence reforms in cooperation with NATO.

Serban Defence Minister Dragan Sutanovac said on Thursday that Serbia needed a rational analysis on its potential NATO membership before the decision on the issue is made.

“Hence, I think it is really good that Serbians are starting to talk about joining NATO, since that will help us with the transition from the emotional bond we have with the past to rational discussions focused on the country’s future. Of course, all of this should be done in accordance with the constitution and official state policy,” the magazine quoted Sutanovac as saying.

Earlier in January, a group of 200 academics, writers and journalists opposed to Serbia’s membership in NATO launched an initiative for a referendum to be held on the issue.

Reflecting continued anger over the alliance’s actions during Serbia’s conflict with Kosovo, Matija Beckovic, a member of the country’s Academy of Science and Arts and one of the signatories of the petition, said Serbia suffered “criminal bombing and destruction” as a result of NATO bombing in 1999.

The minister pointed out that Serbia would definitely cooperate with NATO, even without being a member of the alliance, but that it was up to the Serbian public to decide on the type of cooperation desired.

Sutanovac also stressed that NATO was changing; he noted that it was originally formed as a defensive alliance, and has spread its actions over the years to the fields of politics, security and economy.

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