Serbia to Establish Mission to NATO By June

Petar Boskovic, the head of the Directorate for Public Affairs at the Ministry of Defense, has announced that a Serbian mission to NATO at its headquarters in Brussels will be officially opened by the beginning of June.

Speaking at a forum at Belgrade University’s Political Science Faculty, Boskovic said that establishing a mission, which is in accordance with participation in the program “Partnership for Peace,” has been repeatedly postponed, mainly for technical reasons.

“So far Serbia has not used any part of what the Partnership for Peace Program [PfP] has to offer,” Boskovic said, while expressing his hope that Serbia would be actively involved in the program in the coming period.

Serbia became a member of the PfP in December 2006, signing a cooperation agreement with NATO in which democratic, institutional and defence reforms were the key focus. Prior to becoming a formal member of the program, Serbia engaged in limited security and defence reform cooperation with NATO, while military officers and civilians were allowed to participate in PfP courses.

A day after NATO accepted Albania and Croatia as full members in the Alliance in April 2009, Serbia unveiled drafts of national security and defence strategies in which it maintained its proclaimed military neutrality.

In January 2010, a group of 200 academics, writers and journalists in Serbia asked the country’s parliament to hold a referendum on whether Serbia should join NATO. The issue is a sensitive one, given the fact that the alliance bombed the country only a little over 10 years ago, an event that remains firmly in the memory of most Serbians.

However, the Defence Attaché in the Norwegian Embassy, Terje Haaverstad, said at the forum that most professional members of the Serbian Army have a positive attitude toward NATO.

Norwegian membership in NATO has not negatively affected the still “perfect relations” between Moscow and Oslo, as he put it, referring to the Serbian concern that NATO membership could set back Serbia’s relations with Russia as one of its strategic partners. “Operate in the Serbian interest, and not in the interest of other countries,” Haaverstad stressed.

“Neutrality is not a real possibility for Serbia, unless you have so much money that you can ensure your safety by yourself,” he added.

Since 2004, Serbia has been represented in the NATO headquarters in Brussels by Branislav Milinkovic in his capacity of Special Representative. According to the Tanjug news agency, it is assumed that Milinkovic would be named the first Ambassador of Serbia to the Alliance.

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