Conclusions of the conference
9th October 2019, Hilton hotel Belgrade
Nebojša Stefanović, PhD, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia and the Minister of Interior:
- The results we have achieved in the fight against organized crime and corruption show that as a country we are devoted to the rule of law and determined not to allow criminals to play any role in the country. The Serbian police guarantees safety, not only on our soil, but it represents one of the most desirable international partners as well.
- Since assuming the post of the Minister of Interior in 2014, the issue I particularly insisted on was for the fight against drug-related crime to be the absolute priority of the Serbian police. At the time, and before that, the average annual drug seizures ranged from 1 to 2 tons of narcotics. Last year, during what was the best year in the last 30 years, we seized 4 tons of narcotics. Up until this point in 2019, we have seized 5.4 tons of narcotics.
- The Serbian police has also participated in inter-police actions, during which, for example, 1.8 tons of cocaine was seized and a large number of illegal laboratories was closed. Since the beginning of the year, the Serbian police has processed 19 organized criminal groups and arrested 110 of their members in total.
- A particular emphasis was placed on the fight against drug trafficking in order to prevent large quantities of “dirty” cash reaching Serbia, which would be used to finance other forms of crime and the execution of other serious crimes.
- In the last 5 years, the Serbian police has been one of the ten most desirable partners in INTERPOL in terms of cooperation and information exchange.
- One particular challenge posed to Serbia is the issue of Pristina membership in INTERPOL, because, in our opinion, this would seriously jeopardize the normal functioning of the institution.
- Radical extremism and terrorism pose a significant challenge, as well as finding mechanisms to prevent such organizations from operating and devise a way to deradicalize their members. It is best to address this issue at the regional level.
- The Republic of Serbia seeks to persevere in its politics of military neutrality and to, through its strengthening, become an indispensable element of every security equation in the region. We are aware that global risks and threats require international cooperation, so we are willing to be constructive partners to everyone, both in the East and the West.
- Security sector reform, modernization and investments in equipping it are necessary in order to enable it to respond to all the tasks it is faced with. Equipping the police reduces the risk to the lives of its members and solving the existential issues of their families enables a complete commitment to the job.
- A dialogue in the field of security is necessary at all levels of the state structure, as well as between the institutions and the civil sector. In that sense, I consider the role of the National Avant-garde to be essential.
Conclusions of the National Security of Serbia panel
Aleksandar Vulin, the Minister of Defense of the Republic of Serbia:
- The violent repositioning of the Balkans, the attempt of creating Greater Albania is the biggest security threat to the Republic of Serbia. The formation of a new state is being attempted before the eyes of the entire international community. A state that occupies other ethnic spaces. It is interesting that only the Republic of Serbia is talking about Greater Albania in the Balkans, while all the other countries that stand in the way of Greater Albania either do not talk about it at all or talk shyly.
- When discussing the state of defense, the Republic of Serbia considers military neutrality to be the most optimal form of our military as well as political activity. The stronger we get, the more equipped, armed and trained we get as a nation, the further conflict will be from us. A strong, armed, equipped, trained and diplomatically based Republic of Serbia is the farthest from any conflict.
- In the past decade, there were some considerations according to which Serbia faced no security challenges. That is why we, among other things, abolished foreign diplomatic intelligence and encryption of telegrams, in 2005 we abolished the Secondary Vocational Military School etc.
- The security challenge for the Republic of Serbia is any disruption of the way of life of Serbs, regardless of where they live.
- Attempting to change the Dayton Agreement and abolish the Republic of Srpska or to reduce its jurisdiction and its importance in any way poses a security challenge to the Republic of Serbia. Abolishing the rights of Serbs in Montenegro to write in their own script, to speak their language, abolishing the right of Serbs to have their own church or attempting to bring back the Ustasha ideology, denying the genocide in Jasenovac…These are all challenges for the Republic of Serbia.
- The Storm, Jasenovac and the March Pogrom will never happen again. Not because someone does not want them, but because Serbia does not allow them.
- The biggest security challenge for the Republic of Serbia, apart from the creation of Greater Albania, is the ideology according to which Serbs are only supposed to live in the Republic of Serbia and nowhere else
Prof. Dragan Simeunović, PhD, Director of the National Security Academy of the Security Information Agency:
- Currently, the biggest possible danger for Serbia and the Balkans is the return of the fighters, that is, terrorists from the battlefields in Syria and Iraq.
- The Arab Springs taking place in a number of countries have unexpectedly caused a rise in Jihadism and Islamic radicalism. The end effect is the emergence of the Islamic State. The Islamic State is something that only resembles Al-Qaeda, but is a drastically different concept as for the first time an Islamic, radical and terroristic organization is striving to have its own state.
- After the collapse of the Islamic State, a question arose about the 42,000 fighters who are now seeking to return to the European countries which they originally left in order to fight for ISIS.
- Mass migrations are emerging as a very important security challenge as those migration flows absolutely contain a huge number of individuals who have used weapons and almost certainly terrorists as well.
- The countries of transit face less danger as those passing by are neither seeking to be identified as terrorists nor attempting to stay permanently. It is only when they reach the countries which are their final destinations, the most developed countries, that they will seek to achieve their goals.
- When it comes to the international agreements and combating terrorism, the Republic of Serbia behaves in a very appropriate manner. This is demonstrated by its criminal policy. 7 individuals have been given a final sentence in Serbia. The minimum sentence in Serbia is 7.5 years while the maximum imposed sentence is 11 years.
- This problem exists in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and especially in Kosovo and Metohija, where there is a very lenient criminal policy for the returnees from Syria and Iraq.
- The almost destroyed financial network of the Islamic terrorism has been restored. In the Balkans, it operates through a number of organizations named very similarly to those who have been prohibited. The language prevents the preachers of both milieus, the Albanian and Bosniak, to connect entirely, but there is certain communication and cooperation taking place.
- Through skillful political behavior, the Republic of Serbia has succeeded in keeping the region of Sandžak and Southern Serbia deradicalized. Prevention is of key importance.
Relja Željski, Security Information Agency:
- The contemporary terrorism, by its very nature, especially in the segment of Jihadism, unequivocally poses a global threat to security, but we must perceive its national and regional particularities.
- The difference between Kosovo and Metohija and other regions lies in the fact that the other parts of the Islamic community region have mostly been opposed to the radical Islamism. Through its imams, the Islamic community of Kosovo has officially supported the departure of Kosovo and Metohija citizens to foreign battlefields.
- The other element is the unbelievably lenient criminal policy. Of the imams who organized the departure to Syria almost no one has been convicted due to “lack of evidence”. The people who have been directly involved in terrorist activities, primarily through organizing departures to battlefields, have been given sentences ranging from house arrest to the maximum prison sentence of 3 years and 6 months.
- Around 400 people left Kosovo in order to fight on the side of terrorists in Syria and Iraq. Per capita, Kosovo ranks first in Europe. The second characteristic of the fighters who originated from Kosovo, compared to other European countries, is how they stand out due to their extreme brutality.
- The regional connection between Islamists is extremely dangerous, as well as them connecting to the very powerful Albanian diaspora around the world.
Slavoljub Dabić, Advisor to the Minister of the Interior:
- The security situation in Serbia is stable, regardless of all the risks and threats and there are no indicators that point to its undermining in the foreseeable future.
- The greatest risks come from Kosovo. In order to perceive the complexity of the situation, one must keep in mind that in the past Serbia had a much stronger security and intelligence apparatus in Kosovo and Metohija and still failed to control the situation.
- Serbia’s security and intelligence system performs its mission in a high quality and professional manner. My experience suggests that reorganization should be considered in the coming period.
- There are deficiencies that could affect the security of the Republic of Serbia in a broader sense and that directly affect the quality of intelligence support in a broader sense.
- The biggest deficiency is the lack of a strong civilian intelligence component. The MIA is the only foreign service.
- There should be some thought given to forming an independent civilian and intelligence service which would be in the same rank as the MIA. Then, we would have two intelligence agencies, a civil one and a military one, as well as two security agencies, a civil one and a military one too.
Conclusions of the Regional Security and the Republic of Serbia panel
Mr Dragan Lukač, the Minister of the Interior of the Republic of Srpska:
- The roots of the Islamic terrorism in this region are in Bosnia and Herzegovina and can be traced back to the moment when Jihad warriors were brought in and the El Mujahid group was formed, which committed huge crimes against Serbs.
- Nowadays, Bosnia and Herzegovina has over a 100 para-jamias which are rooted in the beginnings of the El Mujahid Detachment. Some of them live by their own law as autonomous enclaves and do not obey the laws of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- They are mostly members of the Wahhabi movement. Not all Wahhabis are terrorists, but all terrorists were Wahhabis. The traditional Islamic community in Bosnia has been suffering violence from these para-jamias, yet the state is not reacting.
- In terms of population, Bosnia and Herzegovina has contributed the highest number of Jihad warriors in Europe, which is very concerning. Between 80 and 100 of them were killed and more than a 100 have returned to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The punishment for the fighters on foreign battlefields is shamefully low.
- The Muslim authorities in Sarajevo treat the Wahhabis in two ways: with sympathy, as they feel they will need these people for a future confrontation with Serbs, and with fear, as they do not dare to oppose them.
- Not one terrorist act took place on the European soil without someone in some way connected to Bosnia and Herzegovina being involved in it. It is not possible to hide this problem and one day the cards will have to be laid on the table regarding this issue.
- The story of the deradicalization of the Wahhabi returnees in the Islamic State is pure utopia. They will not change their conviction for a good job or a salary.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina has found itself on the migrant route. The Republic of Srpska has taken a position that it will not establish reception centers for migrants and that there are no conditions for doing so. Any migrant who appears on the territory of the Republic of Srpska will be escorted towards Croatia.
- The migrant crisis will not end so soon. A great number of terrorists is tasked to head to Europe in the migrant wave. It is Islam’s age-old tendency to conquer Europe, which this time can be accomplished without firing a single bullet.
- A most intensive high-level cooperation with the Ministry of the Interior is being carried out, which will also be the case in the future.
Dejan Kovačević, Chief of the Criminal Investigations Directorate:
- The main priority of the Ministry of the Interior is the fight against organized crime, the fight against corruption, high-tech crime, drug trafficking etc. The Ministry bases its work on international cooperation, according to priorities.
- The Ministry has proven itself to be a credible international partner in the past few years. There isn’t a country in Europe that hasn’t cooperated with our Ministry when it comes to narcotics, high-tech crime and other forms of crime.
- The regional level recognizes organized crime groups that are committing the most serious crimes.
- The security state in Serbia is stable and has never been better.
- The operatives of the Criminal Investigations Directorate share real-time information of invaluable importance with their colleagues from the region on a daily basis. This exchange has contributed to solving numerous crime offences.
- International cooperation is the path to suppressing organized crime groups to the lowest level. There are numerous realizations all over the world, from Belgrade and Spain to Hong Kong. Individuals from our region assume lead roles in the aforementioned crime groups which play a significant role in drug trafficking.
- Serbia has been recognized by INTERPOL as one of the 10 countries which provide information of the highest quality.
- The problem arises when perpetrators of serious crimes escape to Kosovo and Metohija and become unavailable to the members of the Ministry of Interior, which happens often.
Prof. Stevica Deđanski, PhD, State Secretary of the Ministry of Mining and Energy:
- In all aspects, Serbia is committed to a primarily regional cooperation. It advocates finding a peaceful and compromise solution to a problem, overcoming barriers and finding an option for a faster development jointly.
- In all of this, Serbia has kept a position of national interest and dignity. There were phases in the past when regional cooperation was perceived as giving up on our own interests.
- Serbia is ready to be the pillar of regional cooperation, but asks others to be a part of that construction, and not just use Serbia’s goodwill. What is one-sided and unjust cannot last for long and can cause new conflicts in the future.
- Serbia is simultaneously lending a hand to others and investing in military, political and economic empowerment.
- The Balkan nations must be reasonable and willing to compromise. If they fail to do so, the Balkan nations will be puppets and victims of the big players.
- The official Belgrade acts in the spirit of regional cooperation. Such an approach alone can bring about happiness to our region. Great powers are increasingly recognizing this and starting to treat Serbia as a key factor for stability in the Balkans.
- All steps have already been taken by Serbia. Belgrade is still lending its hand. The mentors of Sarajevo, Zagreb, Tirana and other capitals in the region must get them to understand and agree that compromise is the only solution. Only then will the peaceful politics of Serbia come to the fore.
Conclusions of the Global Security panel
Prof. Dejan Miletić, PhD, the Centre for Globalization Studies:
- A world changing in an intensive, highly dynamic and hard-to-predict manner demands from us to take into account the global aspects, global trends and to adapt our national strategy in accordance with the changes which are very intensive.
- We cannot build national security without having several prepared scenarios, several planned possibilities of how to react at the national level.
- From bipolarity, through unipolarity, the world is reaching the phase of multipolarity. The control that would tell Russia what to do and how to defend its national interests no longer exists and the United States of America are no longer in a position to dictate how things unfold.
- Tectonic changes are currently taking place between the USA, Russia and China in the international politics. In such an environment, Serbia, with its politics of neutrality, gains particular importance.
- Serbia has the potential to be the key factor in the region. With so many borders, an organized and serious state and institutions, Serbia poses a factor that can be a point where great powers meet, and not clash.
- Serbia will never renounce its people, wherever they may be. Our people are those who claim they are Serbs, but Bosniaks and Macedonians as well. After all, Albanians have no perspective as well if they do not find friends in Serbia.
Prof. Vladimir Marinković, PhD, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia:
- We have a completely changed attitude towards global politics and security when it comes to the USA. President Trump explained all of this. These are clear messages that America will no longer be a global policeman and will not impose certain solutions, governance and democracy around the world at any cost.
- It is obvious that the European Union hasn’t had nor currently has the capacity to mediate and get the Albanian side to agree to reach a viable solution.
- The address where we should try to find a possibility to resolve the issue of Kosovo and Metohija in a long-term manner is Washington. Before Trump’s administration coming to power, this issue had been put ad acta.
- We need a much more aggressive and systematically organized approach to the USA, we need to present everything that has been happening in the previous period, which most American Congressmen, Senators and people in the State Department are unaware of, which is that our people were persecuted in Kosovo and Metohija and they were persecuted in large for being a Christian nation.
- In the past year, 15 countries revoked or suspended their recognition of Kosovo. This is a remarkable success. This means good results can be achieved through hard work and dedication.
- We have shown that it is possible to work with Russia, China and the USA. What is new is the cooperation of the Orthodox trilateral countries: Greece, Bulgaria and Romania, as well as the enormous support Serbia has received from the countries of the Visegrád Group. Serbia has not a single outstanding issue with those countries.
- The relationship between the state and the Serbian Orthodox Church is something we must be proud of today. It is a harmonious relationship, which is something that should occur as support during the most difficult challenges for a country.
Jovan Kovačić, Trilateral Commission:
- Serbia today is a completely different country than it was 10, 20 or 30 years ago, a country heading in the right direction.
- The relationship between the USA and Russia started by Donald Trump was promising. The Democrats did everything in their power to stop the USA and Russia getting closer, which was a huge mistake in every respect, even the strategic one.
- The Chinese are interested in Siberia. In many serious reflections on the possibility of a World War III outbreak, the first three scenarios originate in China. And all three scenarios assume that Russians and Americans will be allies.
- The Middle East is now becoming quite interesting. The Southern front of Europe is now moving from Turkey to Greece. This explains why Greece has had the largest expenditure on its weapons during the last 15 years. Now that Greece is the Southern front, the background is us – the Balkans. This makes our position much more difficult as the pressure to join NATO is accordingly becoming much more intense.
- The politics of neutrality is very good for now. We can only hope that the unwarranted conflict between Russia and America will end as soon as possible because we will cease to be under so much pressure.
- Americans are now in a terrible hurry so it will be interesting to see the direction this pressure will go in.
- Serbia is becoming interesting to the entire world, even though we have no sea, we have no oil…But we are sitting on huge supplies of lithium and jadarite. They are the oil of the future, even more important than oil in five years.
- Serbia has earned the reputation we have always wanted: that of a serious and positive partner. It is never enough to repeat: we are for cooperation.
- We should continue to move towards the European Union, with all of its problems. I believe in its ability to find a solution for its ongoing problems.