The Balkan Trust for Democracy, a project of the German Marshall Fund, in partnership with the Lugar Diplomacy Institute, hosted a luncheon discussion on issues of paramount concern to Serbia and the Balkan region on the occasion of United States Senator Christopher Murphy’s (D - CT) October 15th visit to Serbia. Senator Murphy, who assumed the Chairmanship of the Europe subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2012, is responsible for foreign relations work between the United States and Europe.
Fifteen representatives of civil society, business, media and government institutions attended the luncheon, including Nataša Vučković, MP, National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia; Kori Udovički, Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Administration and Local Self-Government, Government of Serbia; Srdjan Majstorović, Deputy Director, European Integration Office at Government of the Republic of Serbia; Sonja Licht, President, Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence; Srdjan Bogosavljević, Country Manager, Ipsos Strategic Marketing; Boško Jakšić, Senior Columnist, Politika; Maja Bobić, Secretary General, European Movement in Serbia; Slobodan Djinović, CEO, Orion Telekom; Ivana Aleksic, Education Manager, British Council; and Vukosava Crnjanski, Director, Center for Research, Transparency and Accountability.
Senator Murphy opened the roundtable discussion by highlighting regional challenges, including the Ukrainian crisis, the South Stream pipeline and energy security, and noting the need for an increased American focus on Europe. Deputy Prime Minister Kori Udovički agreed that the Ukrainian crisis is a serious risk for Serbia, but highlighted the need for Serbia to stay on its EU path and yet maintain its trade ties with Russia. Senator Murphy said that U.S. honors Serbia’s relations with Russia, despite disagreements on various issues.
Guests shared their perspectives on additional issues of concern to Serbia and the Balkans, namely to the reform process, European integration and economic recovery. Senator Murphy welcomed the topics brought up by the guests as well as the diversity of the opinions they offered on individual subjects. These included the need for transatlantic support for a comprehensive European enlargement policy for the Western Balkans; the importance of transparency in the EU integration process and role of civil society in it; and the need for continued American support in lessening ethnic tensions in the region. Guests also identified ways in which the United States could help resolve issues of concern, including through bringing private investment to Serbia, primarily in the agriculture, energy and IT sectors, and through continuing American educational exchange programs for youth.