Friday, 03 January 2014. PDF Print E-mail
Interview of MFA Mrkic for “Danas”: We have nominations for ambassadorial positions in the USA, China and Germany
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Ivan MrkicAs a career diplomat who has worked his way up the ladder in this very institution, and who truly cares about its successful operation, I can never be completely content. A significant progress has been made. A spirit of professionalism is returning to the Ministry and the dignity of the difficult and demanding skills requiring a lot of knowledge and effort to master them.

I think that this Ministry has made an important contribution through an engagement in the efforts of the leadership to improve the country's international position. Our goal has always been that diplomacy is truly a function of the development of the state and society, and I think we have laid a good foundation for it, says Serbian Foreign Minister Ivan Mrkic in an interview for "Danas", assessing the work done by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2013.

The Serbian Foreign Minister indicates that the start of EU membership negotiations in recognition of the implemented reforms, one-year presidency of the UN General Assembly, election to the UN Economic and Social Council, are but a few of the achievements made by the Serbian diplomacy and leadership.

"I would like to remind that Serbia has been elected as the OSCE Chairman-in-Office in 2015. Furthermore, contacts have been intensified and various forms of cooperation established with countries around the world, both bilaterally and within international organizations. Despite the serious economic and financial situation in the world, we contributed to the positioning of Serbia high on the list of potential destinations for foreign investment. Today, Serbia is truly a factor of peace and stability in the region. Relations with our next-door neighbours have improved, and confidence in our country is growing", points out Minister Mrkic.

Q: What are the priorities of the Serbian diplomacy in the coming year?

A: I believe that priorities are well known. I am primarily referring to the successful and timely implementation of all activities related to the accession process and the EU negotiations, further improvement of relations with the neighbours, as well as with key factors in the international arena. Certainly, we will not neglect relations with our traditional friends among the developing countries.

The primary objective is to protect our interests in Kosovo and Metohija. We will continue our efforts to settle this issue through diplomacy and dialogue, in order to normalize and improve the living conditions of the Serbian and other non-Albanian population in the province. Also, the Serbian diplomacy will serve the interests of the economic development of Serbia and those of attracting foreign investment, as much as possible.

Q: When will the previously announced draft Law on Foreign Affairs come before MPs and what is the reason for the delay?

A: The draft Law was submitted in the regular procedure. Obtaining the opinions of other departments is in the final stages, after which the bill will be submitted to the Government, and then to the Parliament. It took an amount of time because the drafting process was thorough and included comprehensive consultation with the experts in this field, other relevant authorities, and a comparative analysis of the laws of other countries.

I emphasize that for us this is not a law like any other that should regulate the operation of a public service. We consider it an important tool in the already initiated process of reform, professionalization and modernization of our diplomatic service. It is evident that the IT revolution, globalization and integration have changed the world of today, and the new diplomacy cannot follow the old models.

The emphasis is being placed, more and more, on economic issues. It is necessary to react quickly to certain situations. We want our diplomats to be able to meet the challenges of modern era, duly represent their country and promote it in the best possible way. A prerequisite for such a service is the very law that will give us more flexibility as compared to other segments of the public administration, and at the same time set very high standards for recruitment and service promotion. For example, some of the criteria for service promotion will be made severally much tougher in the case of high diplomatic positions compared to the present Law. Once the bill goes through, we will ask that we be allowed to immediately announce a public competition for young diplomats who will be selected according to strict criteria.

Q: Is it possible to expect soon the appointment of new ambassadors to the countries like the USA, China and Germany?

A: As I have previously pointed out openly, the situation in the Ministry is not ideal, as indeed in other parts of the administration, but nevertheless the basic core of the profession has been retained, and we still have a quality staff that can meet the requirements of these important positions. As far as the countries you have just mentioned are concerned, we are trying to find the best possible solutions. There are several options on the table and the competent institutions will soon decide on them, most probably in the second half of January. I would like to point to the fact that the appointment of an ambassador is a part of regular activities and normal diplomatic practice, and the media speculation in this regard can only be counterproductive and harmful to the reputation of our country.

Q: In what way is the Ministry preparing itself for the first intergovernmental conference with the EU, scheduled for 21 January? Are there any difficulties experienced in the process?

A: All previous activities, especially those since the June European Council, are the function of getting ready for this conference. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in constant communication with other relevant departments involved in the preparatory work, in particular with the Offices of the Minister without portfolio responsible for European integration, the Chief Negotiator and the Serbian European Integration Office. Our coordination in this process is carried out regularly and without interference.

The Ministry set up the organizational prerequisites for the successful execution of all the tasks required to this end, and the plan is to significantly strengthen our Mission to the EU in Brussels, at the beginning of 2014, by sending experts in the field of tax policy, agriculture, justice and other sectors. The future organizational structure of the Mission will be flexible in the sense that experts from other departments will be included in its work depending on the assessed needs, according to the complexity of the topics that are the subject of negotiations, taking into account the need for constant interaction with the EU services.

Q: Will there be the results of the investigations initiated by the Ministry against some of the diplomatic and consular missions of Serbia made public any time soon, and what are the main subjects of the investigations?

A: I can say with full responsibility that this Ministry is being rational in spending the state funds, and that attempted fraud is very rare indeed. The vast majority of our employees manage the funds of the embassies and consulates conscientiously and economically. Specific fraud cases are dealt with by very responsible and competent staff. The Commission of the Ministry has initiated disciplinary action against a number of employees due to serious misconduct in office. Public will know everything when time comes, and you can be sure that we will not tolerate those who do not work properly and cause damage to our country, undermine its reputation and cast a shadow over the results of the majority of employees who perform their duties responsibly.