Newsletter 14/2011 - Our South East Europe

INTERVIEW with Mirko Jelic, Head of Department for Regional Initiatives/National Coordinator for SEECP and RCC, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, Serbia

Regional Cooperation Council develops a positive image of the region

Mr. Jelic, what are the priorities of regional cooperation in the forthcoming period over which your country will hold the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) Chairmanship-in-Office?

Regional cooperation is one of the foreign policy priorities for the Republic of Serbia. During the SEECP Chairmanship-in-Office (C-i-O), we will place particular focus on the fight against organised crime, which represents a permanent risk for the stability of our region, its progress, as well as its further prosperity. We will strive to revive the spirit of reforming the society to strengthen responsibility, transparency and competence at all levels, as well as to deepen the institutional dialogue with the European Commission and EU institutions. Strengthening the rule of law and protection of human and minority rights are our major goals, as well as finding solutions to the complex issues with regards to refugees, displaced persons and the issues of missing persons. Fight against international terrorism as a universal evil remains our obligation and strategic activity. We intend to improve the level of regional cooperation in the areas of environmental protection, prevention and elimination of consequences of all types of disasters, followed by strengthening parliamentary and economic cooperation, and creating better conditions for attracting investments. We will also advocate for closer cooperation in the areas of education, science and culture.

What would you say is the current level of cooperation in South East Europe (SEE), having in mind the European Union (EU) aspirations of some countries? 

Institutional relations of SEE countries with the EU are different. Some of them, such as Greece, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania, are full member states; others are candidate or potential candidates for membership. Republic of Serbia is engaged in further improvement of bilateral relations with all the neighbouring and countries of the region, at the same time striving to affirm one of the key foreign policy priorities, i.e. full integration in the EU, through active relations towards the development of regional cooperation. Over the past years, all the countries of our region have been faced with substantially changed political, social and economic circumstances. The impact and consequences of the global financial crisis did not bypass the South East European countries. We will fully devote our efforts to Euro-integration processes as the best path towards achieving security, prosperity and lasting peace in our region. Serbia has recently demonstrated its determination and political readiness to respond to all its international obligations. After the arrest of Ratko Mladic, we are aware of the long and complex process of meeting the Copenhagen criteria ahead of us. Expecting to see countries that have not done so yet to ratify the Stabilisation and Association Agreements (SAA) by the end of year, we believe that the European Council will make a positive decision in 2011 on granting the candidacy status, after which the date of commencement of membership negotiations will soon be defined.  

Which areas of regional cooperation require additional efforts to meet the expectations of the SEECP C-i-O?

We believe that the forthcoming period should be focused on improvement of investment climate aimed at re-industrialisation of the entire region. The priority is certainly development of energy sector and infrastructure in the widest sense. Here we primarily have in mind the implementation of large-scale infrastructure projects such as the Corridor X or Corridor VII. Large attention should be paid to strengthening human capital, applying contemporary information technologies, especially in the domain of modernisation of public administration in the process of European integration. We need not only the regional dialogue but also joint engagement in the areas of environmental protection and disaster prevention.

In light of Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) Annual Meeting, what is your assessment of the RCC’s role, its achievements and efforts invested?            

Regional Cooperation Council played a meaningful role in accelerating reform processes and approximating the region towards the European Union. Its role is very important in voicing and managing project-oriented cooperation. In this context, we attribute high importance to its functional links with the South-East European Cooperation Process. We particularly appreciate the RCC’s engagement in terms of positioning within the EU institutions and efforts invested in developing positive image of the region as a whole. Permanent dialogue of the Regional Cooperation Council with representatives of EU institutions is very important as well as keeping the focus of the EU on the issues of significance for the South East European region, despite the fact that global political circumstances are getting more complex. We welcome the thus far activities of the Regional Cooperation Council, its Secretary General, Mr. Hidajet Biscevic, Deputy Secretary General, Mrs. Jelica Minic, and the entire Secretariat in Sarajevo.

Ambassador Mirko Jelic was appointed to the position of Head of Department for Regional Initiatives at the Serbian Foreign Affairs Ministry in 2011. Jelic is a national coordinator for the SEECP and the RCC. In his almost 40 years long professional career, Jelic has also served as Ambassador of Serbia and Montenegro in Cyprus, advisor to the Prime Minister, Deputy Director of Directorate for economic and multilateral cooperation and regional initiatives and  Minister Advisor at the embassy of Serbia in Athens.


Mirko Jelic, Head of Department for Regional Initiatives/National Coordinator for SEECP and the RCC, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, Serbia (Photo: Courtesy of Mr. Jelic)

Mirko Jelic, Head of Department for Regional Initiatives/National Coordinator for SEECP and the RCC, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, Serbia (Photo: Courtesy of Mr. Jelic)