NEW YORK – Former US Ambassador to Serbia Cameron Munter has said that he strongly supported Serbia’s EU integration and that he saw progress inasmuch as the government and the people of Serbia expressed their commitment to meeting the qualifications for EU accession as soon as possible.
“That was not always the case when I was ambassador, and some political leaders thought Serbia should go it alone. I fully supported then, and support now, Serbian integration into the EU and other European institutions,” Munter, today the CEO and president of the prestigious US EastWest Institute, told Tanjug in an interview.
Commenting on a potential negative impact of Brexit concerning EU enlargement and on Russia’s alleged interest in increasing its influence in the region, Munter responded that he was not familiar with such allegations about Russia and that “no one knows yet the extent of the impact of the Brexit vote, how Britain might exit the EU, and what that will mean for other countries.”
“America has always wanted to see a stable Serbia. Anyone who knows the US knows that speculation to the contrary is pretty ridiculous,” Munter noted.
“Instability is bad not just for Serbia but for the region, indeed for all of Europe. That’s why America supports EU cohesion and NATO solidarity, to foster cooperation (and thus stability) in Europe,” he said.
“The United States has consistently supported Serbia’s pro-reform and pro-European course. And that goes not only for the Serbian government, but for the Serbian people,” Munter said.
“We’ve made this clear to our friends in the EU, and we’ve done concrete projects through NATO (for example, joint events involving the Ohio National Guard, which a partner to the Serbian military),” he said.
“But I think the most important thing Americans can do to support Serbian aspirations is to tell stories of Serbian generosity toward its neighbours or repeat success stories of Serbian businesses,” he said.
“For that to happen, Serbia has to actually act generously toward its neighbours and let its businesses succeed. I, for example, tell others of the great success of N1, the independent television station, of which I think Serbs should be proud. I guess what I’m saying is that America can and should be a great validator of Serbian success, but the success needs to come from Serbs themselves,” he said.
Speaking about the region and Serbia’s position in it, Munter said he had always thought Serbia had a chance to serve as “a ‘soft power’ leader in the region by developing its business and cultural ties, participating in political and diplomatic solutions to regional issues, and generally portraying itself as forward-looking and dynamic.”
“Clearly, the last couple of decades have been rough for Serbia and its image has suffered. But that need not be the case if, for example, Serbian leaders promote cross-border business cooperation with others in the region, or if Serbia promotes innovative solutions to regional problems,” he said.
Commenting on the Serbian mentality, Munter said that “there is sometimes a tendency for Serbian leaders to claim victimhood, to state that everyone is out to get them, and to think that things happen to Serbia rather than looking for ways for Serbia to contribute to the success of others”.
“But there are too many talented Serbs for that to be the way things look in the future. You don’t have to be in the EU or NATO to reform yourself, contribute to regional security and prosperity, and show the kind of generosity for which Serbians are justly known,” he added.